SDG #13: Climate Action: Appraising the Vital Roles of CSOs

HomePublicationsSDG #13: Climate Action: Appraising the Vital Roles of CSOs
HomePublicationsSDG #13: Climate Action: Appraising the Vital Roles of CSOs
CLIMATE change has become a great challenge to the present generation and its impact is felt in almost every society in the world. Nigeria, as a developing country with a population of about 180 million, has been adversely impacted by climate change due to its vulnerability and low coping capability.

Ranked amongst the top 25 Green-House Gas (GHG) Emitting Countries, Nigeria is expected to mobilize its citizens and other stakeholders for effective implementation of measures to reach the target of 20 percent unconditional green-house gas emission reduction by 2020, scale another target of 30 percent unconditional reduction by 2030 and also put in place policies that would enable the country reach the goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

In order to achieve goal number 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is Climate Action by 2030, Nigeria is expected to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters. It is also expected to integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning as well as improve education, awareness-raising, human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.

Climate change poses grave danger to Nigeria's economic growth and poverty-reduction aspirations. According to experts, Nigeria's agriculture sector is heavily dependent on rainfall and natural weather conditions. For a sector that employs more than the two-thirds of its workforce and contributes about 42% to its gross domestic product (GDP), a climate change-related crisis could be too much for the country to contend with.

If current climatic conditions worsen, Nigerian farmers could face deepening poverty due to the country's dependence on the export of fossil fuels. As the world becomes increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change, Nigeria's dependence on the export of crude oil faces an uncertain future. To this extent, building a climate-resilient and prosperous economy through eco-friendly projects remains critical to reaching the targets.

With the magnitude of climate-related hazards in Nigeria, environmental experts acknowledge that governmental efforts alone cannot produce the much anticipated results needed to actualize the targets of SDG-13 by 2030. Indeed, Alhaji Ibrahim Jibril, Nigeria's Minister of State for Environment recently acknowledged the fact that government cannot do it alone. He said that the Federal Government requires significant contributions from the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders in implementing climate policy actions to be able to meet the targets. According to the minister, inputs from the CSOs would engender greater transparency in implementing environmental programmes.

Jibril, who listed some of the environmental challenges facing Nigeria such as desertification in the North, coastal erosion in the South East and South West and oil pollution in the Niger Delta, during the 2017 edition of the World Environment Day in June, 2018, noted that the contributions of the CSOs would go a long way in achieving a sustainable and healthy environment.

Ronald Kayanja, Director of the United Nation Information Centre (UNIC) in Nigeria, equally emphasized that the CSOs, foundations and development partners have a great role to play in the realization of the goal. "There is a need for high level partnership in order to achieve the goals of the SDGs and everyone has a role to play," he said.

Expectedly, scores of CSOs have either banded together, forming a strategy group or working independently at national, sub-national and local levels to help Nigeria reach the targets set in SDG-13.

Experts consider the contributions of CSOs as imperative for Nigeria to meet the targets. Professor Margaret Okorodudu-Fubara, a former Dean of the Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, who is Nigeria's first female Professor of Environmental Law, believes that the country may not be able to meet the targets of SDG-13, especially in the area of enforcement of multi-lateral environmental agreements without the CSOs. "I'm not sure where we would have been without the CSOs and NGOs. Without them we would not have known the level of improvement that has been made on the Nigerian environment because there are still so many obstacles on the part of the government in actually enforcing the laws that they put in place," she said.

CSOs and the end gas flaring campaign

Over the years, the Nigerian government has drawn the ire of the CSOs over its poor commitment towards ending gas flaring in the country. Despite Nigeria's anti-gas flare law, the international oil companies (IOCs) operating in the Niger Delta have continued to flare gas from all their oil rigs unperturbed, because it is cheaper for them since they have managed to avoid payment of a supposed $3.50 fine for every 1,000 standard cubic feet (SCF) of gas flared. According to experts, Nigeria lost $76.59 million in September 2017 alone as oil and gas companies operating in the country flared 25.53 billion standard cubic feet (SCF) of gas.

Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance blamed it on a misplaced word in the law. According to her, the IOCs were able to avoid fines and sanctions for gas flaring in Nigeria because of a misplaced word in the law that was made to serve as a deterrent to gas flaring in the country. She explained that in the "legal framework for the gas-flaring penalty, it was drafted as a charge on tax deductible, rather than penalty." Consequently, IOCs flare and pay the charge on which they get tax relief. The minister, however, promised that the government would approach the National Assembly to amend the law and have the word "penalty" replace "charge."

As the government prepares to get the law amended by the National Assembly, some CSOs have been putting pressure on the authorities to ensure that the IOCs pay the outstanding N2.3trillion gas flaring penalty to host communities in the Niger Delta region. They are also pushing for the release of about N1trillion gas flaring penalty fund that the IOCs have already paid but which is trapped in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

ibrahim jubrilOne of the CSOs involved in the campaign is the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ). In November, 2017, CEPEJ had organized a conference in Benin City, Edo State where it made a critical appraisal of the rising tide in environmental degradation and avoidable perpetuation of poverty in the Niger Delta through the activities of oil companies, especially persistent gas flaring. Comrade Sheriff Mulade, National Coordinator of CEPEJ frowned at government's lack of political will to tackle gas flaring. He said that CEPEJ is aware that the IOCs pay three percent penalty to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for the development the oil-rich region and has been campaigning for the release of the funds directly to host communities:

"As a civil society, we are also putting machinery in place to see how we can tackle government towards those funds so that the funds can be released to communities directly, not through a commission. This is because all the commissions are political commissions to compensate their political friends."

Faith Nwadishi, Founder and Executive Director of Koyenum Immallah Foundation, also expressed disappointment with the Federal Government for not being sincere in the implementation of its gas flaring policy and has resorted to shifting the deadline for ending gas flaring in Nigeria:

"Over the years, we have shifted the goal post. Today, we say we want to end gas flaring, tomorrow; we shift the deadline for ending gas flaring. Now there is a new date of 2020 to end gas flaring in Nigeria because of the World Bank initiative that says we should reduce gas flaring by 2030."

Nwadishi wondered why the government has refused to tackle violators of gas flaring in the country since a High Court sitting in Benin City, had already declared it as illegal.

In response to the criticisms by the CSOs of Federal Government's lukewarm attitude towards ending gas, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum reiterated the commitment of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to put an end to gas flaring by 2020, 10 years ahead of the United Nations deadline. According to him, Nigeria is about 70 percent compliant on gas flare exit, and hopes to take away the other 30 percent within the 2020 deadline. "We are going to try and change our dynamics from being an oil producing country to being a gas producing country, because that is really what we are. Now we need to move from policies to directives," Kachikwu said.

Concerns over nuclear power project

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) is leading other CSOs to raise concerns over the Federal Government's plan to build a nuclear power plant in Nigeria. Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) which had reportedly signed an agreement with Nigeria to build a nuclear energy plant is believed to be working on two planned projects. They are the Centre for Nuclear Research and Technology for which an agreement for the construction was signed in 2016 and the Nuclear Power Plant project, for which agreement on construction and operation was signed in October 2017.

Although, proponents of the project claim that nuclear power plant could help in addressing the country's poor public power supply and save some $14 billion annually, ERA/FoEN, insists such project may cause more harm to the Nigerian environment and its people than the anticipated power supply. The anti-nuclear power campaigners argued that nuclear energy is both expensive and dangerous to health. They contended that it is not a clean energy and contradicts Nigeria's commitment on Climate Action.

Push for energy efficient cooking fuel

A recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO), cautioned that with nearly all public boarding secondary schools in Nigeria still using wood for cooking and about 30 million households dependent on wood as a source of fuel for their daily cooking, firewood cooking remains Nigeria's third highest killer of women and children after HIV and malaria.

Apart from the high number of deaths caused by firewood, its negative impact on the environment is deplorable. Nigeria loses approximately 3% of its forest annually to the use of firewood. Even though the National Energy Policy seeks to substitute the use of fire wood with kerosene, cooking gas and electricity, this transition has been slow. Today, smoke from millions of cooking fires has become a major cause of green-house gas emission and global warming.

Thankfully, the Nigeria Climate Action Network (NCAN), a network of CSOs is working towards propelling government, corporates and individuals to address the problems of cooking fuel and climate change. NCAN is investing in the energy efficient cooking stoves project in Nigeria in its bid to drastically reduce the high number of deaths that occur in the country as a result of cooking with fire woods.

In addition to building and installing clean cooking stoves for schools in many states across the country, NCAN is equally building the capacity of stove producers and helping them create markets for their products.

The group has equally lobbied for the development of clearer and stronger policies on environmental regeneration, the passage of the Bill to Establish the National Climate Change Commission and the development of several national climate change action plans.

Clamour for Ogoni clean-up

One of the controversial environmental issues which had brought the government on a collision course with local communities and the CSOs in Nigeria is the Ogoni remedial project. Since the clean-up of Ogoniland was flagged off by the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo in June 2016, not much progress has been made on the project.

Worried by the slow pace of the project, ERA/FoEN, has been mounting pressure on the Federal Government to expedite action on the Ogoni clean-up. Dr. Godwin Uyi-Ojo, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), said that it is rather unfortunate that the Federal Government has not shown enough commitment towards the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland. Continuing, Uyi-Ojo declared:

"We had also expressed worry that while the UNEP 'Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland' report had recommended that the government and Shell contribute $1 billion over a five-year period to undertake the clean-up, the government's body language did not show it was committed to committing any tangible sum to the process nor compelling Shell to do same.

"We can see that even though we now have a governing council, the polluter was invited to sit in their midst and continues to call the shots and slow the processes. No tangible sum has been committed to the clean-up as we speak. Surprising as that is, there are more baffling tales. One very disturbing development occurred in December 2017 when the Federal Government in cahoots with governors from the 36 states of the federation gave approval for the immediate withdrawal of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Oil Account (ECA) to facilitate the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country."

Uyi-Ojo wondered why the same government that has failed to make contributions to the clean-up fund save for the $10 million start-up fund that it gave to the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to commence its activities smoothly is ready to pump a whopping $1 billion into an insurgency that it had "technically" won. "This is strange to us and the international community that is keen on seeing tangible progress in relieving the Ogoni people of a Shell-imposed burden," he said.

According to the environmental rights activist, apart from starving HYPREP management of funds needed for implementation of the clean-up of Ogoniland, the body has been unable to put together a well-thought-out work plan and budget for the clean-up process. "We have said it time and again that Ogoniland represents an entry point on the issue of environmental remediation and restoration in the entire Niger Delta," Uyi-Ojo added.

The Environmental Rights Action (ERA) has declared its readiness to work with HYPREP and other partners towards ensuring that the agency delivers on its mandate of cleaning up Ogoniland and building the template for the clean-up of the rest of the Niger Delta region. To actualize that goal, ERA tabled a seven-point demand as follows:
  • That Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) should be immediately removed from the governing council; the board of trustees and other structures of the clean-up process to allow for the independence of the agency and in line with the "polluter pays principle."
  • That HYPREP should be sufficiently resourced by the Nigerian state and Shell immediately by paying the $1 billion clean-fund to the accounts opened by the Board of Trustees. All stakeholders who are to contribute funds to the Ogoni Environmental Restoration fund should publicly declare their contributions before the 7th anniversary of the submission of the UNEP Ogoniland Environmental Assessment report.
  • That the Nigerian government must act with dispatch on raising the $1 billion Restoration Fund just as it did with the North East Development Commission which went through the legislative process in record time and to which it is making huge contributions.
  • That a 2018 HYPREP strategic work plan should be prepared and be made available publicly for inputs and suggestions. A website that would have full information on contracting and procurement should be up and running so that the public is aware of the contractor/consultant handling a project, project sum, duration and the expertise and relevant experience of the contractor
  • That HYPREP discountenances the use of RENA in any of the remediation sites that would be worked on. RENA is inappropriate in our environment and has caused more harm to our communities.
  • That Shell and other oil companies such as Robo Michael and Belema oil whose activities have been pitting the Ogoni people against one another and overheating Ogoni polity be cautioned and desist from such acts and allow the clean-up process to proceed without distractions
  • That ERA proposes that $100 billion be set aside to be invested for the clean-up of the region within the next 25 years.

ERA urged the Federal Government not to fail the people in its Ogoni clean-up legacy project. "The time for concrete actions is now. The time to kick Shell out of the steering committees and bodies to be presiding over the clean-up exercise can no longer be delayed," it declared.

comradeApart from the outcry by the CSOs over Federal Government's prevarication on the Ogoni clean-up project, analysts view the recent pledge of the Norwegian government to support the clean-up process as a sign that the international community is equally not happy with the pace of the project. When Jens Petter Kjemprud, the Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria visited impacted sites in Ogoniland recently, he remarked that the world was interested in the clean-up of Ogoni, and that Norway, as one of the biggest donors of the United Nations, was also committed to the safety of Ogoni people.

Expectations are high that with the pressure being mounted by the CSOs, the comprehensive clean-up of Ogoni and other polluted sites across the Niger Delta region would soon become a reality. Actualizing that would go a long way in taking Nigeria closer to the targets of SDG-13.

Campaign against energy crisis

The Environmental Rights Action (ERA) is also leading a campaign geared towards halting the destruction of lives, local livelihoods and environment through reckless exploitation of natural resources by government multinational companies. The group is mounting the campaign under its energy and extractives programme.

The group observed that the Nigerian society is confronted by the energy and climate change crises. According to ERA, both have global dimensions and have impacted many communities across Nigeria whose environments have been devastated. The group asserted that these crises are in the main driven by the unsustainable economic and development models adopted by the Nigerian government which makes the country dependent on the exploitation of fossil fuels and other unsustainable energy sources for its sustenance.

ERA insisted that its goal is to break the monopoly of a few multinationals over energy supply and access and oppose the reckless exploitation of dirty energy sources such as coal, crude oil and gas. It declared:

"We are working with impacted communities to enhance the capacity of our governments at local, state and federal levels and policy makers to see the necessity of immediately transiting from dirty energy sources to clean, renewable energy for the benefit of our communities and for the global environment.

"We are working with our communities to bring about climate justice and provide access to millions of our people who do not yet have access to energy a clean, renewable, decentralized and community controlled energy. We are working with international civil society groups, affected peoples and local communities all over the world to halt or reduce the emission of green-house gases into the atmosphere."

Forest and biodiversity

ERA/FoEN's forest and biodiversity programme has equally been launched in response to the alarming rate of deforestation and invasion of community territories through corporate capture, neo-liberal policies and patriarchal systems that undermine right to life, livelihoods and a saner climate. The organization works with forest dependent communities and vulnerable groups who are directly impacted by unsustainable environmental practices like unregulated logging, industrial tree plantations, construction of dams and super highways, oil pipeline right of way, forest fires, and the new eco-business called REDD. "This invasion of community territories also has serious impacts on biological diversity. We support forest peoples' struggles to defend their lands and livelihoods", the group said.

To actualize these objectives, Community Forest Watch (CFW) network was formed to support forest peoples to build their own capacities to claim and exercise their human rights as well as monitor and challenge any unsustainable environmental practices that undermine their collective rights at the local, national and international levels.

According to the group, plantations are not forests and entrusting community forest to multinational companies by government or putting a price tag on forest is a dangerous eco-business.

Drive for climate smart agriculture

Experts are unanimous in their view that Nigeria has a lot to lose with adverse weather conditions orchestrated by climate change due to dependency of its agricultural sector on natural climatic factors. However, the CSOs have equally stepped up campaign for the country to cue into climate smart approach to agriculture in its bid to achieve food security, adaptation and mitigation.

Expectedly, organizations such as the International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED) and its local affiliates under the aegis of the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cook stoves (NACC) are making giant strides in addressing the challenges of access to energy and smart agriculture in their quest to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty.

ICEED is working to develop climate insurance solutions aimed at helping farmers recover from losses to crops that are linked to climate change. According to ICEED, the insurance scheme will help to strengthen the resilience of rural farmers to climatic risks. The project is also intended to reduce rural poverty, promote environmental sustainability and strengthen international partnership on climate risk management in Nigeria.

The centre has equally formed a partnership with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), the National Insurance Commission (NICOM) and the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) to research, develop and launch the climate insurance scheme.

It is also working with the Helio International and researchers from 10 African countries to improve energy and climate resilience. ICEED participated in developing indicators for measuring energy sector vulnerability to climate change and response measures. This innovative approach to climate change adaption is particularly important in tracking progress in developing response measures.

Forestation campaign

Environmental experts believe that forestation remains critical for Nigeria to actualize the SDG-13 targets as many parts of country have been ravaged by environmental problems which can only be mitigated or restored through aggressive tree planting. Although the northern part of the country suffers the most from deforestation, Southern Nigeria is not spared. The numerous benefits of afforestation include addressing environmental degradation, especially desertification, deforestation, erosion and flooding as well as reducing the effects of climate change.

Interestingly, many CSOs have been in the forefront of the campaign for a holistic approach towards the restoration of trees and forests around the country. For instance, organizations such as the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), the Environmental Advancement Initiative (EAI) and the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Initiative (CCMAI), have been relentless in their efforts to engender the culture of tree planting as well as expand the scope of forestation in Nigeria.

Mr. Adeniyi Karunwi, Director-General of NCF has been consistent in urging Nigerians to seek opportunities to engage in activities that will enhance the quality and longevity of the environment especially through tree planting to avert an imminent danger. According to him, "people globally now know the role trees play in remediating the microclimate and mitigating climate change as well as value addition to property and other health benefits."

Similarly, Mr. Dennis Ugwuja, the Executive Director, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Initiative, has underscored the need to plant more trees to mitigate the effects of climate change. Ugwuja, who blamed poverty and other economic factors for the large-scale deforestation in the country, called for immediate actions and regulations as well as stringent measures to check indiscriminate tree felling and bush burning across the country:

"Due to poverty and other economic factors, more people in the rural areas engage in the business of tree felling. Charcoal business has become the booming business of the day. The worrisome aspect of this is that the tree fellers make little or no effort to plant new trees.

"It is common knowledge that our environment is our heritage, which we are entrusted to optimally protect, preserve and conserve, especially the original flora and fauna species.''

For Mr. Habib Omotosho, National Coordinator, Environmental Advancement Initiative, governments at all levels and other stakeholders must go outside the existing forest reserves to designate new forest areas as part of efforts to achieve the 25 percent forest cover for Nigeria.

Climate Change Network Nigeria (CCNN)

The Climate Change Network Nigeria (CCNN) is another coalition of CSOs deeply involved in the Nigerian climate change action project. CCNN is a coalition of over 150 diverse CSOs from across Nigeria promoting climate-friendly initiatives through multi-sectoral approach and partnership.

godwinIt works in partnership with the Special Climate Change Unit of the Federal Ministry of Environment of Nigeria; Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA); UNEP's Climate Neutral Network (CNNet); World Bioenergy Association (WBA) and State of the World Forum (SWF). It was the selected coalition of CSOs that implemented the UN worldwide 2009 campaign in Nigeria. In addition, it was Nigeria's CSO representative as part of the national delegation for COP15 & 16. CCNN is also a member of National Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change as well as the National Technical Committee on REDD+. It co-facilitated the African Mayors Action on Climate Change (AMACC) due to its primary focus on cities and climate change.

The Climate Wednesday connection

Climate Wednesday has equally evolved as a formidable CSO mounting pressure on the Nigerian government to mobilize its citizens and stakeholders for joint efforts towards actualizing the SDG-13. The group focuses on key climate-based issues affecting development in Nigeria. It identifies local realities, engages relevant stakeholders, proffers sustainable solutions and presents them on the global stage for actionable steps towards mitigating the effects of climate change.

Climate Wednesday has emerged as a strong voice in the climate change campaign with its weekly tweet conversation on climate change, environment, sustainable development and related matters contributing to a change towards building a climate smart generation in Nigeria and Africa. The group disseminates information through its tweet, news, essays, films, articles, documentaries, photographs and other related issues around environment.

Its newsletter, Green Dairies, goes to hundreds of subscribers and its weekly online conversation series #ClimateWednesday on twitter has created a lot of awareness on sustainable development.

Climate Smart Nigeria (CSN)

The Climate Smart Nigeria (CSN), an arm of Glow Initiative has also been actively involved in tackling environmental degradation and power sector crisis through its campaigns aimed at curbing climate illiteracy and promoting the intervention of renewable energy. Its goal is to attain a Climate Smart Nigeria, and to do so, CSN places emphasis on awareness creation on climate change and renewable energy through the education sector and the mass media.

The organization believes that people need to first know about the menace of climate change before they can learn the solutions. Succinctly put, CSN is committed to addressing the issue of climate illiteracy which stems from low awareness of climate change. According the organization, more than 70% of Nigerians are not knowledgeable about climate change and its adverse effects on their society.

In 2016, CSN launched a 10-year-plan geared towards facilitating the country's attainment of a Climate Smart Nation target by the year 2026. Promoters of CSN are desirous of taking Nigeria to a level where 70% of its population will be conscious and aware of climate change and take deliberate action to mitigate it.

The group is equally concerned about the electricity crisis plaguing Nigeria. According to it, the poor electricity system and constant power outages have forced millions of Nigerians to depend hugely on fossil fuels for their energy needs thereby exacerbating climate change in the country. To tackle the problem of unstable power, CSN is creating awareness about the option of renewable energy technology.

Among the programmes initiated by CSN to tackle climate issues in Nigeria includes the Green Week and Climate Online Campaign, Green Guild School Initiative, Climate Aware Teachers Training Programme and Climate Ambassadors Network. Others are the Renewable Energy Initiative, the Solar Up Nigeria (SUN), Community Centres for Clean Energy and Education and the Clean Energy Action as well as the Renewable Energy Technology Training Institute (RETTI) initiative.

Last line

Certainly, the CSOs in Nigeria have been playing critical roles in propelling the Nigerian government to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in the country. The sustenance of the partnership between the CSOs and government would enable Nigeria record a measure of success in terms of achieving the SDG-13 targets by 2030.
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