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Nigerian delegates give their views on COP17

A boy washes clothes in an irrigation canal filled with water pumped from the River Yobe, which feeds Lake Chad. The lake is drying up, due largely to desertification as the Sahara advances southward | Panos Pictures

Peter Tarfa, Assistant Director, Special Climate Change Unit, Federal Ministry of Environment, Abuja

Peter Tarfa, Assistant Director, Special Climate Change Unit, Federal Ministry of Environment, Abuja -rmsfree Onomo Ajanaku / Panos London

What is the biggest environmental issue that Nigeria wants to use COP 17 to address?

Nigeria is faced with several challenges, which would be compounded by climate change. There are issues of migration, sea level rise, desertification, and even poverty. These social issues are being exacerbated by climate change. Therefore, our overriding priority back home is how to adapt to the impacts of climate change. In that regard, the federal government recently concluded work on a national adaptation strategy and plan of action.

Now, we are at the stage of implementation; that would require a lot of resources. Therefore, our coming to Durban, apart from focusing on adaptation, is to move along with the African countries, by focusing on finance. Part of our focus is how to operationalise the Green Climate Fund (GCF); we are looking at how Nigeria can become a member, when the bureau is formed, so that we would be in the engine room, and leverage resources for the benefit of Nigeria.

Are the talks addressing these areas of focus?

As I talk to you, the issue of resources, and the governance and the resources that would come into the GCF are still being discussed. We are discussing the position that most of the resources would come in through the market. Developing countries do not have the capacity to draw resources from the market. We would have loved that the resources should come from public sources, but because of the global economic meltdown, our negotiating partners are resisting that. But discussions are still ongoing.

Is a second legally binding commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol so crucial, especially when we know that less than 20 per cent of greenhouse gases were cut in the first period?

There is a saying in all our cultures, that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. When the UNFCCC was put in place, it was a framework that had no legally binding commitment. When we saw the inadequacy of it, the Kyoto Protocol (KP) was put in place; that has mandated the developed countries the emitters of the greenhouse gases to take make commitments to reduce it to 1990 levels. We from the developing countries are saying we want the continuation of the KP, and we will not want KP to die on African soil, and that is because of the various benefits that go with it, if it survives. If it dies, what it means is that we have to start a very tedious process of negotiating another legally binding commitment and we don’t know how long that would take. Climate change is impacting very much on us, and we have no time to waste; that is why we are insisting that we should take the KP forward.

What outcomes do you think would be good for Nigeria at the end of COP17?

The key issue for Nigeria is the creation of new, additional and predictable sources of funding from which we can draw to be able to make our economy and agriculture resilient to the impact of climate change.

Ewah Otu Eleri, is the Executive Director of the Abuja based International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED)

Ewah Otu Eleri, is the executive director of the Abuja based International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED) - Armsfree Onomo Ajanaku / Panos London

What are the biggest environmental challenges Nigeria should use this conference to address?

There are two clear challenges Nigeria faces; the first is the [electricity] power problem: the lack of electricity is the main reason why our economy cannot grow. We have a unique opportunity to take steps to end gas flaring, and pump the gas into power production. If we do so, it would boost our economy and create jobs. At the same time, it would be Africa’s most important step towards tackling climate change because it would remove tons of C02 from the atmosphere.

Also, 42 per cent of our economy is made up of agriculture, and over 90 per cent of our agriculture depends on rainfall patterns. Today, climate change causes flooding and drought is the biggest threat to Nigerian agriculture. So we have very clear national interest to project here in Durban. It is not just about climate change, it is about our survival and growth.

Looking at the direction in Durban so far, would you say these issues are being addressed?

Durban is very important for us because we need to be part of those putting pressure on the big emitters to be reduce the emissions, and commit themselves to binding actions. If they don’t do so, no matter how much we try at home, our people will be so much affected, especially the poor and vulnerable.

How important is it to have a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol (KP), knowing that less than 20 per cent of global emissions were cut in the first commitment period?

I think it [second commitment] is important; Nigeria needs to reflect on this. The EU, which agreed to sign on to a second commitment period is re-evaluating its position. But if the EU and a few other countries sign on to a second commitment period, what we would have is a situation where only 20 per cent of global emissions would be taken care of. So a second Kyoto, without China, the United States, Japan and major industrialisng countries like Brazil. That would be over 70 per cent of global emissions that would not be accounted for. That is not in Nigeria’s interest; Nigeria’s interest is for an effective, fair and binding agreement that ensures we can keep temperatures below the levels that cause the kinds of hazards we have been seeing in Nigeria.

How about the Green Climate Fund?

We are happy that it is nearing a resolution, but come to think of it, the GCF in the best of circumstances in 2020 would begin to mobilise $100 billion annually, for 194 countries in the world. Even if we say the countries would share it flat, we won’t be getting half a billion dollars per country. To meet our electricity generation needs in Nigeria, we need a minimum of $50billion; the magnitude of financial resources that we need are such that cannot be met from international sources alone. It is important for us to do a proper climate change finance needs assessment  to know how much we need to address the challenges faced at home.

What would you say would amount to a positive outcome by the end of the Durban talks?

I think the most important outcome is that we would go back home, and begin to put pressure on our government to ensure that we no longer come to these kinds of negotiations unprepared. We can come here empty handed. In terms of the negotiation, I think a positive outcome will likely be an agreement on setting up the Green Climate Fund.