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COP28: Nigeria’s positive takeaways

By Tunde Rahman

The United Nations’ Climate Change Summit, otherwise called COP28, currently going on in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, opened with the historic launch of the Loss and Damage Fund on Thursday, December 3. The operationalization of the fund on the first day of the summit demonstrated the commitment of the world leaders to the resolution reached last year at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The talks at this year’s climate summit focused on finance and trade, two key issues that can engender the much-needed action on climate change and energy transition.

On the eve of the summit, there emerged a heart-warming piece of news: Nigerian Tariye Gbadegesin was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the Climate Investment Fund. The fund based in Washington DC is one of the world’s biggest innovative financing platforms. Tariye replaces Portuguese Mafalda Duarte who is now at the head of the Green Climate Fund based in South Korea. Though the Harvard Business School graduate is also partly a US citizen, Tariye’s appointment speaks to the widely acknowledged innumerable talents that abound among the Nigerian-Americans.

This appointment is relevant and useful in the context of Nigeria and Africa. This is the first time, a person of an African bloodline, a woman with direct Nigeria linkage would emerge the head of an organisation that is often accused of pandering to the climate financing needs of American and Asian countries to the detriment of African nations. So her appointment is a fine appointment for Nigeria and indeed for Africa, and it’s reasonable to expect it will benefit the continent.

Following the launch of the fund, high-income countries started making pledges in solidarity, with about $1 billion pledged so far. Africa stands to benefit from the account, but the continent must now push for efficient deployment of the fund for the purpose of the vulnerable African communities.

Nigeria’s participation at COP28 helped to properly position her to benefit from the fund. This fund, as I see it, is a mechanism for support and securing justice over the climate crisis. Interestingly, the endowment fund is consistent with President Bola Tinubu’s persistent clamour for climate justice. The Nigerian President has always argued that the developed world needs to understand the predicament of the developing countries, particularly Africa who contribute the least to carbon emissions but suffer the most, and are now being asked to give up their major source of livelihood in the name of climate change. He said Nigeria and Africa need understanding and support for energy transition. While expressing support for climate change, President Tinubu would argue that asking Africa and a country like Nigeria to forgo hydrocarbon – her major source of foreign exchange earnings – is like asking “a church rat not to eat the Holy Communion,” and that Nigeria and Africa urgently require investments in alternative energy to be able to fully and effectively transition.

In plenary and sideline meetings, President Tinubu promoted this position and demanded at every turn during his participation at the Dubai climate summit. For instance, speaking on a panel on Africa Green Industrialization hosted by UAE President, who is also COP28 President, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Nigerian Leader said Africa must not become a victim of the disruptions that come with climate mitigation measures, while also stating that risk management is vital for Africa’s full and swift transition to cleaner energy.

COP28 was eventful for President Tinubu. The summit particularly presented an array of investment and partnership opportunities for the various sectors affected by climate change. Nigeria is already reaping the benefits of its participation.
Information Minister Mohammed Idris has already highlighted some of these gains. These gains are worth restating, however, in this piece.

One, Nigeria and Germany signed a performance agreement on the implementation of the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) to improve Nigeria’s electricity supply. The Managing Director and CEO of FGN Power Company, Mr. Kenny Anuwe, and Siemens Energy’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director for Africa, Ms. Nadja Haakansson, signed the agreement on the sidelines of the summit, in the presence of President Tinubu and Chancellor Scholz.

Two. President Tinubu hosted a high-level meeting with stakeholders and investors on the Nigeria Carbon Market and the Electric Buses Rollout Programme. He unveiled the Nigeria Carbon Market Activation Plan, co-chaired by the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Zacch Adedeji, and the Director-General of the National Council on Climate Change (NCCC), Dr. Dahiru Salisu.

Three, on the subsisting issue of restoration of Emirates Airline flights, among other matters, the President also met the President of UAE to strengthen relations between the two countries.
Among other important meetings President Tinubu held with several leaders and multilateral partners in Dubai was the one with British King Charles, a well-known strident climate change advocate. King Charles had always expressed his desire to meet Tinubu who he said he was not opportuned to meet during his visits to Nigeria when the President was governor of Lagos. COP28 provided that opportunity.
Also, heads of several MDAs engaged with and forged useful agreements with their counterparts in UAE. For instance, the NNPC sealed two deals to commercialise the country’s Liquefied Natural Gas for domestic and international markets in order to ensure Nigeria earns the much-needed revenue from its abundant gas assets.

Also, after signing a strategic partnership agreement between themselves on research and development projects aimed at enhancing the quality, reliability and affordability of rural electrification solutions, Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) on December 8 in Dubai signed an MOU with Shenzhen Technology Development Company of China, through its subsidiary, Lemi Renewable Energy Limited. This agreement is targeted at the development and establishment of a $150million Lithium Battery Manufacturing and Processing Factory in Nigeria.

These are the important things that came out of the conference, as opposed to the controversy over Nigeria’s representation, which was stoked by some who ought to know better, but for their mischief. This is quite unhelpful. A conference of the magnitude of COP28 will attract many delegates, government officials and non-state actors alike, because of the significance of the issues involved. There were delegates including business leaders, development partners, climate activists, representatives of climate-impacted communities, members of other NGOs related to the environment, academics, journalists, and others at the conference. That they all registered under the name of the country does not mean the government sponsored them. Some of the delegates who registered under Nigeria’s name even operate outside the country and they sponsored themselves.

Importantly, the Minister of Information has put a lie to the figure bandied around as the number of Nigeria’s delegation when he provided the breakdown of the total 422 delegates. The delegation from Nigeria is a far cry from the figure bandied about. The more than 90,000 total participants and delegates from over 150 countries at this year’s summit, the highest in the history of the climate conferences thus far, are an indication of the importance of the summit. To further lend credence to the seriousness of the summit, as some government delegates were leaving for their respective countries on Tuesday and Wednesday, after the end of the plenary sessions, some delegates were just arriving Dubai Expo City venue of the summit for the technical and negotiation sessions, ending on Tuesday, December 12. Indeed, as it has been previously pointed out, COP28 was not a jamboree; it was a serious business.

*Rahman is a Senior Presidential Aide

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