Climate Change and Nigeria’s Race Towards a Net Zero Carbon Future


By Chisom Nwadike


Climate Change is the latest impediment to sustainable human development in the world today. About a century ago, the concept of climate change was a speculation, a figment of the scientist imagination.  Many stakeholders in both government and private sectors thought it was a hoax, a way to loot the international community and countries of their funds. Nonetheless, the impact of climate change is self-evident and is likely to have a huge negative impact on our development objectives, means of livelihood and increase the poverty experienced by many Nigerians.[1]

Consequently, in a bid to consolidate and demonstrate Nigerian’s commitment to achieving her development objectives, millennium development goals, reducing fossil fuel and transition to clean energy, President Muhammad Buhari signed the Climate Change Bill into law. The bill was signed into law just days after the COP26, an international climate change convention that was held in Glasgow Scotland.

However, while other countries had impressive steps and massive track records to show, for Nigeria, the COP26 was a learning experience given how insignificantly we have made progress in boosting our efforts for a cleaner and greener environment.

I believe our lacklustre appearance at the conference was what made the President sign this ambition bill into law as well as his pledge to cut Nigeria’s emissions to net-zero by 2060. While the action of the President is commendable, the plan, implementation, and strategy on how to reach this ambitious goal should be our main concern.


Climate change has become a global phenomenon that requires an urgent strategy across all levels of government. Fortunately, on the 18th day of November 2021, President Muhammad Buhari signed the Climate Change Bill into law. Although there was no media sensation about the passage of the Act, I believe the President has delivered on his promise to chart the course of transitioning Nigeria from fossil fuel into clean energy. Although the impact of climate change is adversely felt in many parts of Nigeria, the truth is many Nigerians don’t know what climate change all is about.[2]

Climate can be defined as the average weather condition of a particular place over a long period (the classical period is 30 years). The sun powers the earth’s climate system and warms its surface, particularly the land and the ocean. Once it is warm, the earth’s surface radiates back to the atmosphere. Much of this thermal radiation emitted by the land and ocean is absorbed by the atmosphere, including clouds, and reradiated back to earth. This is called the greenhouse effect. The Earth’s greenhouse effect warms the surface of the planet. Without this, the average temperature at the earth’s surface would be below the freezing point. Thus, the earth’s natural greenhouse effect makes life as we know it possible. Consequently, the global concern is that human activities are distorting the natural process effect of greenhouse and offsetting the energy balance of the earth.

In Nigeria, since the discovery of oil, human activities particularly the burning of fossil fuel, flaring of gas and the indiscriminate felling of trees has greatly affected the natural greenhouse effect. These activities have been causing significant and extreme changes in the number of greenhouse gases. The most significant Greenhouse gas is CO2, and the concentration is increasing rapidly largely due to the burning of oil, gas, and coal. This build-up of Greenhouse Gases has set Nigeria inexorably on the path to “global warming”


The UNFCC on climate change is an international treaty that was formed with the main goal of preventing extreme climate change and keeping greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere to its barest minimum.

The UNFCC was adopted in 1992 by 197 countries, and it is the highest decision-making body on climate issues relating to the goal of the convention. The UNFCC as the instrument of the United Nations makes it a universal instrument with membership spread across the globe. The countries are referred to as Parties to the convention. It was the UNFCC treaty that birthed the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, which goal is to keep the global average temperature below 2° degree Celsius and to drive the effort to lower the temperature.


It took over two weeks of intense talks and negotiations among various countries in the world before they agreed to keep global emissions at 1.5°C. Also, they agreed to conclude the outstanding parts of the Paris Agreement. The COP 26 is significant because it is the first-time countries are coming together to increase the ambition and action to limit global temperature to 1.5° c above pre-industrial levels and combine their efforts to ensure a cleaner and greener environment.

Parties[3] have agreed to speed up the pace of climate action, strengthen their current emissions targets. This will be combined with a yearly political roundtable to consider a global progress report and a Leaders’ summit in 2023. Likewise, the COP has agreed on phasing down coal power and Africa will also benefit from clean transport, adaptation and resilience, finance, and nature-based programmes.


Between 1941 and 1970, late onsets of rains occurred in only a few areas of Nigeria. However, from 1971 to 2000, late-onset and early cessation of rains had spread to most parts of the country, shortening the length of the rainy season. Only a narrow band in the middle of the country remained with normal conditions. Between 1941 and 2000, annual rainfall decreased by 2-8mm across most of the country but increased by 2-4mm in a few places.

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Floods are the most common, recurring disaster in the country. The durations and intensities of rainfall have increased in the last three decades, producing large runoffs and flooding in many places. Rising sea level and ocean surge in Southern Nigeria has submerged villages in Lagos and some places in the Niger Delta. In Northern Nigeria, a flood in 2010 affected 2 million people in Jigawa State. Severe nationwide floods in 2012 resulted in unprecedented damage and losses to human settlements located downstream.

Droughts have also been a constant in Nigeria. In the Nigerian Sahelian region, there has been a 25 percent decrease in precipitation on average in the last 30 years. The drying up of Lake Chad from around 4000 to around 3000 between 1960 and 2007, respectively, is attributable to the effects of climate change in that part of the country. Other lakes, particularly in Northern Nigeria, are also in danger of disappearing.

Temperatures have risen significantly above normal since the 1980s, with relatively higher figures in 1973, 1987 and 1998. Temperature increases of approximately 0.2 to 0.3°C per decade have been observed in the various ecological zones of the country. The minimum temperature in the country has increased slightly faster than the maximum temperature, resulting in a smaller temperature range. This warming of the environment is most significant between June and November each year.

Climate change is expected to continue to increase rainfall variability, with an increase in precipitation by approximately 5-20 percent, and subsequent flooding, in some humid areas of the forest regions and savanna areas in southern Nigeria.

In Nigeria, inundation is the primary threat for at least 96 percent of the land at risk. It has also been estimated that a rise in sea level by up to 59cm by 2100 will result in the submersion of several Nigerian coastal states. This includes parts of Lagos and other smaller towns along the coast.Flooding is expected to occur alongside droughts in northern Nigeria, arising from a decline in precipitation and a rise in temperature. It is predicted that there will be a temperature increase of 0.4 to 1°C over the period 2020-2050 due to climate change, and an increase of up to 3.2°C by 2050 under a high climate change scenario. In Rivers state, many children are absent from school during heavy rains.

According to some estimates, two-thirds of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara states could turn desert or semi-desert in the twenty-first century. The Sahel already creeps south by approximately 1,400 square miles a year, encroaching on whole villages. Government geological data show a 400 percent increase in sand dunes over twenty years. Migrating sand dunes have buried large areas of arable lands, reducing viable agricultural lands and crop yields. The Sahel already creeps south by approximately 1,400 square miles a year, encroaching on whole villages. Government geological data show a 400 percent increase in sand dunes over twenty years. Migrating sand dunes have buried large areas of arable lands, reducing viable agricultural lands and crop yields.

There is growing concern though that the North-central region might be undergoing a climatic shift towards aridity, which alongside variable, declining rainfall, adversely affects water resources, agricultural output and economic performance. A downward trend in rainfall was observed in Plateau, Benue Nassarawa and Abuja, the FCT.

Coastal inundation is expected to increase problems with flooding and intrusion of sea water into fresh-water sources and ecosystems, heightening the social conflict already prevalent in this area

Other urban environments, such as Warri, are also at risk from the combination of climate change impacts and rapid urban expansion into floodwater storage zones. The floods of July 10, 2011, in Lagos, August 26, 2011, in Ibadan and more recently nationwide floods of 2012 are all pointers to the extreme precipitation being experienced in the country.

In Nigeria, many rivers have been reported to have dried up or are becoming more seasonal, while Lake Chad has shrunk in the area from 22,902 km2 in 1963 to a mere 1304 km2 in 2000. This shows that what is left of Lake Chad in the year 2000 is just 5.7% of 1963. Awake, also confirms the fact that Lake Chad has shrunk by 95% since the 1960s. Lake Chad and so many rivers in Nigeria, especially in Northern Nigeria, are in danger of disappearing. Available evidence also shows that climate change has impacted agriculture and health in Nigeria. Already, Nigerian urban centres have been feeling the impacts of climate change with incessant annual flooding that affect large areas and the large number of people. For example, in 2010, a flood in Northern Nigeria affected 2 million people in Jigawa State and another 40, 000 people were displaced in Sokoto State where Usmanu Dan Fodio University was forced to close for weeks because of bridge collapse associated with the flood. Similar floods were reported in Lagos where 689 people were to be relocated in Ajegunle because of the flood.

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Nigeria is already committed to the following regional networks: the Nairobi Declaration Adopted by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCAN) in May 2009, the Convention of African Heads of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) created in July 2009. In 2010, Nigeria hosted a study group among African legislatures that produced recommendations on concrete steps parliaments can take to use their legislative functions to address the effects of Climate Change. Also, in 2010, in the second year of Nigeria’s current chairmanship, the ECOWAS adopted the framework of strategic guidelines on the Reduction of Vulnerability, and Adaptability to Climate Change in West Africa. This agreement seeks to build scientific and technical capacity to reduce climate change vulnerability in member states, integrate climate in national and regional development policies and implement climate change adaptation programmes.

The Federal government has also set up agencies under the national government charged with managing environmental issues such as climate change which includes the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Special Climate Change Unit, within the Federal Ministry of Environment.[4]

Currently, the Federal Government has enacted the Climate Change Act[5] which establishes a National Council on Climate Change.[6]Under the Act, the Federal Ministry of Environment, working with the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning, is mandated to set a ‘Carbon Budget’ for Nigeria, which is basically the allowable/acceptable quantity of greenhouse gases in the country, per time.

The Act mandates “private entities” that employ 50 or more persons to:

  1. Create Annual Carbon Emission Reduction Targets that are aligned with the National Climate Change Action Plan.
  2. Designate a member of staff as “Climate Change Officer” or “Environmental Sustainability Officer”. It will be this person’s responsibility to submit annual reports to the Climate Change Council, on the entity’s efforts/progress at meeting the targets set in (1) above.

This means all large private companies and conglomerates – banks, FMCGs, telcos, etc – are going to mainstream climate change mitigation and adaptation into their operations, and reporting templates.

The Act also creates a Climate Change Fund, that will, in addition to taking care of administration and operational costs of the Council, also invest in projects targeted at climate change mitigation, as well as in communications and advocacy.

It is also worth highlighting the fact that there will be penalties (“fines and charges”) targeted at public and private entities that “flout” their “climate change mitigation and adaptation obligations.”

Also, individuals and public and private institutions who “act in a manner that negatively affects efforts towards mitigation and adaptation measures made under this Act” will be penalized. The fines and charges will go into the Climate Change Fund.

However, despite these giant strides by the Federal Government, the impact of these agencies and policies (except the new Climate Change Act) to date has remained minimal in terms of advancing a cohesive national adaptation strategy”. There are reports that each Nigerian Ministry now has a climate change focal point but in the final analysis, there is no integration network and coordination thus leaving them as an array of policy and programmes “stand-alones”.


Nigeria is highly vulnerable to the effect of climate change and tackling the climate crisis can be overwhelming. Although we have been ambitious in developing adaptation and mitigation plans[7] including enacting the climate change Act, it’s high time we convert these plans into actions. The question is what the underlying rules are to be used towards a zero-carbon future. Soon, Nigeria and other vulnerable African countries will be given access to finance[8], and it is important we use these supports for our national climate plans and mitigation measures. We need to harness and follow through with these ambitious steps we have taken in Glasgow.

We need a concerted effort at all levels of government especially the Federal Government including civil societies, private individuals, and stakeholders to reduce greenhouse gases by ending gas flaring, mainstreaming the impact of climate change,[9] instituting court actions against defaulting parties flouting environmental policies as well as implementing climate innovative reforms in every sector.[10] Businesses need to invest in clean energy[11] and the government needs to make environmentaland tax-cut policies to incentivize the private sector. Everyone in the system must set a climate change goal, review it, and meet at least after every 5 years. Also, we need to begin helpful adaption projects to help high-risk communities to adapt to the impact of extreme weather and changing climate conditions. If need be, we should boost our weather forecasting to help rural areas lessen the impact of a climate shock. We need to believe in the power of technology[12] and innovation to help us curtail the excesses of climate change. In addition, the insurance companies must do more to get storm and drought insurance to people so that people can respond quickly when disaster strikes.

Furthermore, the government need to invest in renewable energy.[13]Nigeria is a blessed country[14] filled with enormous and innumerable energy resources that can be utilized to lessen the impact of climate change. Public-Private Partnerships will go a long way in mobilizing finance at a scale to make the country’s global transition to a clean environment easier and less costly. This implies that the government and the public sector need to collaborate radically to make crucial actions.

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Finally, we need to tell positive stories about climate change because the stories we tell are the ones that will come true. This implies that individuals and the media must come together and draw inspiration from beautiful nature-based patterns to tell positive stories about climate change by documenting and keeping observations through videos, documentaries, and films for our children on how we fought the climate change issues during our time.

Chisom Nwadike is a lawyer and he writes from Abuja. He can be reached at


  1. Achike, A. I. et al. (2019). Greenhouse gas emission determinants in Nigeria: Implications for trade, climate change mitigation and adaptation policies.
  2. BNRCC (Building Nigeria’s Response to Climate Change). (2011). National adaptation strategy and plan of action on climate change for Nigeria (NASPA-CCN). Prepared for the Federal Ministry of Environment Special Climate Change Unit.
  3. Dioha, M. O. and Emodi, N. V. (2018). Energy-climate dilemma in Nigeria: Options for the future. IAEE EnergyForum.
  4. Duru, N. P. and Emetumah, C. F. (2016). Evaluating the effects of information literacy on climate change awareness among students in Imo State University. Archives of Current Research International, 4(3), 1-10.
  5. Elum, Z. A. and Momodu, A. S. (2017). Climate change mitigation and renewable energy for sustainable development in Nigeria: A discourse approach. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 76, 72–80.
  1. Climate change in Nigeria: impacts and responses by Huma Haider Independent consultant
  1. Tolu Ogunlesi Highlight of Nigeria new Climate Change Act 2021 published on Linkedln Highlights of Nigeria’s new Climate Change Act (2021) (

[1]climate change could result in a loss of between 2% and 11% of Nigeria’s GDP by 2020, rising to between 6% and 30% by the year 2050. This loss is equivalent to between2020, rising to between 6% and 30% by the year 2050. This loss is equivalent to between N15 trillion (US$100 billion) and N69 trillion (US$460 billion). This large projected cost is theN15 trillion (US$100 billion) and N69 trillion (US$460 billion).

[2]Climate change awareness is very crucial as it helps the citizenry to understand all the critical issues and most importantly to help them understand the role they mustplay in the entire process.

[3] Countries and Parties are used interchangeably

[4] Whichdeveloped the National Adaptation Strategy and Plan of Action on Climate Change (NASPA-CCN) with multi stakeholders

[5]The first legislation in the country’s history dedicated to tackling climate change, and one of the first in Africa. (Kenya was the first African country to do so, in May 2016.

[6] The Council is a corporate entity and responsible for making policies, regulations, guidelines, instituting penalties

[7]The two key words are frequently used. Mitigation is the slowing down that is the reduction of global warming through the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere while Adaptation is the dealing with the existing damage or the effects of climate change, particularly by the developing scientific and natural devices

[8] The participating developed countries have pledged to significantly increase financial support through the Adaptation funds. Considerably, the UK have committed 1.5 million pounds of funding to the Ministry of Finance and Environment to boost the inflow of cash for climate change concerns. They are also partnering with Edo, Lagos, and a few Northern State for a cleaner and greener environment.

[9] People should be encouraged to take part in campaigns on climate change awareness. This is essential because it enables them to create a consciousness within their immediate environment, about the effects of climate change on our daily lives. Annual events and symposia to commemorate important days like “world environment day”, “world meteorological day” among others, should be organized for so that awareness creation on climate change issues can be done.

[10] The US President, Joe Biden has signed an executive order aiming to replace government cars with electric cars few months into COP26.

[11]The development of solar energy, which is the most available form of renewable energy in Nigeria, is very new to the country, with growing interest from investors. However, there is a need to harness other sources of renewable energy like hydro, biomass, wind and so on.

[12] Technology is fundamental to how people access and source information especially people access and source information especially on issues that concern climate change

[13]Nigeria has the highest number of persons living without access to electricity and clean-combustible cooking fuels in Africa

[14]Nigeria has a year average speed of 2.0m2 in its coastal regions while in its Northern regions, the speed ranges around 4.0m2. Nigeria has some permanent well-seasoned large rivers, as well as waterfalls in the Niger Delta Coastal areas and most southern parts. Nigeria is rich in biomass resources including 13million hectares of natural and exotic forests and woodland, 61 million tons of animal wastes every year. Nigeria is blessed with a high concentration of Sunshine both in the North and South.


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