The global oil and gas industry is undergoing significant transformations due to unequivocal scientific studies that show the urgent need to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate change to net zero by the year 2050. This is consistent with the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). However, while the need for a low-carbon economy is incontrovertible, a sudden global divestment from the oil and gas industry may have catastrophic development impacts in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.
Through studies, researchers have expressed the fear that Africa may become the sacrificial lamb for net zero and decarbonization. In countries such as Nigeria where the oil and gas sector contributes to more than 80 percent of the country’s revenue and foreign exchange earnings, a sudden divestment from the sector may result in massive job losses and high unemployment. It may also halt the flow of financing needed to develop critical healthcare, education, water and energy infrastructure, leaving a huge dent on the realization of all aspects of the UN SDGs.
Strong advocate for a just and inclusive decarbonization agenda.
Harvard and Oxford-trained Prof. Damilola Olawuyi, SAN, a globally recognized professor of Energy and Environmental Law and currently a UN Independent Expert, says he is a strong advocate for a just and inclusive decarbonization agenda that balances the interests, priorities and needs of developing countries. Commenting on what the demands of Nigeria should be in this decarbonization agenda, he said that Nigeria should demand that ongoing global emphasis on decarbonization and low carbon energy transitions must be done in a just, inclusive and rights-based manner such that no country is left behind.
Continuing on, he said this should be demanded on the basis that international laws already emphasize the need to achieve the global net-zero goals on the basis on equity and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. Additionally, he said that apart from the climate emergency, the world also faces an energy poverty emergency, which Nigeria must never lose sight of. Despite being in 2023, more than one billion people (13 percent of the world’s total population) still currently lack access to electricity. About 600 million of these people are in Africa. Even in Nigeria, constant power supply, reliability and affordability remains key concerns to everyone.
The 2023 election is a chance to analyze candidates’ foreign policy.
Olawuyi says that African countries need to articulate a foreign policy agenda that balances these two equally important priorities. Also, there is a need to harness lower carbon and environmentally preferable transition fuels, such as natural gas, which will help combat the current energy poverty emergency facing the country and the world. The professor says that the forthcoming general election provides an important and timely opportunity to analyze the foreign policy strategies of the leading presidential candidates to see what extent they will be able to achieve a just and equitable deal for Nigeria in the ongoing decarbonization and low carbon energy transition.
He expresses his joy that all the leading president candidates have clearly identified energy security and climate change as urgent priorities for a sustainable and prosperous economic development – a commendable act. However, the professor says he would like to see more of a clear and comprehensive strategy for leveraging the global emphasis on low carbon transition as a tool for attracting climate financing into key sectors of Nigeria. For instance, Article 9 of the Paris Agreement clearly provides that developed countries shall provide financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Nigeria could key into some international financing mechanisms.
A number of climate financing mechanisms have, therefore, been put in place that if Nigeria leveraged potential sources, it could provide significant inflow of international capital. This could be used to establish Nigeria as a hub for climate technology entrepreneurship and clean energy development projects, such as green hydrogen projects. As an example, in addition to clean technology mechanism and climeta finance funds under the United Nations climate regime, countries such as India, China, Brazil and South Africa are already leveraging climate financing options, such as concessional climate infrastructure loans, green bonds, climate guarantees, and debt for climate swaps from international sources to implement green economic activities in all sectors.