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Frequently Asked Questions on Climate Change

By Solape Peters and Anthonia Ochei

What is climate change? 

Climate change refers to long-term alterations in the Earth's climate patterns, including changes in temperature, precipitation, and wind patterns. These changes are largely driven by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, which release greenhouse gases (“GHG”) into the atmosphere.[1] Some of the impacts of climate change on the environment are rising sea levels, more frequent, severe and extreme weather conditions (such as hurricanes, droughts, floods and heatwaves), disruptions in ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and changes in precipitation patterns, affecting agriculture and water resources.

 What is GHG, and why is it important in climate change? 

GHG are gases such as carbon dioxide (“CO2”), methane (“CH4”), and nitrous oxide (“N2O”) which trap heat in the earth's atmosphere[2]. They act like an invisible blanket, trapping heat from the sun and heating the earth up. This phenomenon leads to a warming effect known as ‘the greenhouse effect’, contributing to global warming and climate change.

How is human activity contributing to climate change? 

Human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) for energy, deforestation, industrial processes, and agricultural practices release vast amounts of GHG into the atmosphere. These emissions are the primary driver of the accelerated and unprecedented climate change observed in recent decades. According to an updated report by World Resources Institute in 2023, the top three GHG emitters in the world are China, the United States and India, contributing about 42.6% total emissions, while the bottom 100 countries only account for only 2.9%. In addition, the energy sector (including generation of electricity and heat, as well as end-uses in buildings, transportation, and manufacturing and construction) has remained the largest contributor to GHG emissions over any other sector, representing 76% of global emissions since 1990.

What is the Paris Agreement, and why is it important in addressing climate change? 

The Paris Agreement[3] is an International Treaty adopted by 196 countries at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, France on 12 December 2015. The Agreement is aimed at limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.[4] It requires countries to submit Nationally Determined Contributions (“NDCs”) outlining their efforts to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to the impact of climate change. Nigeria signed the Paris Agreement in September 2016 and ratified it in March 2017. With this ratification, Nigeria committed to building a climate resilient society and reducing GHG emissions unconditionally by 20 per cent (20%) and conditionally by 45 per cent (45%) with international support by 2030.

What legal measures are in place to address climate change in Nigeria? 

The Environmental Impact Assessment Act[5] was the primary law regulating the impact of development projects on the environment in Nigeria. Through the Act, the environmental, social and economic impact of development projects were identified and evaluated. However, Nigeria has now enacted the Climate Change Act 2021[6] to specifically address climate change, including emission reduction targets, carbon pricing mechanisms, and the implementation of renewable energy incentives.

What does the Climate Change Act, 2021 aim to do?

The Climate Change Act 2021 provides the framework for the integration of sustainable actions to combat climate change and its impact in Nigeria, as well as aid the planning and policy making process. The Act also provides codification for a carbon budgeting system and establishes the National Council on Climate Change.[7] In view of Nigeria’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060, pledged to at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2021 (COP26), the Act came into force in 2021. The Act provides the groundwork for achieving low GHG, inclusive green growth and sustainable economic development.

How are the provisions of the Climate Change Act implemented?

The Climate Change Act establishes the National Council on Climate Change (the “Council”). The Council is vested with powers to make policies and decisions on all matters concerning climate change in Nigeria.[8] The Council also monitors the implementation of the guidelines for the regulation of GHG emissions and other causes of climate change.[9] The Council is headed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who is the chairman of the Council. The Council also has a Director-General who is appointed by the President on recommendation of the Council to oversee the administration of the Council.

What is the National Climate Change Action Plan (the “Action Plan”)?

The Action Plan is formulated every five (5) years by the Council’s Secretariat, in consultation with the Federal Ministries of the Environment alongside Budget and National Planning, respectively. It comprises an articulated carbon budget for every five-year cycle, the GHG emission profile of GHG emission sectors of the economy, details of climate mitigation and adaptation actions, details of the level of compliance with international climate commitments and proposed incentives for private and public entities, which achieve GHG emission reduction.[10]

What are the social and economic implications of climate change? 

Climate change can exacerbate poverty, inequality, and displacement, especially in vulnerable communities and developing countries. It can also lead to economic losses due to damage to infrastructure, increased healthcare costs, and impact on various industries[11].In Nigeria, economic sectors such as agriculture, fishery and forestry are more susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change. Over the years, the Nigerian climate has been irregular, often alternating between periods of extreme dry or rainy seasons, and alternatively to seasons of drought and excess flood, particularly in the northern region. For instance, the irregular and anomalous rainfalls continue to affect agricultural activities, leading to reduced food production and financial loss to farmers. This has also led to loss of shelter. According to the National Emergency Management Agency, in 2019, approximately 1.9 million Nigerians have been displaced by floods.

As agriculture is critical to Africa’s economic growth, (including Nigeria), climate change could destabilize local markets, increase food insecurity, limit economic growth, and increase risks for agriculture sector investors. African agriculture is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because it is heavily dependent on rainfall, and climate change has affected rainfall throughout the continent.

A 2021 report by Foreign Policy Research Institute states that “with temperatures expected to increase 1.5 times higher than the rest of the world by the end of the 21st century, African countries will see shorter wet spells (leading to droughts) or heavier rains (causing floods), leading to reduced food production, because they lack the infrastructure and support systems present in wealthier nations. Rural areas in Nigeria, while suffering the most from climate change, are not alone. Crises in rural areas often lead to dislocation of rural populations to the cities. There is therefore, over population in the urban areas and the lack of food caused by unstable atmospheric conditions.

How can individuals, businesses and industries act against climate change?

Individuals, businesses and industries can make a difference by adopting sustainable practices, reducing emissions, raising awareness about climate change, investing in renewable energy, and adopting environmentally friendly technologies. For example, harnessing solar power for electricity generation, the use of fuel efficient cookstoves, rather than firewood will reduce emission of greenhouse gases and air pollution, in addition to the use of sustainable agricultural practices. These are all environmentally friendly methods that can serve as substitute to the use of fossil fuels.

It is important to note however, that the accessibility of some of these technologies to the average Nigerian still poses a challenge, due to cost constraints. A 2022 Without access to these technologies, Nigeria’s net-zero carbon emissions by 2060 may not be achievable, unless the Nigerian Government is able to encourage further adoption in the form of tax credits or subsidies or partnering with the private sector to ensure that these technologies are affordable and accessible.

Advocating for stronger climate policies and supporting initiatives to promote a low-carbon economy is critical in addressing climate change concerns. Nigeria has revised its NDCs to include clean cooking as a way of ensuring a conversion from cooking fuels such as kerosene, charcoal and firewood to eco-friendly cooking gas. Similarly, electric vehicles are gaining popularity and investment globally. According to a 2023 report by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the market for electric vehicles in various countries has grown rapidly in recent years and is expected to continue to grow at a faster pace over the coming decade.

In Nigeria, the Federal Government has pledged that thirty per cent (30%) of the cars in Nigeria will be electric by 2025. In addition, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu approved the Presidential Compressed Natural Gas Initiative (“PCNGI”). Through the PCNGI, the FG intends to roll out in the near term, 11,500 new Compressed Natural Gas (“CNG”)-enabled vehicles across the Federation to assist mass transit. The Federal Government also plans to provide 55,000 CNG conversion kits for existing PMS-dependent vehicles. This is also expected to deal with the rising costs of energy.

In Lagos State, the Lagos State government recently unveiled its first Electric Mass Transit Buses in May 2023. The launch of the eco-friendly and electric mass transit buses seeks to transform the future of urban transportation and will set the stage for sustainable cities in Nigeria.



[3] This was 30 days after 55 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

[4] Article 2 of the Paris Agreement.

[5] Cap E12 LFN 2004.

[6] The Climate Change Act 2021 came into force in November 2021 when it was signed by President

Muhammadu Buhari. This was following the President's commitment made at the UN Climate Change

Conference (COP 26) held in Glasgow in 2021, of achieving net zero by 2060.

[7] The Preamble to the Climate Change Act

[8] Section 3 of the Climate Change Act 2021

[9] Section 4 of the Climate Change Act 2021

[10] Section 20 of the Climate Change Act 2021