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Opinions of Thursday, 5 August 2021

Columnist: Ifeanyi Madumere

Dealing with root issues of global warming

File photo to illustrate the story File photo to illustrate the story

The media space, the world over, is currently dominated by the news of the effects of global warming – droughts, wild fires, flooding, mudslides, erosion etc. The effects of these consequences have, once again, brought back the issues of global warming and environmental sustainability in the front burner, internationally.

Nigeria has its fair share of these unpalatable consequences. Lagos, for instance, was on a lockdown on July 9, 2021 as a result of less than three-hour rainfall in most parts of the state. There was a gridlock that kept many residents on the roads for upward of seven hours. This is July and, according to the Nigeria Meteorological Institute, Nigeria will experience more than normal rainfall this year and for a very extended period of up to December.

Unfortunately, our government seems not to fully appreciate the remote causes of the issues of flooding, erosion, mudslides, droughts etc and their enormity. Every time such issues come up, our government officials blame residents for blocking the drainage system with their domestic refuse.

Granted, blocked drainage contributes to the issue of flooding but the problem is more than that. It is an issue of policymaking. Nigeria seems not to be much concerned with the issue of environmental sustainability, global warming and climate change beyond rhetoric. Take our energy policy, for example, it is mainly hinged on fossil fuels – one of the biggest causes of the greenhouse effect.

It is on record that the year 2019 was adjudged the second-warmest year on record, a justification of the UN’s call for action in the much-acclaimed Sustainable Development Goals document – “…for the widest possible international cooperation aimed at accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions and addressing adaptation to the adverse impacts of climate change…”

Many industrialised nations have installed significant solar power capacity into their electrical grids to supplement or provide an alternative to conventional energy sources while an increasing number of less developed nations have turned to solar to reduce dependence on expensive imported fuels. Worldwide growth in the use solar panels is being recorded in many countries. By the end of 2019, a cumulative amount of 629,000MWs of solar power was installed throughout the world.

Nigeria, conversely, since the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, has built no less than 21 power stations (fossil fuels, coal and steam-powered) directly or in partnership with private players thus immensely contributing to global warming and environmental degradation. Compared with the much-touted rhetoric of the government, this is an irony of sorts.

If Nigeria is to join the comity of nations in fighting global warming, it should start making deliberate and consistent efforts in this regard. One obvious way to go is to drive the adoption of renewable energy in the country. The country has many push factors that should hasten our government into taking decisive actions towards stemming global warming. These factors include the prevalence of gas flaring in Nigeria, poor access to electricity which pushes individuals and corporates to depend more on petrol-powered generators for domestic and industrial uses, high-energy consuming vehicles etc.

On the other hand, one of the biggest pull factors to lure the country to tend towards adoption of renewable energy is the private sector willingness to play in this sub-sector. Such players are ready to design, source for funding, build and operate such power stations. One of such players has already built a solar power station that will deliver optimal access to power to over 1,000 households in a rural community in Niger State. The station is expected to come on before the end of this August. From what we hear, the company is targeting on delivering such stations in 300 communities nationwide before 2025 at an average cost of N100 million each.

Other pull factors include the greater reliability of solar power supply which is as high as 99.5 per cent uptime; poor access to power especially in the rural areas which is major factor that fuels rural-urban migration in the country; government’s meagre investment in the power sector; among others.

A greater adoption of solar power will, apart from contributing to the fight against global warming, assist the government in tackling the issue of flooding and other forms of environmental degradation. It will also facilitate job creation, slow down rural-urban migration and drive growth in GDP.

To tap into these and other benefits, government should create an enabling environment for these private sector players to thrive – good foreign exchange regime, reduced import duties on solar power equipment and consumables etc. China is championing this revolution and Nigeria could follow suit.