Africa: Cities Pledge to Cut Climate Emissions to Zero By 2050

Lagos state, among other states in Africa, has pledged to deliver its share of emission cuts in order to meet the climate change targets in the Paris Agreement by 2050.

The Paris Agreement on Climate change, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on the 22nd of September, 2016, committed Nigeria to reducing Green House Gas Emissions ‘unconditionally’ by 20 per cent and ‘conditionally’ by 45 per cent in line with Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contributions.

Reuters, at the launch of the emissions cutting process in Lagos, reports that the World Bank projects that 70 per cent of the world’s population could live in cities by 2050, and Africa is expected to account for half of the world’s population growth by 2050.

The transition to Zero emissions will require drastic changes in lifestyle of Nigerians as well as the mode of operation of many industrial organisations operating within the country.

Nigeria has a reputation for air pollution ranging from Lagos’ traffic jams causing heavy pollution to the large volumes of waste produced by its population of 21 million.

Also, Onitsha, a city in Anambra state, was named by the World Health Organisation as a city with some of the world’s worst air pollution in 2016, and Port Harcourt, an oil port that is often blanketed in soot.

The constant power failures in the country aid regular use of petrol or diesel generators to produce power, therefore polluting the environment.

Ikenna Ofoegbu from German Heinrich Boll Foundation warned that the transition to lower emissions would be capital intensive, Reuters reports.

“Each sector, like agriculture, power, and transport has its own strategies to encourage cleaner energy rather than use of fossil fuels. But these solutions are capital intensive.

“For instance, it is cheaper for international oil companies (IOCs) to flare (natural) gas than recycling it because there is no extensive infrastructure and it is hard to find a market for people to buy flared gas,” he said.

He added that Nigeria’s legislation also favours electrical distribution companies that rely on fossil fuels over mini-grid operators using solar panels because the powerful elite own the traditional distribution companies and regularly lobby to keep the existing system in place.

On using solar panels as an alternative to using fossil fuels to generate power, Mr Ofeogbu said solar panels also can be expensive to import.

Nigeria has no customs duty on renewable energy devices but the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), of which it is a member, stipulates a five per cent customs duty on some types of devices, he said.

Mr Ofoegbu said if better incentives for clean energy (lower import duties) were put in place, more people would abandon their generators and get solar panels.

To achieve its emissions goals, he also advised that Nigeria looks into tree planting and encouraging the use of clean cooking stoves to cut firewood use to achieve its emission goals.

Besides Lagos, other African cities that have signed the pledge include Accra, Tshwane, Dar es Salaam, Addis Ababa, Dakar, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Mark Watts, the executive director of the C40 Cities alliance, a global network of cities tackling climate change, said Nairobi and Abidjan are expected to submit their plans to take part soon.

The Mayor of Accra, Mohammed Sowah, at a planning meeting in Nigeria on urban climate action in Africa, said “We cannot ignore the implications of what will befall us if we do not act now”.

At the launch of the emissions cutting push in Lagos, Reuters reports that he said, pursuing development in the way it is traditionally being done is no longer feasible.

He also said he believes it is possible to dramatically cut urban African emissions.

On how climate change is being tackled in Tshwane, South Africa, Sello Mphaga, head of the Tshwane mayor’s sustainability unit in the city of Tshwane (former Pretoria) in South Africa explained.

“We started this climate action trajectory in 2013, putting together the carbon emission inventory and vulnerability assessment, out of which we then started to take action based on the data.”

He said the city’s emissions come from “three main sectors – energy, waste management and transport. “From the study, we see how much each sector is emitting and that assists us in planning to reduce or act upon these emissions,” he adds.

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