By Ifeanyi Madumere
The media space, the world over, is currently being dominated by the news of the effects of global warming – droughts, wild fires, flooding, mudslides, erosion etc. The effects of these consequences – deaths, displacements, destruction of incomes, properties and infrastructures – 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 especially in all the forms except, may be, for wild fires. Lagos, for instance, was on a lockdown on 9 July, 2021 as a result of less than three-hour rainfall in most parts of the state. Houses were submerged, with few reports of building collapse, traffic gridlock that kept many residents of the state on the roads for upward of seven hours and arriving home from work by 1 a.m. the next day. This is July and, according to Nigeria Meteorological Institute (NiMet), Nigeria, the Southern parts, especially, will experience more than normal rainfall this year and for a very extended period of up to December this year.
Unfortunately, our government, especially at the federal and state levels, seems not to fully appreciate both the remote causes of the issues of flooding, erosion, mudslides droughts etc and their enormity. Every time such issues come up our government officials engage in blame game as they tend to conclude that they are caused by the citizens who block the drainage system with their domestic refuse.
Granted, blocked drainages contribute to the issue of flooding but the problem is more than that. It is an issue of policy making. 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 – oil and gas – one of the biggest causes of the greenhouse effect. Nigeria is still huge on gas flaring while its counterparts have harnessed theirs for domestic and industrial uses.
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 (SDGs) 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 industrialized 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, either on rooftops or on ground-mounted solar farms, 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. By early 2020, the leading country for solar power was China with 208,000MWs, accounting for one-third of global installed solar capacity.The available solar PV capacity in Honduras is now sufficient to supply 12.5 percent of the nation’s electrical energy while Italy, Germany and Greece can produce between seven and eight percent of their respective annual domestic electricity consumption. Nigeria, conversely, since the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, hasbuilt 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.
Granted, the issue of global warming is a universal one but each and every country is expected to contribute its own quota in stemming the rise in atmospheric temperature. The focus of many countries now is reducing their dependence on fossil fuels. That’s the reason the adoption of renewable energy – solar power, electric cars – is increasing daily around the world. 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, Engie Energy Access has already built a solar power station that will deliver optimal access to power to over one thousand households in a rural community in Niger State. The station is expected to come on before the end of August this year. From what we hear, the company is targeting on delivering such stations in three hundred 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 percent 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 the feel-good feelings it brings to the country as one of the countries that are contributing to the fight against global warming, will assist the government in tackling the issue of flooding and other environmental degradation manifestations. 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.
Madumere, an environmentalist, writes from Lagos