By Bassey Udo
Nigeria and the United States on Tuesday reached a bilateral agreement on the implementation of a joint initiative to tackle challenges associated with climate change and global carbon emissions.
The agreement was reached in Abuja during a closed-door meeting between the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, John Kerry, and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, and the Group Chief Executive of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari.
The meeting was also attended by the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, and other top U.S. Embassy officials, as well as the Chief Executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NUPRC), Gbenga Komolafe, and other top officials of parastatals and agencies in the Nigerian petroleum industry.
During the meeting, Kerry pledged the U.S. government’s commitment to provide technical assistance to Nigeria to promote the decarbonization agenda in the country.
Kerry said the programme of assistance to be supported by the U.S. Department of State in charge of Energy & Mineral Governance programmes, would ensure that the initiatives aligned with Nigeria’s participation in the global methane pledge.
The U.S. envoy said discussions during the meeting expressed the need for the U.S. to work closely with Nigeria to develop further a global gas emissions reduction plan, with respect to both the deployment of gas resources as part of the energy transition efforts and the deployment of clean renewable energy, particularly solar and wind.
He expressed optimism that the agreement would help come up with strong mutually-agreed initiatives to tackle the problems of climate change and carbon emissions.
Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, Kerry acknowledged the reality of the challenge of climate change, saying about 80 percent of all carbon emissions in the world today come from 20 countries, while 48 sub-Saharan African states account for 0.55 percent of all emissions.
He said if those top 20 countries don’t take the right steps to check the menace of climate change and carbon emission, it would be very hard for the rest of the world to get the right solution to the problems.
“That is a reality we are all dealing with, and it has profound implications. At the same time, let me be clear, we’re all in this together. Nobody entered the Industrial Revolution suggesting that the outcome was going to be climate crisis,” he said.
Although he said everyone has benefited from the capacity of humankind to advance the world’s ability to have better lives, longer lives, medicines, and development, the envoy said the world’s developing economies needed more development.
“So, Mother nature, whose life has been greatly disturbed by the act of human beings, doesn’t measure whether the carbon emissions are Chinese emissions or US or Europe emissions.
“The challenge of the climate crisis comes from the emissions that come from the choices we make, about how we power our vehicles, our homes, light our homes, heat our homes, and how we have energy that cooks and provides for our lives. That’s just the reality.
“We have learned enough over the course of the last 15-30 years that we know what causes this problem tragically. Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa that would suffer the most from the consequences of the climate crisis,” he said.
He said what Nigeria, and other hydrocarbon-producing countries decide to do with carbon emissions going forward would have a profound impact on the choices of all countries in Africa.
Tracing the climate change crisis to the carbon emissions in the environment, Kerry said the way forward was to pick a path forward over the course of the next years, up to 2030 to find solutions to the problem.
“The scientists have told us that in order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis, with the worst implication is not to avoid the crisis, but to avoid the worst consequences. We have to reduce our emissions globally by a minimum of 45 percent, hopefully, 50 percent or more,” he said.
Urging Nigeria and other countries to build infrastructure to utilize most of the carbons flared into the environment, Kerry commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the work his administration was doing so far to find solutions to the problem, saying the U.S. government appreciates Nigeria’s pledge made last year at COP 26 on climate change and methane.
“Already, Nigeria is stepping up efforts to reduce gas flaring. Literally one-half of the volume of gas Nigeria flared, or leaked, is 10 billion cubic metres of methane. That’s according to the recent World Bank report. And that is equivalent to over half of Nigeria’s total gas consumption flared or leaked.
“That’s money lost to Nigeria. And if you capture that, you can sell it in a place like Europe. They have a high need for that now. So, there’s a great benefit to Nigeria to be involved in the methane pledge and to move forward,” Kerry said.
He announced the readiness of the U.S. government to work with Nigeria to develop the best path forward to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and to provide greater amount of power to the people.
“We are convinced that there are significant abilities to have greater amounts of clean energy deployment when the solar geothermal can not only provide a clean, cheaper, and less expensive energy to citizens from clean energy sources.
“We have set up a structure with a working group that’s already been announced previously, but we want that working group to kick into higher gear. We want to figure out exactly how we could be helpful to each other as we go forward.
“What Nigeria decides to do because of its amount of gas, and because of the size of its country, will have a profound impact on what other countries decide is the way to go forward. And we want to try to do everything we can to avoid the worst consequences of this crisis.
“The best way to do that is where we committed to double the amount of money we’re putting into adaptation and resilience.
“President Biden has put together an emergency programme called the President’s emergency programme for adaptation and resilience, has put $12 billion on the table as part of that programme, in order to help countries be able to do what we need to do to reduce the obvious impacts of the climate crisis,” he said.
Earlier, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said although the problem of carbon emissions did not start in Nigeria, the country has been made to bear its consequences on the environment.
On the basis of that, Sylva argued that the country has the moral high ground to demand for funding from advanced economies to enable the country develop infrastructure to check the environmental issues that resulted from carbon emissions.
He said Nigeria was in agreement on the need to work with the United States to tackle the crisis, considering that both countries were on the same page on the need to tackle the menace of carbon emissions and climate change.
“We want to also be on the carbon emission elimination train. Unfortunately, we don’t have the necessary funding and the technology to do so at the moment. We are asking for the support of the United States and the global community to help Nigeria move quickly to achieve the goals set by the Buhari administration for the country.
“Nigeria has set her net zero target for 2060. We believe that by working together with the U.S. and other partners, the country should be able to achieve the goal, perhaps before 2060,” Sylva said.
He said already the country was doing a lot at the moment towards realising the goal, adding efforts to bring down the country’s gas flares through the country’s gas flares commercialization programme, was at an advanced stage.
The programme, he said was designed to take out about 13 million tons of carbon dioxide per annum from the atmosphere, which he described as one of the biggest contributions by the country to the global gas emissions agenda.
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