By Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP
Nigeria is a country that holds a special place in my heart and it was a great privilege to visit earlier this month ahead of November’s important climate change talks, COP26.
When I was a child my father worked in this great country, in the ancient city of Kano. I loved my time in the “Giant of Africa” where the vast diversity of forests, plains, mountains connect people closely to the natural world.
So it saddens me to learn of the growing damage that climate change is inflicting on these lands. Severe flooding, desertification, and droughts – these changes are affecting people’s health, exacerbating fragilities in conflict zones and, sadly, leading to the extinction of thousands of species.
No country should be left to face this alone. We need a global effort, with countries working together. So, it is right that the UK has doubled its International Climate Finance funding to at least £11.6 billion between 2021-2025.
We are working to persuade other donor countries to follow our lead. This is at the same time as driving a practical approach to dealing with the harsh realities of climate change in communities and businesses all across the world. The newly launched Adaptation Action Coalition, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched last month, is a key part of this. This Coalition aims to turn international commitments on protecting people from the impacts of climate change into on-the-ground support for the hardest hit communities as we recover from COVID-19. Drawing on the expertise of scientists, businesses, civil society, it will act as a forum for countries to share knowledge and best practice on local, regional and global solutions.
2020 was the hottest year on record, so this work to help people and businesses survive climate shocks must be coupled with urgent efforts to halt the pace of climate change.
Green growth and decarbonising the economy is part of the solution. The opportunities for the Nigerian economy are staggering. Power sector reform could boost energy access for millions of Nigerians, reducing poverty and creating more jobs. That’s why the UK is proud to have supported the Nigerian solar sector with a £66m injection that has helped to provide energy access to 5.5 million people.
As a member of the COP26 Ministerial Energy Transition Council, and with its own commitments to extend Solar Homes Systems to 5 million households, I am pleased that Nigeria is taking steps towards boosting energy access for its population and working to attract private capital to fulfil these outcomes.
The opportunities for young Nigerians also show great promise. The government aims to mobilise young Nigerians towards planting 25 million trees, simultaneously protecting ecosystems whilst enhancing social development.
And so I look forward to Nigeria building on its ambitious commitments in its emissions reduction target for 2030 (its Nationally Determined Contribution) which is due to be published this year.
This would send a strong signal to the world about Nigeria’s climate leadership, and I feel strongly that for success at COP26 in Glasgow it is essential that President Buhari and fellow African leaders are at the heart of our conversations.
I want to ensure that African voices are heard loud and clear. The discussions leading up to, and at, COP26 must be inclusive talks that ensure a fair outcome, setting us on the right path to achieve net zero global emissions by 2050.
My meetings with political and civil society leaders, including Vice President Osinbajo, see me leaving Nigeria with hope for its future. The inspiring young people I had the pleasure to meet are behind some truly commendable initiatives to cut emissions and build resilience through adaptation.
I know that for many Nigerians climate change is a very real, everyday lived experience, so I have been heartened to see the promise this country holds when it comes to climate action.
COP26 is our best chance to prosper and safeguard our future and that of coming generations. We must all work together towards that important goal – and I thank all Nigerians who are already playing their part.
– The Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP, is President-Designate of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP26.