Nigeria Aims for Methane Cuts, Potentially Averting 30,000 Air Pollution Deaths Every Year

Nigeria’s inclusion of a dedicated section on short-lived climate pollutants makes it one of the most SLCP-focused Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) outside of Latin America.

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Mushin Market in Lagos, Nigeria. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mushin_Market,_Lagos-Nigeria.jpg
Mushin Market in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: Omoeko Media / Wikimedia

Nigeria took a bold step to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), committing to slash black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or its internationally agreed upon commitment to mitigating climate change. The country included an SLCP section with a 60 per cent reduction in fugitive methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 2031, conditional on international support. If these NDCs are fully achieved, black carbon will reduce by 42 per cent, methane by 28 per cent, and HFCs by 2 per cent, all by 2030.

Nigeria added their recognition of the International Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conclusion that there’s no way to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius without significant SLCP reductions alongside carbon cuts.

Africa will be hit first and hardest by some of the worst effects of climate change, including increased food insecurity, worsening droughts, and exacerbated conflict. Climate change is likely to dramatically and negatively affect food production in a country where agriculture accounts for 23 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and where over 40 per cent of the population is food insecure.

Nigeria’s National SLCP Plan paved the way for the revised NDC because it meant that mitigation measures that had a lot of emission reduction potential had already been identified. These measures are a priority because they have mitigation potential and they’ll add enormous value to people’s livelihood.
Edeh Chioma Felistas Amudi
Assistant Chief Scientific Officer, Department of Climate Change, Nigeria

As Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria has a critical role in solving these problems. With a population of 200 million, a full fifth of Africa is Nigerian, a number likely to increase given projections that it will become the third most populous country in the world by 2050.

Nigeria’s improved NDCs are significant given 2018 research findings that without more ambitious global NDCs, warming is likely to reach catastrophic levels of between 3 and 4ºC by 2100. Increasing the emission reductions in the NDCs while ensuring they’re achieved is a huge challenge for global south countries given the limited climate funding available.

One strategy for overcoming this challenge is for countries to integrate their existing development priorities— such as improvements in healthcare, decreases in poverty, and enhancements in food security—with climate change mitigation. These goals have significant overlap, particularly when it comes to SLCPs.

“Nigeria is committed to playing its part to mitigate global climate change,” said Halima.

Bawa-Bwari, Acting Director of the Climate Change Department in Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of the Environment. “However, it is important that Nigerians also benefit from implementing this commitment. The actions in the residential sector in particular can deliver tangible health benefits, especially for Nigerian children, which makes the implementation of these actions even more important.”

The fact that SLCP mitigation will help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Nigeria’s Economic Sustainability Plan is attractive for a nation struggling with high poverty rates, massive youth unemployment, and an overburdened health sector. In 2017, there were 114,000 premature deaths from air pollution in Nigeria and about 70,000 of those were infant deaths.

If Nigeria achieves its NDC commitments, air pollutants would be reduced by 35 per cent, which could avert 30,000 premature deaths every year from issues such as heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma.

“Integrating climate change into planning and decision-making processes is a crucial tool to ensure climate change adaptation and poverty reduction,” said Bala Bappa, the CCAC’s National Planning coordinator in Nigeria. “Mainstreaming climate change into national policies, plans, and development projects contributes to reducing vulnerability to climate impacts and variability, increasing the adaptive capacity of communities facing climate impacts and ensuring sustainable development.”

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Participants of a CCAC national planning meeting in Nigeria.

Nigeria helped build political consensus for this work with a workshop that included representatives from parliament, ministries and agencies, the private sector, civil society, non-government organizations, and the media.

“This helped to create political buy-in and facilitated national ownership,” said Edeh Chioma Felistas Amudi, the Assistant Chief Scientific Officer in the Mitigation Division of Nigeria’s Department of Climate Change.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest market for cooling products. Nigeria is working with the Kigali Cooling Energy Programme to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and increase energy efficiency in the sector. It is launching a project called “Scaling Up Energy-Efficient and Climate-Friendly Cooling in Nigeria’s NDC Revision” to accelerate this transition. The goals of this project include minimum performance standards for air conditioners, reducing electricity consumption, transitioning to greener refrigerants, and developing a National Cooling Plan.

Nigeria also included emissions from the waste sector for the first time, which contribute 9 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. The NDC commits to methane reductions in the waste sector by 10 per cent through institutional expansion and increased “waste to wealth schemes,” which will help eliminate landfills while creating jobs. The country also intends to start new public-private partnerships to help reduce agricultural waste by converting it into animal feed. 

Nigeria is building off a strong tradition, including the national planning process on SLCPs that took place between 2016 and 2019. Nigeria worked with the CCAC and used the LEAP-IBC tool to analyse how emissions affect human health, agriculture, and the climate.

“Nigeria’s National SLCP Plan paved the way for the revised NDC because it meant that mitigation measures that had a lot of emission reduction potential had already been identified,” said Amudi. “These measures are a priority both because they have mitigation potential and they’ll add enormous value to people’s livelihood.”

The national planning process resulted in the Federal Executive Council endorsing Nigeria’s National Action Plan to Reduce SLCPs, which includes 22 steps for mitigation. This Action Plan led to the inclusion of SLCPs in Nigeria’s recent NDC update, says Chris Malley, a researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute and one the authors of a study on integrating climate change mitigation and sustainable development planning in Nigeria.

“The capacity built during the national SLCP planning process, such as undertaking integrated assessment of air pollution and climate change mitigation, was used to provide the evidence and quantitative numbers to support the inclusion of SLCPs in the NDC,” said Malley. “The national planning process was useful in getting the NDC where it is today but needs to be sustained so that the real world benefits of implementing these SLCP actions are realised.” 

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