Should Nigeria’s natural riches remain in the ground?
Africa’s biggest economy has 206 million people, endemic poverty and vast energy reserves that could be harnessed to fuel development. But it’s coming under huge pressure from developed countries to abandon fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy in order to help save the climate. Nigeria is not the only country confronting this dilemma. At the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, developing economies across Africa, Asia and Latin America are facing increasing pressure to cut carbon emissions at the very moment they are industrializing, a process that powered the advance of the West and lifted billions of people out of poverty.
At the same time, many poor countries that have so far contributed very little to global CO2 emissions are particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures and increased droughts, fires and floods linked to climate change, which threaten food security and exacerbate water scarcity. Nigeria’s largest city Lagos, for example, may become uninhabitable by the end of this century if sea levels continue rising, according to scientific projections. It is already grappling with an eroding coastline that makes the city vulnerable to flooding.
Yet the average person in Nigeria emits less than 0.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the World Bank. That compares with the European Union’s 6.4 metric tons per capita and North America’s 15.3 metric tons. “The biggest justice issue is that the countries that are the least developed are also the most vulnerable and have the least ability to adapt to climate impacts,” said Amal-Lee Amin, climate change director at CDC Group, Britain’s development finance institution.