If there was any person who felt let down by the words of the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, in Washington last week, I was the one. It was during a discussion on the importance of addressing infrastructure gaps in developing countries at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund General Meetings, that Adeosun put it to the West that they were blocking Nigeria’s coal power projects. She said this was hypocritical.
In her words, “This is not fair because they have an entire western industrialisation that was built on coal-fired energy. This is the competitive advantage that was used to develop Europe, yet now that Nigeria wants to do it, they say it’s not green, so we cannot. They suggest that we use solar and wind, which is more expensive. So yes, Africa must invest in its infrastructure, but we must also make sure that the playing field is level.”
On face value, Adeosun’s comments were patriotic and vibrant, ostensibly championing a bold national foreign policy stance. But when properly X-rayed and put in the proper perspective, one could easily see that it is actually naïve at best and dishonourable at worst.
Firstly, it reveals the underbelly of a struggling government that is obviously getting more confused as the days go by. There is no longer coherence in the formulation of foreign policy objectives, because the recession has made it to look only at ways of raising funds. The other day, President Muhammadu Buhari was in New York to sign the Paris Climate Agreement which automatically makes Nigeria part of the countries that would naturally resist coal power; today, Adeosun is talking in a way that is diametrically opposed to Nigeria’s green stance.
In international diplomacy, such ministerial filibustre could only attract pity but nothing more.
Secondly, Adeosun’s accusation could be viewed by the West, and other global citizens, as a position informed solely by ignorance of the status quo in climate negotiations. The world has moved past the stage of blame game, and has arrived at the station of concessions, compromises and commitments. The idea that Adeosun tried to peddle was the same one that divided the world in years past: The developed world caused climate change and now we bear the full brunt of it. This reality was universally referred to as “the elephant in the room”.
Therefore, she played a card that the West is conversant with. But she came too late. Today, the whole world, including the poor ones, has agreed to make significant commitments towards the fight against climate change. And, central to this obligation is the fact that dirty energy sources like coal are to be gradually phased out. Nigeria submitted its own pledges to the United States late last year, and Buhari has already ratified it.
So, the diplomatic world would be wondering, “what game is Nigeria’s minister trying to play?”
For the avoidance of doubt, I am a patriotic Nigerian. But I also recognise that dilly-dallying on international agreements cannot take us anywhere.
Thirdly, by trying to blame the West for blocking Nigeria’s coal power project, the government comes across as a whining spoilt child. She blames everybody for everything, without taking responsibility for anything. The present administration has been criticised by the opposition as trading on blame game, while wasting Nigerians’ time. It now seems it has taken its blame game to the global stage.
This is more so, considering that Nigeria is not a beginner in coal power usage. Right from its amalgamation, coal had been the bastion of our development. The Coal City State is a testimony to this. It was a remarkable colonial hub which existed and powered the country even before oil was discovered in Oloibiri in 1956.
So, who says Nigeria is just waking up to the potential of energy mix via coal power? We must tell ourselves the truth; we had it all – coal, gas, oil, hydro – but we bungled it. Our corruption and lack of vision crashed the coal industry right on our laps. And, today, we blame the West for it.
The truth is that we have to move with the times. But if we do not want to move with others, perhaps, we have a choice to go to dirty energy, but it has to be at our own expense. We cannot depend on the West and the world to fund dirty projects in Nigeria, as Adeosun advocates. And we must also be reminded that we had already run to them to fund many green researches, projects, and even the preparation of Nigeria’s INDC which we sent to the United Nations.
It is laughable that Adeosun said the West pushes us to wind and solar, and that they are expensive. Yes, they are expensive, but most of them we can get at no cost if we are creative and work hard. The reality is that we are used to projects of large margin profits for contractors, so we are not ready to touch green projects for their low margins. In fact, our government never considered green projects as important, until recession hit us.
Before some of us begin to join her in the blame game, let us ask how we fared in the past as regards green projects. How have the country’s regulators helped build the green industry?
Instead of complaining, I think Nigeria should be getting ready to join other developing countries of the world that are waiting in the wings to join in the emissions trading market which will definitely spring up immediately the Paris Climate Agreement comes into force next month.
A few weeks ago on this column, I predicted that the carbon emissions trading market shall resurrect after the coming into force of the Paris Agreement. Today, other green analysts have confirmed this probability. According to a news story on Bloomberg.com this Monday, a law firm specialising in clean energy and the environment has predicted that the value of emission credits will probably increase after a UN climate meeting next month.
“Envoys will work to set rules for how existing credits can become usable under the Paris climate deal, which comes into effect on November 4 after being ratified before schedule, said Lisa DeMarco, a senior partner at DeMarco Allan LLP in Toronto, who predicted the market’s collapse four years ago.”
Other countries are angling for the green money instead of crying for dirty funds. Brazil for instance, is pushing for nations to be able to use existing Certified Emission Reductions from the UN Clean Development Mechanism set up under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to meet their national targets under Paris, according to an October 2 submission. In the existing UN market, developed countries with climate targets pay for emission-reduction projects elsewhere, earning CERs that they can use to offset greenhouse gas output at home. Under the Paris Agreement, the limits and rules for all nations will be redrawn.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation, the UN’s aviation agency, estimates that by 2025, airlines will spend $I.5bn to $6.2bn on emission credits generated by green projects annually. By 2035, they will spend $5.3bn to $23.9bn.
If our leaders are visionary, they must realise that going green will immensely benefit Nigeria in the long run, and so key into it today.