Net Zero Carbon Emissions in Nigeria: A Feasible Goal or Unrealistic Dream?

Net Zero Carbon Emissions in Nigeria: A Feasible Goal or Unrealistic Dream?

As the global community grapples with the escalating threat of climate change, achieving net zero carbon emissions has become a paramount objective. However, the feasibility of attaining this goal varies significantly across different regions, particularly in developing countries like Nigeria. With the initial decarbonization plan of 2050, the federal government in the last dispensation reviewed it to 2060 due to financial, social, and technological constraints in achieving the target. This ambitious plan calls for scrutiny. Is the ambition of net zero carbon emissions a realistic target? Can Nigeria meet carbon neutrality by 2060? Is this ambitious plan, not a mirage?

As the Paris Agreement outlines, the push for net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is critical to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. For Nigeria, transitioning from its current carbon-intensive energy and industrial sectors to cleaner alternatives as outlined in the Nigeria Energy Transition Plan (ETP} is imperative. Given Nigeria's susceptibility to climate change impacts such as desertification, flooding, and coastal erosion, adopting net zero strategies is essential for its environmental sustainability and the well-being of its citizens.

However, critics argue that Nigeria's economic and developmental challenges make the net zero target unrealistic. Nigeria relies heavily on fossil fuels for its energy needs and economic growth. The oil and gas sector accounts for about 6.38% of Nigeria's GDP and over 85% of its export revenues. Transitioning away from fossil fuels could destabilize the economy, increase unemployment, and exacerbate poverty. Therefore, immediate and drastic reductions in carbon emissions could be economically detrimental.

Nigeria has substantial renewable energy potential, particularly in solar and wind power. The country's geographic location provides it with an average of 5.5 hours of sunlight per day, making solar energy a viable alternative. Harnessing this potential could significantly reduce carbon emissions and provide electricity to the 85 million Nigerians currently lacking access to power. The government has initiated projects like the Solar Power Naija program of the Rural Electrification Project (REP), aiming to deliver 5 million solar connections by 2030.

Despite the potential, Nigeria faces significant infrastructure and investment deficits. The existing power grid is outdated and incapable of integrating large-scale renewable energy sources without substantial upgrades. Furthermore, the high initial costs of renewable energy technologies and the lack of financial incentives for investors hinder the expansion of renewable energy projects. For instance, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that achieving Nigeria’s renewable energy targets would require over $100 billion in investment, a challenging figure given the country's economic constraints.

Industries in Nigeria can reduce emissions through modernization and efficiency improvements. Adopting cleaner technologies and processes can lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the cement industry, a significant contributor to Nigeria's industrial emissions, can switch to alternative fuels and raw materials, and implement energy-efficient practices. The Dangote Cement has started an initiative on the planned use of alternative fuels like biomass for some of its plants, demonstrating the feasibility of such measures.

On the flip side, the high costs associated with upgrading industrial facilities and the technological barriers pose significant challenges. Many industries operate on thin profit margins and lack the financial capacity to invest in cleaner technologies. Moreover, there is a need for technical expertise and reliable supply chains for alternative materials and fuels. Without substantial financial support and technological transfer from developed countries, expecting Nigerian industries to achieve significant emission reductions might be unrealistic.

The federal government has shown commitment to addressing climate change through policies and international agreements. Nigeria's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement includes a conditional pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, contingent on international support. Initiatives such as the Nigeria Sovereign Green Bond and the National Action Plan on Climate Change demonstrate the government's efforts to mobilize resources and create a regulatory framework for emission reductions.

Despite these commitments, there are significant implementation gaps and issues of corruption that undermine policy effectiveness. The regulatory and institutional frameworks are often plagued by inefficiencies and lack of enforcement. Corruption and mismanagement can divert funds intended for climate projects, reducing their impact. Transparency International ranked Nigeria 145 out of 180 countries in its 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index, highlighting the governance challenges. Without addressing these systemic issues, achieving net zero emissions could remain a distant dream.

Public awareness and participation in climate action are growing in Nigeria. Civil society organizations, youth groups, and the media are increasingly advocating for environmental sustainability and holding the government accountable. Campaigns such as the Fridays for Future movement have gained traction among Nigerian youth, emphasizing the importance of climate action and sustainable practices. Increased awareness can drive behavioral changes and support for policies aimed at reducing emissions.

However, the prioritization of socioeconomic issues over environmental concerns remains a significant barrier. For many Nigerians, immediate needs such as food security, employment, and healthcare take precedence over long-term climate goals. Additionally, there are gaps in awareness and education about climate change, particularly in rural areas. Without integrating climate education into the broader socioeconomic development agenda, public support for net zero initiatives may remain limited.

Is net zero carbon emissions a mirage in Nigeria? The answer lies in a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities. While the ambition is essential for global climate goals and Nigeria's own environmental sustainability, significant hurdles exist in terms of economic dependency on fossil fuels, infrastructure deficits, industrial modernization costs, policy implementation gaps, and public awareness.

Nigeria requires a multifaceted approach to turn the vision of net zero into reality. First amongst them is International Collaboration. Enhanced international support in the form of financial aid, technology transfer, and capacity building is crucial. Nigeria can bridge this investment gap by intensifying efforts to collaborate with developed nations that have obligations to fulfill their climate finance commitments.

Secondly, policy reforms and governance are essential. Strengthening institutional frameworks, enhancing transparency, and ensuring the effective implementation of policies are vital. Anti-corruption measures and robust governance structures can improve the efficacy of climate initiatives.

Also, an integrated development planning approach is required. Combining climate action with socioeconomic development plans can create synergies. For example, renewable energy projects can also address energy poverty, and sustainable agricultural practices can improve food security while reducing emissions.

Lastly, public engagement and education are important. Increasing public awareness and integrating climate education into the national curriculum can build a culture of sustainability. Engaging communities in climate action projects can foster local ownership and support for emission reduction initiatives.

Achieving net zero carbon emissions in Nigeria is a formidable but not insurmountable challenge. It requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including the government, private sector, civil society, and international community. With the right strategies and commitments, Nigeria can turn the mirage of net zero into a tangible and achievable goal.


Research & Advocacy Department,

Chartered Institute of Directors (CIoD), Nigeria
28, Cameron Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.


Using Governance as a Strategic Tool to Translate Policy to Practice