For Nigeria, tackling climate change is a security imperative

Buy clean water! Nassarawa State, Nigeria. Photo: MikeBlyth via
Buy clean water! Nassarawa State, Nigeria. Photo: MikeBlyth via
Nigeria is suffering political instability resulting from desertification and pollution, writes Senator Bukola Saraki. As Africa's most populous country it has no choice but to engage in the fight against climate change, its causes, and its consequences.
The socio-economic problems caused by climate change can be seen as a contributor to the Boko Haram insurgency.

The evidence of climate change is getting more difficult to ignore, even for the most hardened skeptics.

Polar vortexes in the USA, droughts in Australia and floods in Europe are all grabbing global attention - perhaps coincidentally because they are all happening in leading global economies.

We are not naive to the fact that those hardest hit with climate change will not be seen in the news. That is, not until it is too late.

A fair amount of the global attention on Nigeria focuses on one thing: the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East of the country. Most experts will describe the insurgency as politically driven, but this may not be the case.

Climate and insurrection - there is a connection

Looking at the deeper issues in Borno State, it can be argued that Nigeria's fight against climate change and our fight for national security are interlinked.

Desertification is taking hold in Northern Nigeria at an ever-increasing rate. As the major source of income for people living in the area is farming and agriculture, food security issues are prevalent.

Changing weather patterns and a continued lack of adequate rainfall has reduced the amount of arable land for food production in the region - a fact that has only exasperated an already serious problem.

We have already seen a conflict between the Fulani herdsmen in the middle-belt of Nigeria where the natural savannah grasslands are shrinking at such a rate it has resulted in fierce competition for water and land for farming.

30 million people face loss of livelihood

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Lake Chad shrank as much as 95% between 1963 and 2010.

This has created a situation where the economic livelihoods of the over 30 million people living in the four bordering countries of the Lake and the Sahara Desert (Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria) are threatened.

The socio-economic problems caused by climate change can be seen as a contributor to the Boko Haram insurgency partly because there is a lack of productive opportunity in the area. With security being a major issue in the region, it is extremely difficult to take measures to counter desertification.

We are left in a difficult situation: the conditions created by climate change are aiding the insurgency, whilst the insecurity leaves limited options for invested politicians to fight climate change and improve the socio-economic conditions in the region.

Fighting desertification is national security

Allocating financial resources to fight desertification and environmental damage such as oil spills should be seen in the same light as national security.

With insecurity following socio-economic instability, we see that regions which have insufficient funds allocated to fight the impact of climate change are the hardest hit.

The socio-economic problems caused by climate change can be seen as a contributor to the Boko Haram insurgency.

Funding for legislation change by global organisations is a very important start; it also contributes to the ongoing wider debate on creating a global fund for implementing laws that would be created.

Last week's GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit brought to the fore a key question - how can global institutions financially aid governments to develop and pass climate change laws?

With tight government budgets, raising funds internally is a difficult task. Many believe that climate change is a long-term problem and can be dealt with 'later'.

However, resources need to be found and need to be found now. So GLOBE Nigeria welcomes support from organisations like the World Bank and the UNEP.

Developing countries are moving fastest

With the unique partnerships between GLOBE International, the World Bank, UNFCCC, UNEP and other global organisations, there are positive signs ahead. We therefore expect further activity in advance of the Paris talks in 2015.

Encouragingly, it is developing countries and emerging markets, which are advancing climate change laws and regulation fastest, which means with adequate funding for both legislation and programmes, they can do better.

Nigeria is not passively sitting by and hoping the world will come to our aid. GLOBE Nigeria and the Environment Committee I head in the Nigerian Senate are working to put laws in place that will make climate change a high-priority for the current government and future governments to come.

We currently have the Bill for an Act for the Establishment of a Climate Change Commission in its second reading in the Senate. When the Bill passes, the Commission will serve as the institutional legal framework for working out targets towards achieving a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Nigeria.

With adequate resources in place, the Commission will be able to facilitate the early development of programmes that will enable Nigeria achieve a sustainable future.

Common problems, common solutions

What the GLOBE Summit has also shown is that these national laws need to become part of the post-2020 agreement. The climate change problems we face are not unique to Nigeria but the associated security issues could be an indicator of things to come elsewhere in the world.

Ensuring our laws are shared and our voices are heard among global legislators can provide countries that may face similar problems in the future with ideas to combat them.

The world will be tackling climate change on many fronts, and by creating a national and international legal framework for action, we can at least ensure there are structures in place to support this fight.



Senator Dr. Bukola Saraki is Nigerian Senate Committee Chairman on Environment and Ecology

About: The GLOBE Climate Legislation Study produced by GLOBE International in partnership with the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, is established as the most comprehensive and authoritative annual audit of climate change-related legislation. The 4thEdition, which covered 66 countries since 1997 including Nigeria in 2014, it revealed that almost 500 climate laws have been passed. It includes 18 of the top 20 and 39 of the top 50 emitters of GHGs, countries that are together responsible for around 88% of global emissions.

Download copies of the study here and here. For inquiries, please contact me through