This weekend, I embarked on a flight to Scotland, this year’s host for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26 – the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference.
On landing in Edinburgh, the country’s capital, the airline’s Public Address System rattled off with the usual pilot script and interestingly spoke on how the airline was making investments in “protecting the planet.” After doing more research and in the airline’s bid to partly address the impact their operations have on the environment, they have invested in projects that protect the climate.
“For every single flight we operate, we offset all the carbon emissions from the fuel used, by supporting projects that protect against deforestation, plant trees or drive the uptake of renewable energy. These projects either avoid the creation of new carbon elsewhere or directly remove carbon from the atmosphere,” they said.
With over 25,000 people expected for the event, more airlines and private jets are scheduled to land in Scotland for the event and more carbon emissions are to be released into the environment which people have sarcastically picked on as ironic.
Surprisingly not! Aviation accounts for 2.5% of global CO2 emissions and knowing how important travel is to human existence, the only possible way the above statistic can be reduced is either through radical changes to the way human beings travel or by developing technologies to decarbonize air travel. The absence of the latter has presented climate change activists and policymakers with various ways to alter travel.
Earlier this year, French MPs voted to suspend domestic airline flights on routes that can be travelled by direct train in less than two and a half hours, as part of a series of climate and environmental measures.
A few weeks ago in the football season, Manchester United was heavily criticized for travelling to Leicester by private jet instead of the usual team bus.
But flying is small fry to climate change compared to the whale of Energy Production. The burning of fossil fuels for energy production is single-handedly the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions.
This is where the trouble lies. Energy production depends on three main types of fossil fuels: coal, natural gas, and oil.
The combustion of fossil fuels has been demonized as if it has no play in the industrialization and technological advancements that the world is enjoying.
The transition from these forms of energy is expensive and going to prove a tall order. Numerous figures have been thrown around it.
At the summit, Nigeria’s President Buhari has pledged to zero out pollution by 2060 for Nigeria which is Africa’s largest crude producer. The cost of this is over $400 billion.
But where will this funding come from?
The country is scrambling to survive with a rising population and a deficit in basic infrastructures such as roads and access to clean water. An oil producer without an optimal refinery with citizens suffering from poverty and epileptic power supply will not prioritize net-zero pollution. The nation’s current priority is to increase its oil production and explore more natural gas initiatives for revenue.
With Nigeria’s external debt rising and about 74% of revenue used to service debt, there is no clear direction where finance will come for the technologies to achieve net-zero in 2060.
The West African giant has a sovereign wealth fund of $2.5 billion and a “social contract subsidy arrangement” that gulps close to one-sixth of her annual budget.
Net-zero is at the back-burner for the government and the pronunciations made by the Government is nothing but a plea to international organizations and developed countries to fund these technologies and infrastructure.
President Buhari further said “if the country gets “financial assistance, technology transfer and capacity building from the more advanced and more willing international partners, it will unconditionally cut emissions by 20% below the “business as usual” levels by 2030.”
The common consensus among richer nations is that they have accepted they have a duty to help poorer ones fight climate change because they are the biggest contributors to industrialization and emissions. As of 2017 data, Nigeria was responsible for 0.21% of global emissions. Africa, where poorer nations domicile is responsible for 3%.
But yet again at the G20 summit in Rome, the “richer nations” failed to cough up enough to meet the $100 billion per year pledge pot to help developing nations.
India has attached a $1 trillion demand as part of climate finance for developing countries so as to meet up with their net-zero emissions target.
Climate change is a fair cause and a real worry. Protecting the planet and preserving the world for the children to come is important. Increasingly, scientific data is pointing towards something very big and very bad for humans happening to the planet’s climate, with all of its underlying systems. There is a need for radical policies.
The first in my book is ‘rising population.’ Just like rising world hunger, world poverty, and now rising emissions – these socio-economic issues are only possible because of an unbridled rise in population. Inequalities are inevitable. Travel, industries, and production all exist because of services rendered to the population.
If the population grows exponentially and “net-zero technologies” grow arithmetically, it creates a disconnect. There is little Jeff Bezos climate fund can do if the finance does not grow symmetrically with the population. Technology is just playing an endless game of catch-up.
However, carbon capture technologies and technologies that can enable the production of output using fossil fuels without releasing CO2 as a byproduct are the game-changers. These technologies and a cheaper transition to renewables are pivotal in the race to protect the climate. There has to be a middle ground for the economy, government, and the planet.
The world cannot survive a supply chain and energy crisis. The United States halting oil production at home and calling for OPEC+ to produce more oil is ironic. Blaming the “oil cartel” for the high rise of gasoline in America is a snapshot of what we might see if fossil fuels are bedevilled.
Interestingly, countries like Nigeria can emulate Gabon. Earlier this year, Gabon received $17 million of a pledged $150 million from Norway for results-based emission reduction payments as part of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). The initiative centres on rewarding countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
Different strategies can be deployed where people, governments, or the earth do not have to suffer.