Due to a combination of political, geographic, and social factors, Nigeria is recognized as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It ranked as 160 out of 181 countries in the 2020 ND-GAIN Index, which summarizes a country's vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges (the more vulnerable a country is, the lower the score), in combination with its readiness to improve resilience (the more ready a country is to improve its resilience, the higher the score) .
Between 1960 and 2006, Nigeria experienced an increase of 0.8°C in its average annual temperature, with a steep increase occurring since 1980 and the greatest increase occurring in the northern region. In the same period, the country also experienced a decrease in precipitation of 3.5 mm per month per decade. Additionally, Nigeria's climate is expected to continue to change. The mean annual temperature is projected to increase by 1.1 to 2.5°C by 2060, with an extreme increase expected in the north of Nigeria. Increased variability in rainfall and extreme rainfall events are expected across most of the country, as well as a rise in sea level of 0.4 to 1.0 m by 2100 .
Already, Nigeria is classified as one of the ten most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards . One significant event in Nigeria was the 2012 floods, which affected 7 million people in 30 of the 36 states, displaced 2.3 million people, killed 363 people, and cost the economy an estimated USD 17.3 billion or 1.4% of the country’s GDP .
Climate change trends are expected to increase the risk and intensity of flooding in Nigeria, through increased frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall events. The country’s eastern and central areas are expected to experience increased aridity and drought, with significant impacts for livelihoods and food security . Sea level rise is expected to increase Nigeria’s vulnerability to floods and waterborne diseases, in the southern cities such as Lagos and coastal areas . By 2070, climate projections suggest that around 550,000 people in Nigeria could be affected by floods each year due to sea level rise . Furthermore, inland river floods are also likely to increase, placing an additional 800,000 people at risk each year by 2030 .
Significant climate impacts are expected for the country’s water resources, agriculture, wetland areas, and health sectors . For instance, a considerable proportion of Nigeria’s population is already at risk of water stress, which is likely to be exacerbated by climate change. Increased rainfall variability will likely result in flooding in some humid areas in the south of the country, while a reduction in precipitation in the savannah north may result in drought and a decline in surface water resources. Changes in surface runoff and groundwater flows in shallow aquifers can possibly have long-term implications for both permanent and seasonal water bodies , . The story of Lake Chad, shared by Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, to many is emblematic of the impacts of climate change . The rapid shrinking of Lake Chad from approximately 45,000 km² in 1960 to less than 3,000 km² in 2007 has been primarily attributed to changes in the climatic conditions in the region .
Projected climate variability and change trends for Nigeria threaten the country’s agriculture sector . Under a business-as-usual scenario, agricultural productivity in Nigeria could decline by between 10 to 25% by 2080. In some parts of the north, the decline in yield to rain-fed agriculture could be as high as 50% . The agriculture sector is critical to Nigeria’s economy and food security and is the largest employer of the country. In addition, Nigeria is the second largest importer of rice in the world, one of the largest consumers of rice in Africa, and the largest producer of cassava in the world. The World Bank’s Climate Risk Profile for Nigeria (2021) indicates that increased levels of CO2 will lead to up to 17% nutrient declines in rice, with increased rainfall variability and higher temperatures likely to further reduce the country's rice yields. Moreover, Cassava is susceptible to water logging, and production yields could be impacted by heavy rainfall events in the country. Given projected trends in climate change, Nigeria and the surrounding West African region is projected to be a hotspot of food insecurity in the future .
In the absence of climate adaptation, a 2009 DFID study estimated that between 2-11% of country’s GDP could have been lost by 2020 . By 2050, climate change inaction could cost Nigeria between 6%–30% of the country’s GDP, equivalent to a loss of US$100–460 billion . Climate change, therefore, poses a significant threat to the achievement of the country’s development goals, especially those related to eliminating poverty and hunger, and promoting environmental sustainability .
In 2018, GHG emissions in Nigeria were estimated at 347 MtCO2e. The energy sector represented the largest source of GHG emissions in the country (60% of total emissions), followed by the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) (approximately 25%); the waste (9%) and the Industrial Processes and Other Product Use (IPPU) (5%) sectors . With this level of emissions, Nigeria contributes less than 1% of global carbon emissions.
However, as the Nigerian economy is expected to grow rapidly to meet the demands of its large population which is expected to reach 402 million by 2050 , the country is expected to emit more GHGs in the future. Nigeria's GHG emissions in 2030 are expected to reach 435 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, representing a 31% increase in total emissions between 2018 and 2030 . This projected rise in GHG emissions calls for more ambitious future mitigation efforts in line with the country's international climate commitments and to address the challenges that climate change poses to Nigeria’s development.
Key policies and governance approach
The Department of Climate Change (DCC) of the Federal Ministry of the Environment leads the national response to climate change at national and international level. It is the Designated National Authority (DNA) for the clean development mechanism and works with other ministries through the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change.
At the international level, Nigeria is a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and a signatory to both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, Nigeria subscribes to other key international agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for accelerated national development .
Nigeria signed the Paris Agreement in September 2016 and ratified in March 2017, thereby committing to reduce its GHG emissions. The country submitted its third National Communication in 2020, its first Biennial Update Report in 2018 and its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in 2021 to the UNFCCC. Through its updated NDC, Nigeria is committed to a 20% unconditional reduction on business as usual (BAU) emissions by 2030, and a conditional commitment of 45 to 47% below BAU in 2030, provided that sufficient international support is forthcoming , . In the updated NDC, Nigeria extended the scope to include an enhanced contribution by the waste sector. The NDC also covers the water resources sector, and articulates other nature-based solutions that were not included in the previous 2015 NDC . Additionally, to achieve its adaptation goals, Nigeria is working towards an integrated approach to support cross-cutting national policies and strategies in mainstreaming environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation efforts.
Various policy instruments have been developed to address climate change in Nigeria over the years, such as the National Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan on Climate Change (NASPA-CCN) and the National Adaptation Plan Framework (2020), which comprehensively outline adaptation strategies, policies, and action plans for each sector and for all stakeholders. Further, in 2021, Nigeria enacted the Climate Change Act 2021, which provides the legislative framework for climate action at the national level. Most of the initiatives envisaged in the new Nigerian Climate Change Act build on previous climate change policies including the revised National Climate Change Policy; national programs on climate change; the 2050 Long-Term Low-Emissions Vision; and the updated 2021 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) .
Successes and remaining challenges
Nigeria has made some progress in climate change governance, with the government recognizing that climate change is a threat to the country’s economic prosperity and future development, apparent in the recent National Development Plan 2021-2025 . The country’s strong commitment to addressing climate change is also evident at the regional and sub-regional level. For instance, Nigeria is supporting the implementation of the climate change initiatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) .
Nevertheless, Nigeria still faces many challenges in its efforts to embark on a low-emissions development path. For instance, Nigeria will require significant investment over the implementation period of 2021-2030 to deliver the conditional target in its updated NDC, estimated at 177 billion USD. The investments to deliver the conditional contribution will be made by domestic and international investors, development partners, and the government. The investment needs however, are overlapping with the government’s ordinary investments and annual budget spending and it is proving hard to disentangle the additional investments required for the purposes of climate mitigation from such ordinary investments. For example, there are many planned investments in the power sector to meet Nigeria’s energy access goals. For which, marginal additional costs may arise to align these investments with the ambitions of the NDC. Having said this, these additional investments are expected to eventually pay for themselves through the significant development benefits that are expected to arise .
Nigeria is also facing various barriers related to successful technology transfer, which will play an important role in delivering the country’s NDC in relation to both mitigation and adaptation action. Barriers include a lack of awareness of available technologies, bureaucratic barriers, and a poor understanding of the innovation process, tariffs, and intellectual property rights .
Further, there is a need for continued capacity building in Nigeria in support of climate action. Many of the capacity challenges that Nigeria faces are common among all developing countries and include, among others: a lack of public awareness and support for climate change; fragmentation of information, experts and research institutions, as well as a lack of training in assessment approaches and methodologies; and a lack of international support directed at building long-term organizational and institutional capacity .
Initiatives and Development Plans
The Nigerian Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Action Program, approved in 2016, aims to triple the country’s energy generation capacity over the next decade, reaching a total of 30 GW by 2030. Of this total, 30% will be generated from renewable resources. Other key initiatives in Nigeria include the Clean Energy Transport Program, ratification of ECOWAS fuel quality standards and vehicle emission standards, and the development of a National Vehicle Emissions Control Program and a National Generator Emissions Control Program .
In 2019, Nigeria also joined the Global Methane Alliance, committing to absolute methane reduction targets of at least 45% by 2025 and 60-75% by 2030. Nigeria has also developed a National Action Plan to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP), which contains 22 priority actions that would result in an 83% reduction in black carbon emissions by 2030 and a 61% reduction in methane emissions .
Goals and Ambitions
Since submitting its first NDC, several specific policy commitments have been made by the Federal Government of Nigeria to contribute to the implementation of the unconditional contribution that was announced in the 2015 NDC. Commitments include the elimination of kerosene lighting by 2030, a greater uptake of bus rapid transit, implementation of forest programmes and initiatives to deliver 20% GHG emission reductions and enhanced removals equivalent to approximately 74.2 MtCO2e by 2030, and ratification to the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs .
In addition, by 2050, Nigeria aims to become a low-carbon, climate-resilient, high-growth circular economy country that reduces its current level of emissions by 50%, moving towards net zero emissions across all sectors of its development in a gender-responsive manner .
- International support is needed for Nigeria to meet its NDC contribution using a full range of financial modalities, such as grants, preferential finance and blended finance, and green bonds.
- To mobilize the required NDC investments, it will be crucial for Nigeria to engage with the capital market. Increased private sector investment for NDC aligned projects and businesses will require further changes to the enabling environment and appropriate blended finance modalities that allow concessional finance to de-risk private investment.
- There is a continued need for capacity building to support climate action in Nigeria, at the individual, institutional and systemic levels .
- Nigeria should increase the concentric diversification of its oil-based economy and open up new markets. For instance, Nigeria has a great, largely untapped, blue economy potential for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, marine transport, offshore renewable energy and coastal tourism .
- Induce long-term changes in other key economic drivers and sectors, such as industry, transport, agriculture, and land use.
- Increase energy penetration, especially for low-income communities.
- Promote sector-specific legislative and regulatory amendments to establish and strengthen enabling frameworks for mitigation and adaptation actions.
- Accelerate the domestication of relevant international instruments, treaties and agreements that provide climate co-benefits and enhance the attainment of the nation's obligations under the UNFCCC .
 IUCN (2022). A Review of Nigeria's 2021 Climate Change Act: Potential for Increased Climate Litigation. [Online]. Available: https://www.iucn.org/news/commission-environmental-economic-and-social-policy/202203/a-review-nigerias-2021-climate-change-act-potential-increased-climate-litigation.