Sustaining hope: climate change adaptation strategies in Ghana and Nigeria

Reviewing Ghana and Nigeria’s main climate change adaptation policies, looking at their progress, pitfalls and patterns ahead of this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates

The imminent COP28 conference in the United Arab Emirates, building on the Paris Agreement, negotiated in 2015 at COP21, will highlight the global commitment to combat climate change.

There are two core reasons why these Conferences of the Parties are important. First, they serve as vital crossroads for nations to collaborate and formulate climate change adaptation policies. The conferences also allow wealthier countries to extend support to developing nations, particularly those in Africa.

Africa faces unique challenges from climate change, with vulnerable regions suffering from drought, floods and desertification. The continent’s reliance on rain-fed agriculture exacerbates these problems, compounded by limited infrastructure and resources. The climate impact ripples through health care and education, leading to migration and resource-driven conflicts.

Ghana and Nigeria exemplify African nations determined to address climate challenges. However, both countries remain vulnerable to drought, erosion, floods and rising temperatures.

COP28 offers an opportunity to evaluate their climate adaptation policies, emphasising the need for resilience-building partnerships. The two countries share a commitment to climate resilience but there are opportunities for improvement in their approaches.

Ghana’s climate change adaptation policies

Ghana faces significant vulnerabilities to climate change.

Rising temperatures and varying rainfall patterns impact coastal and wetland areas, where 25% of the population resides. Illegal mining, known as galamsey, exacerbates climate risks.

While Ghana has taken steps towards climate change mitigation, it requires substantial improvements to its mitigation actions and legal framework.

Currently, the country relies on fragmented legislation with weak alignment among national, subnational and sectoral structures.

Mitigation action and progress

In its updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), Ghana has committed to substantial emissions reduction by 2030. This focus is to enhance adaptation.

Key mitigation actions target sectors such as energy, forestry, waste management, infrastructure, urban planning and agriculture, given their vulnerability to climate change.

For example, deforestation has been a concern in Ghana, with substantial forest loss in recent years. To address this, President Akufo-Addo initiated the Green Ghana initiative in 2021, aiming to restore the country’s vegetation.

The Green Ghana Day tree-planting campaign has planted over 33 million trees within just three years, involving civil society and the youth.

Challenges and pitfalls

While the Green Ghana initiative is commendable, there is a need for sustainable measures to combat deforestation and galamsey activity. It will be essential for the country to ensure the long-term survival of the newly planted trees.

Central to Ghana’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) and NDCs is the inclusion of communities in the adaptation process, given their vulnerability to climate change. Agriculture, which employs 85% of the rural workforce, is crucial, and Ghana recognises the importance of locally led adaptation strategies. Local knowledge, such as observing signs in nature to make predictions about the weather, plays a vital role.

However, Ghana’s adaptation strategies could benefit from better incorporation of diverse stakeholders, including indigenous communities and local experts, to enhance the ecological balance and ecosystem resilience. Improved co-ordination between communities and the central government is necessary.

Ghana needs $12.5 billion to implement its climate change adaptation action plans effectively, only $8.29 billion of which is expected from international sources. Despite increased climate financing in the past decade, there are challenges to its distribution. The focus on mitigation activities exceeds that on adaptation, particularly in agriculture.

Addressing these challenges will require more efficient financing mechanisms and better co-ordination among stakeholders. Data-driven decision-making and reliable data at national and subnational levels will be crucial for prioritising interventions and mobilising financial resources.

Ghana has made significant strides in climate change adaptation and mitigation, such as establishing the National Climate Change Committee and implementing a number of projects. However, challenges such as limited financing, inadequate local capacity and top-down decision-making persist.

Nigeria’s holistic framework

Nigeria faces significant challenges from climate change, including food insecurity, which has affected over 25 million Nigerians in 2023. Such climate-related threats also contribute to political tension and acts of terrorism in the country.

To address these challenges, Nigeria has developed a comprehensive framework for climate change adaptation, building on its National Climate Change Policy and Response Strategy of 2012.

The framework delves into key strategies, progress and pitfalls in Nigeria’s climate action efforts, drawing from the State of Climate Finance in Africa series and other sources.

Adaptation action and progress

Nigeria has made substantial progress in its climate policy. In 2021, the country introduced its National Climate Change Policy 2021-2030 and enacted the Climate Change Act, providing a robust legal framework for climate goals. The establishment of the National Council on Climate Change is a pivotal aspect of this legislation.

Nigeria’s Climate Change Act includes a significant commitment to reach net zero emissions between 2050 and 2070, aligning with global climate objectives.

In line with international advocacy, the then president, Muhammadu Buhari, penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post emphasising the disproportionate impact of climate change on Africa and urging Western nations to contribute more to climate funding. 

Nigeria’s project landscape also shows evidence of mainstreaming national goals with climate goals. At the cost of $900 million, the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) aimed to reduce soil erosion in Nigeria by providing sustainable ecosystems to reduce poverty.

One of the main agricultural states in Nigeria, Yobe, in the north-east, also initiated an Integration Climate Change Action Plan (ECCAP). This helped to reduce the adverse effects of climate change, targeting high desertification among people from the state’s 17 local government areas.

Furthermore, Nigeria recognises the importance of financing climate initiatives. In 2019/2020, it invested an average of US$1.9 billion per year in climate-related activities. Between 2012 and 2021, Nigeria also set aside just under ₦550 billion for an ecological fund.

Shortcomings in adaptation

Nigeria faces many challenges in its efforts to effect climate adaptation. The countnry ranks second in Africa in numbers of fossil fuel projects financed. This hinders progress towards a low-carbon development pathway.

According to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND GAIN), Nigeria’s adaptation finance is not commensurate with the country’s vulnerability to climate change. Grant- and equity-based financing plays a minor role in the national climate finance ecosystem, limiting diversified funding sources.

Private sector investment in climate initiatives remains restricted. Financial resources are frequently diverted to other ends, and fraud and corruption are high on the list of reasons for this. Insufficient synergy, co-ordination and collaboration among stakeholders hinder effective climate adaptation implementation.

Although Nigeria has made significant strides in climate policy and finance it still faces challenges that must be addressed. Aligning finance with adaptation needs, increasing private sector engagement and improving co-ordination among stakeholders will be critical steps towards combating the effects of climate change in Nigeria effectively.

Additional support with funding, capacity-building and technology transfer will be essential for the country to achieve its climate goals and secure a sustainable future.

Towards a pan-African resilience

This year’s African Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya serves as a crucial opportunity for a show of African unity. The theme of the summit – “Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World” – should allow Ghana and Nigeria the platform to chart individual courses towards climate resilience shaped around the national need.

As the aim of the summit is to assess individual African nations’ progress towards climate adaptation and to craft financial solutions to the climate crisis, the tapestry of African strategies should form a rich mosaic of best practice and lessons learned.

For instance, extremely climate-vulnerable countries such as Eritrea and Guinea-Bissau can offer unique adaptation strategies because of their susceptibility to climate disasters. Over and above that, conflict-ridden countries in the Sahel such as Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali can equally offer insights on the relationship between conflict and climate change. Such countries can identify trends and suggest early warning mechanisms for peacekeeping initiatives by regional and continental groups, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU).

The ultimate success will lie in weaving these disparate threads into a fabric of pan-African resilience. In the lead-up to COP28, African nations will be able to share their successes and forge a collaborative adaptation narrative. By embracing these collective lessons, Ghana and Nigeria can amplify the efficacy of their climate policies.

Stacey Sam

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