On 6 April, the Climate Parliament hosted a virtual parliamentary roundtable with over forty MPs from nineteen English and French-speaking African countries. With Rep. Sam Onuigbo, Chairperson of the Climate Change Committee of the House of Representatives and Chair of the Climate Parliament group in Nigeria, we discussed the ground-breaking Climate Change Law passed in Nigeria last year. This session was organised in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) with support from the European Commission (DG INTPA).
Rep. Sam Onuigbo started off by describing the thorough process that Nigerian MPs had to undertake to pass this climate law. It was a long journey, but the determination and endurance of Hon. Onuigbo and his colleagues allowed them to finally succeed on their fourth attempt at passing the bill. The Nigerian Climate Change Act is a world-leading piece of legislation, which establishes a National Council on Climate Change to set annual carbon budgets and national plans tailored to meet the country’s NDCs. The Council is in charge of ensuring that Nigeria’s efforts are in line with its targets and objectives to reduce emissions, and that it maintains the right trajectory towards attaining net zero. Its mandate also involves addressing climate change by using nature-based solutions and environmental-economic accounting, whilst also contemplating mechanisms for carbon emissions trading and a carbon tax, and puts a strong focus on education and raising public awareness.
The attending MPs asked many questions on how to ensure the implementation of a law after it is enacted. Indeed, if passing a law is one thing, making sure it is accepted and effectively enforced by the relevant ministries, is another. The first climate law enacted in an African country, the 2016 Climate Change Act of Kenya, inspired significantly the following climate laws passed in Africa. Kenyan Senator Abshiro Halake agreed that if passing a bill is indeed a good first step, making sure it is implemented is just as important. Kenyan parliamentarians have tried to revive the debate on certain provisions which are dormant and not properly enforced, by bringing them to the floor of the House through parliamentary questions, statements and motions for debate, that the general public can subsequently pick up. After moving a motion on the integration of climate education into the school curriculum at all levels last month, Senator Halake successfully got traction from the media, and brought attention to this critical part of the law which had not been well implemented. The media and civil society can be a powerful lever for political action, and as such, Nigeria has made sure that they are well represented at the National Council on Climate Change. Another way of making sure implementation is effectively carried out is through sanctions, and the Nigerian bill makes provisions for legal action against private and public entities who renege of their climate change responsibilities.
Several MPs cited the latest IPCC Climate Mitigation Report, which is warning us that if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 43% by 2030. Whilst most of them are aware of the urgency to act, they expressed their wish to have more training and capacity building. MPs are generalists who need to work on a wide range of topics, and it is crucial that they can access resources to enhance their knowledge on technical climate issues, to be able to design better laws and attain more ambitious climate targets. The Climate Change Laws in Nigeria and Uganda are excellent examples of what a multi-partisan network of legislators can achieve at the national level. With its roundtables, the Climate Parliament provides a platform for MPs to exchange best practices and action ideas, learn about the successes and targets of other countries, and then work together to encourage their own governments to move faster.