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LEDS GP Fellowship 2016: Interview with Abbas AbdulRafiu

Abbas AbdulRafiu, our 2016 Fellow for the Africa region, is the Principal Scientist/Head of Pollution Control at the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Nigeria. In this interview Abbas talks to our communications team about his background in low emission development and what he is working on in his Fellowship at the University of Sussex.

How long have you been working with low emission development strategies (LEDS)?

I joined the conversation around low emission development in South Africa in 2014, which was about the same time as the inception of the Africa LEDS Partnership. At that time my organization had been developing a regulation pertaining to low emission development, and it was this that led me to the conference in South Africa. Ever since then I’ve been in touch with people across Africa to see how we can synchronize regulations and laws to foster an entirely low carbon mechanism across the continent; especially in the areas of energy generation, transportation, and agriculture. At NESREA I conduct monitoring, inspections, and auditing of the environment to ensure that the benefits of natural resources yield sustainable development outcomes. My main focus is on policy development in Nigeria, but I have also worked on directing policy for a number of African countries including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Ghana.

How did the idea of your fellowship come about?

When the conversation around climate change started in Nigeria, it took until the release of the IPCC’s First Assessment Report in 1990 for the science behind climate change to become generally accepted. After the science was accepted the issue then became: how will climate change affect our economy? Nigeria is a mono-economic country based on oil and hydrocarbons. Accepting this, implementing a low carbon mechanism now puts the focus on integration into our economy – this is the really challenging area. Currently we are looking at whether we can go to 50, 60, or 70 percent renewable energy – this is what we are hoping to achieve in the next five or ten years.

Yet in Nigeria we still have gaps in our institutional framework and capacity for low carbon development. To address these gaps, we are integrating inter-ministerial machineries and the required institutions that need to come on board in order to achieve our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). For my Fellowship I wanted to take this challenge to the faculty members at the Center on Innovation and Energy and Demand (CIED), University of Sussex and look at what is working in the UK and other European countries in terms of low carbon development, and focus on how to translate this into a Nigerian context and by extension, to other African countries.

What are the objectives of your fellowship?

I would like to acquire new skills and knowledge on sound policy, technology, and investment choices leading to low emission reduction, as well as gain understanding of the potential co-benefits of clean and renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, and energy conservation. I am also keen to gain skills on strategic issues in conducting renewable energy and low emission development research, technical assistance, networking, and policy dialogue activities that can be translated into my context on return to Nigeria.

What learning will you bring to your home institution?

I will develop LEDS by governing LEDS processes and integrating them into other national plans for climate change mitigation and adaptation. These are key areas of policy transition and will go on to address Nigeria’s NDC.

Abbas in discussion with Professor Rob Byrne at the University of Sussex

What do you hope the impact will be for your fellowship/how will you implement what you learn in your country?

I hope to contribute to the low emission development policies and programs in Nigeria by improving existing policies and introducing new activities in my Agency. These will enhance sound practices and promote energy security built on clean energy. I shall create platforms that will raise awareness and build the capacity of others in key areas of low carbon development, renewable energy, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

I will serve as a source of information for various stakeholders; representing my Agency on low emission development and clean energy issues at various levels of government and international forums. Ultimately I hope to become a reference point on low emission development models, projects, and financing mechanisms under the framework of LEDS GP and the Africa LEDS Partnership.

What are the opportunities/challenges for LEDS in Nigeria?

A significant opportunity for Nigeria lies in the ratification of the Paris Agreement and our country-driven plans that will enable the transition to a low carbon economy as an effective mechanism for combating climate change. Nigeria’s NDC looks at how we can reduce emissions from energy, transportation, and agriculture, and for the next few months we will be strengthening our activities in these areas. For example, the country is working on some massive solar energy projects as well as hydropower initiatives – the latter providing about 20 percent of the country’s total energy.

The main challenge is that Nigeria is a carbon-driven economy and lack of access to quality data, sophisticated scenarios, technology road maps, tools and methodologies for measurement, and reporting and verification will make moving to a low carbon economy difficult. First, capacity building efforts will need to be scaled up accordingly. Second, to partially overcome such challenges, as well as target specific high emitting sectors, sectoral LEDS are increasingly being promoted. Another pervasive challenge is inter-ministerial coordination, which is fundamental for an effective LEDS policy.

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