#2017WorldEnvironmentDay: Which Way Nigeria – Mitigation or Adaptation?

The month of June is recognised annually as the global month of environment. As we prepare to celebrate 2017 World Environment Day in a few days, attention is once again drawn to the need to ensure environmental sustainability in Nigeria.

At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference or the COP 21 held in Paris, Nigeria alongside 194 other countries signed a global agreement on the reduction of climate change to ensure environmental sustainability.  Such commitment is expected to move actions and investments towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future.

Finance was of high concern for the participants throughout the negotiations. Developing countries made a peculiar case for the fact that there is a greater financial and technological need to stop the use of fossil fuels and leap frog simultaneously to renewable energy. With a claim that the developed countries have benefited immensely from the economic and industrial activities that are responsible for the adverse effects of climate change today, the developing countries demanded that richer countries should bear the financial implications involved in climate change mitigation. Countries such as India, Brazil, and China demanded that developed nations should allow developing ones a “space for development”. This implies that developing countries should be allowed to continue with their use of unsustainable energy source such as coal to meet the needs of the people. By consensus, the agreement requires that richer nations should maintain a $100bn yearly funding pledge to help poorer nations adapt by switching to renewable energy.

Responding to climate change therefore involves a two-pronged approach – mitigation or adaptation.  Mitigation involves efforts to reducing the magnitude and causes of climate change, and is recognised in the Paris agreement as a priority for rich and larger carbon-producing countries. Adaptation is an approach that builds resilience and reduces the vulnerability of local communities to climate change impacts through various measures, while not necessarily dealing with the underlying cause of those impacts. This is a priority for poorer or lower emitting countries.

Mitigation or Adaptation?

As a developing country, the over-arching question with respect to finance is: what effective climate finance mechanism will enable Nigeria and other developing countries meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – Mitigation or adaptation?

This is no time to footdrag on the dynamics of “development space” as covenanted by developing countries at the Paris Summit negotiations. The limitation of the Adaptation approach – considered as a priority for poor countries, is obvious when considering a country like China. Though not classified as developed but China is very rich, industrialised, and is currently the world’s biggest polluter and coal producing country. Ignoring this fact prior to the Paris agreement, China together with other developing countries advocated that developed countries needed to take the mitigation responsibility and should offer more financial support to developing countries. A case which is inconsistent with the realities of a country with greater responsibility towards the issues of climate change.

As in the case of China, it is vital to note that as an emerging economy, the economic and development activities within the country have contributed immensely to the climate change issues in Nigeria.  The quest for GDP growth powered by oil and gas production without adequate consideration of environmental impacts is an indication of how economic activities within the country have contributed towards climate change. For instance, the recent spread of soot raised widespread concerns about the health of people living in the Niger Delta region. This development has been traced to the activities of oil and gas companies especially gas flaring.   Another aspect of environmental concern in Nigeria is the shrinking of Lake Chad, which has had an adverse implication on agriculture in the North East region resulting to low harvests, food shortages, inflation, with the herdsmen and farmers having the need to migrate to other regions. Also, climate change has been identified to be responsible for gully and coastal erosion and rise in water levels in Nigeria. Such impacts on our environment and health are enough reasons for a demonstration of more commitment to streamline the mitigation and adaptation approaches towards climate change into legislative and budget planning processes in Nigeria.

Understandably, financial limitations may be responsible for the choice of adaptation or reliance on foreign funds to build resilience against the effects of climate change. Consequently, effective stakeholder engagement with businesses whose activities mainly contribute to environmental degradation in Nigeria may be necessary to achieve voluntary commitments and possibly pool resources needed to address environmental issues in Nigeria.

The $100bn yearly funding pledge to help poorer nations adapt or build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of local communities to climate change impact may be inadequate for effective implementation of policies, strategies, regulations and action plans towards environmental sustainability in Nigeria. While developing countries have had their voice heard through the Paris Agreement, dependency on adaptation approach only with the funds promised by a few countries certainly may not reflect strong commitment towards environmental sustainability in Nigeria.

Adaptive plans typically deal with response to the impact of climate change on humans without adequate consideration of the ecosystems or environment. For instance, threatened species such as aquatic animals and plants in the Niger Delta are unlikely to benefit from adaptation plans on the impacts of oil spills as this is always directed towards the people. In the long run, the collapse of these ecosystems resulting from lack of benefits from adaptation plans will lead to loss of ecosystem services that are important for human existence. Until mitigation plans are taken seriously, the ecosystem services such as climate control, water supply, storm protection, pollination and recreation will continue to degenerate in quality.

The decision to choose between adaptation and mitigation approaches may be in many ways a false choice because the embrace of both choices is desirable. Such seeming dilemma requires urgent and decisive action if the county is determined to invest towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future. The country would likely suffer extreme vulnerability to climate change in the absence of the much needed commitment to mitigation, regardless of what adaptive measures are taken. Yet, mitigation alone, for example limiting the carbon footprints in the absence of any adaptive measures, will still result in greater vulnerability. However, a combination of adaptation and mitigation approaches – by both the rich and poor or high emitting and low emitting countries – could reduce vulnerability to modest levels for most of the world. An important fact is that negligence towards either of the climate change approaches – mitigation or adaptation – makes other efforts redundant in the fight against climate change.


  1. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-35073297
  2. Building Resilience to Climate Change https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/cem-009.pdf
  3. https://climate.nasa.gov/solutions/adaptation-mitigation/
  4. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo469/node/175
  5. Strategy Paper: Sustainability and Inclusive Urbanisation in Asia Pacific. 30 June 2013. Mark Hidebrand, Trevor Kanaley, and Brian Boberts.UNDP http://www.asia-pacific.undp.org/content/dam/rbap/docs/Research%20&%20Publications/poverty/RBAP-PR-2013-Strategy-Paper-Urbanization.pdf
  6. The State Practice of India and the Development of International Law: Dynamic Interplay Between Foreign Policy and Jurisprudence
    Volume 4 of Brill’s Asian Law Series, ISSN 2214-6547 https://books.google.com.ng/books?id=Ph_0DQAAQBAJ&lpg=PA257&dq=like%20India%2C%20China%2C%20Brazil%2C%20and%20South%20Africa%20have%20demanded%20for%20a%20development%20space&pg=PA257#v=onepage&q=like%20India,%20China,%20Brazil,%20and%20South%20Africa%20have%20demanded%20for%20a%20development%20space&f=false
  7. http://treasury.worldbank.org/cmd/pdf/WorldBankGreenBondFactSheet.pdf
  8. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo469/node/175

What is the difference between mitigation and adaptation in climate change?. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_is_the_difference_between_mitigation_and_adaptation_in_climate_change.

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