Nigeria’s Decarbonization Must Tackle Deforestation and AFOLU Emissions

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To envision Nigeria’s path to decarbonization is to see it lined with trees. Addressing deforestation, transforming agricultural practices, and implementing nature-based solutions like afforestation and reforestation are critical for Nigeria to achieve its net-zero commitment by 2060, a pledge made at COP26 in Glasgow.

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Emissions Breakdown: AFOLU Sector at the Forefront
As Africa’s leading oil producer, Nigeria’s decarbonization strategies have predominantly focused on transitioning to renewable energy. Previously, the country’s Energy Transition Plan overlooked emissions from the agriculture, forestry, and land-use (AFOLU) sector. However, our new report highlights that the AFOLU sector accounts for the largest share of Nigeria’s emissions at 30%, surpassing the oil and gas sector at 29%. Therefore, a comprehensive approach that also transforms the AFOLU sector is essential for Nigeria to meet its net-zero target and foster economic growth sustainably.

Alarming Deforestation Rates
Land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) are the main drivers of Nigeria’s AFOLU emissions. Over the past decade, relentless deforestation has plagued the country. Global Forest Watch data shows that Nigeria lost 86,700 hectares of tropical forest between 2010 and 2019. Without immediate intervention, an additional 25% of the remaining forests could disappear by 2060. This deforestation is driven by factors such as lack of access to electricity and rising poverty rates.

Energy Access and Deforestation
Nearly one in three Nigerians lack access to electricity, leading many to rely on traditional and polluting energy sources, such as burning wood. Less than a quarter of the population has access to clean cooking methods, forcing the majority—mainly women—to use inefficient and polluting cookstoves fueled by wood. This dependency significantly contributes to deforestation and residential emissions. Enhancing access to clean cooking is crucial for reducing emissions and mitigating deforestation.

Poverty and Forest Degradation
In 2019, four in ten Nigerians, approximately 80 million people, lived in poverty. A report by Mongabay highlighted that without available jobs, Nigerian forests are being depleted for farming and logging. Addressing poverty and social inequalities is imperative for forest conservation and achieving net zero.

Reforestation: A Path Forward
Reversing deforestation is possible with a commitment to reforestation at an annual rate of 2.3% and addressing the root causes, including energy access, job creation, and poverty reduction. Reforestation can not only halt degradation but also enhance Nigeria’s carbon sink capacity, vital for reaching the net-zero goal by 2060.

Economic and Environmental Benefits
The net-zero commitment is not just an environmental pledge but a blueprint for economic growth and prosperity that aligns with broader sustainability goals. Nigeria must seize this opportunity to lead the charge towards a greener, more resilient future.

Prof. Chukwumerije Okereke, director of the Centre for Climate Change and Development at Alex-Ekwueme Federal University in Ndufu-Alike, Nigeria, and lead of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways (DDP) in-country team in Nigeria.

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