Four Nigerian cities are in the top 10 most air polluted cities in the world and approximately 46,750 Nigerians die prematurely from air pollution related disease every year. The causes are numerous and cut across a variety of sectors, but the Nigerian government has just launched an initiative to improve national planning and action to reduce dangerous air pollution.
The initiative, Supporting National Action Planning (SNAP) and Institutional Strengthening (IS), is a Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) initiative that aims to promote rapid and large-scale reductions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) by integrating efforts into relevant national planning processes and other frameworks.
Short-lived climate pollutants, like black carbon (soot), methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are both harmful to human health and are powerful climate warmers. A global reduction of SLCPs could prevent 2.4 million premature deaths annually and prevent up to half a degree Celsius of warming by 2050. Improved air quality and access to cleaner technology will also improve livelihoods and contribute to global sustainable development goals.
At the SNAP initiative launch Bahijjahttu Abubakar, Head of the Renewable Energy Programme, Sustainable Development Goals, and Gender at the Nigerian Ministry of Environment, said Nigeria was committed to improving national planning on air pollution by strengthening institutions, improving coordination among agencies, and analyzing the causes and cost effective solutions to rapidly improve air quality.
“Short-lived climate pollutants represent a threat to our health, economic development, and climate. We need to build networks across agencies, identify the best scenarios to reduce these air pollutants, and act swiftly to bring benefits to our people,” Ms Abubakar said. “The SNAP-IS process will improve knowledge and skills, so that different ministries can talk to each other in order to agree on a national plan to reduce short-lived climate pollutants as part of our national development goals.”
SNAP will help identify the major emission sources on where action could begin immediately; sources where action could occur further into the future; the information, capacity and finance gaps that need to be filled to ensure effective mitigation; and initial options for addressing some of the challenges and problems posed by SLCP mitigation.
Importantly, a national action planning process will help identify which priority mitigation measures could be mainstreamed into existing government programmes, which will require new national initiatives, and which can simply adopt international action programmes.
Dr Richard Mills, Director of the International Union of Air Pollution Prevention and Environmental Protection Associations (IUAPPA), said proper national planning was important given the urgency of the problem.
“We only have a very short window of time to deliver the change we need on climate and air pollution and that window is becoming increasingly narrow,” Dr Mills said. “Unless we have a major increase action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, the prospects of delivering the goals and targets of delivering the goals and targets as laid out in the Paris Agreement, become virtually undeliverable.”
Action on SLCPs is needed at all levels of society, from individuals to communities, local and national government, and through regional and international efforts. The SNAP program focuses specifically on national governments because it is at the national level that key financial, investment and regulatory decisions can be made.
In Nigeria air pollution reduction can be made by improving access to clean household energy by transitioning to cleaner cookstoves and solar lighting. There are also opportunities in transport, the oil and gas industry, agriculture, and by improving municipal solid waste management. In Abuja, for example, the main waste landfill constantly burns adding to the capital’s air pollution problem.
The SNAP process will help government prioritize policy options and measures in the light of Nigeria’s unique circumstances and its different SLCP emission sources. It will help identify pathways to large scale implementation through relevant national policies, regulations to improve air quality, and climate change and development programmes.
Speaking at the launch Dr. Rabia Salihu Sa’id, Professor of Atmospheric and Space-Weather Physics, at Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria, said it was important for Nigerians to address air pollution.
“Breathing is life, and the quality of our life and wellbeing depends on the quality of the air we breathe,” Dr Salihu Sa’id said. “It is important that we monitor and regulate the air around us. We must know the types of pollutants that we have and how we can stop their production, or if it can’t be stopped, how we can mitigate their impacts on us.”
14 countries are currently receiving Institutional Strengthening support these include: Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Liberia, Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, and Togo.
Four countries are in the process of refining their draft national plans: Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, Mexico. While, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, and Peru are in the process of starting to develop theirs.