LEDS GP Fellowship 2016: Interview with Abbas AbdulRafiu

LEDS GP Fellowship 2016: Interview with Abbas AbdulRafiu 261 305 aflp

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.

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.

Stephen King’uyu awarded LEDS GP honour for leadership

Stephen King’uyu awarded LEDS GP honour for leadership 526 349 aflp

Stephen King’uyu awarded LEDS GP honour for leadership

Stephen King’uyu, Coordinator of Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan and co-chair of the Africa LEDS Partnership and LEDS GP Steering Committee, has been awarded an honour in acknowledgement of his leadership services to LEDS GP at our COP22 Strategic Dialogue in Marrakech, Morocco. 

The award was presented in recognition and gratitude for two years of dedicated and skilful service as co-chair of the Low Emissions Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP) and Africa LEDS Partnership (AfLP).

On receiving the award, Mr. King’uyu shared a few words:

“I am most grateful to those who crafted the idea of bestowing this honour on me. I do not take it as a personal honour, but an honour to my country and the people and the Government of Kenya, whom I have represented in the LEDS GP and AfLP steering committees since their inception. I would also like to share this award with other members who have served in the steering committee with me, because without their unrelenting support, my personal efforts would not amount to anything.”

The U.S. State Department’s Ashley Allen, who presented the award to Mr. King’uyu during the LEDS GP Strategic Dialogue in the margins of COP22, commented:

“From the launch of the LEDS GP, Stephen ‎King’uyu has been a low emission champion – for Kenya, for Africa and for the world. Stephen’s exceptional knowledge of low emission policies‎ and welcoming, engaging nature have made him an exemplary leader of the LEDS Global Partnership. We couldn’t have achieved what we have without his leadership.”

Mr. King’uyu went on to share some important learning points from his time spent leading LEDS GP and working for the Government of Kenya’s Climate Change Directorate in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources:

Firstly, LEDS can play a critical role in the implementation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. For this to happen, however, there needs to be deliberate efforts to translate ‘strategies’ into action, as the focus shifts from the formulation of NDCs to their implementation.

Secondly, LEDS must be aligned to national development goals, objectives, and priorities… LEDS will not sell easily at the national level, unless practitioners go out and communicate the adaptation and sustainable development co-benefits of LEDS. From my experience as coordinator of Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP), for example, many stakeholders would not be supportive of any initiative that compromises development, and the resilience of the communities and systems. 

Thirdly, it must be made clear that LEDS can ride on common practices and technologies that are not necessarily ‘exotic’ or expensive. From the NCCAP analysis, for example, restoration of forests on degraded lands provides the highest potential for the abatement of greenhouse gas emissions for the country (30 MtCO2e per year by 2030). Based on this information, Kenya’s INDC proposes to ‘make progress towards achieving a tree cover of at least 10% of Kenya’s land area’. The ten per-cent tree cover is also a constitutional requirement for the country.

Fourthly, LEDS practitioners need to create a convergence between initiatives (terminologies) that in the eyes of many stakeholders and policy makers appear competing, but are in reality complimentary. These initiatives include, but may not be limited to, low emission development, low carbon development, green growth, and green economy. All these have one thing in common: they promote low greenhouse gas development that is anchored in the Paris Agreement[1]; and should, therefore, be viewed as complimentary.

From my interaction with the Africa LEDS Partnership, the four observations I have highlighted above are relevant in the context of many developing countries.

[1] Paris Agreement Articles 2.1, 4.6, 4.19; Decision 1/CP.21 paragraph 36.

Read more about Stephen King’uyu’s work coordinating Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan

Photo: Mairi Dupar

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