By Temitope Ajayi
The number of delegates from Nigeria attending the ongoing Climate Summit in Dubai, otherwise called COP28, has generated a lot of controversies and strong social media conversations in the last 24 hours.
It is important to set the record straight and provide some clarity. To begin with, the summit is tagged COP, which means Convention of Parties.
The ongoing summit in Dubai, with over 97,000 delegates from more than 100 countries around the world, is the 28th in the series since the issue of climate change and action took precedence in global affairs. COP27 took place at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt last year.
When the world comes together to take action on achieving a common goal and offer collective solutions to a nagging global concern, there are parties involved from the government, private sector, civil society, media, and multilateral institutions.
The people coming together to advance their different agendas and interests from governments, businesses, and civil society are the parties to the convention, who represent various shades of opinion and push for various mitigating actions.
In Nigeria, like so many other countries, interested parties, including government officials from both the federal and sub-national governments, business leaders, environmentalists, climate activists, and journalists, are present in Dubai.
Also participating are government agencies such as the NNPC and its subsidiaries, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, NIMASA, and the NDDC.
Many youth organisations from Nigeria, especially from the Northern and Niger Delta regions, whose lives and livelihoods are most impacted by desert encroachment and hydrocarbon activities, are also represented.
The President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Jonathan Lokpobiri, leads a pan-Ijaw delegation of more than 15 people who registered as parties from Nigeria. Among the delegates from Nigeria are also over 20 journalists from various media houses.
Their participation is very important. It is not for jamborees, as it is being mischievously represented on social media.
It is important to state here that delegates from all countries, whether from the government, private sector, media, or civil society groups, attend COP summits and conferences as parties, and the number of attendees is registered against their countries of origin.
This does not mean that they are sponsored or funded by the government. It must also be said that the fact that people registered to attend a conference does not mean everyone who registered is physically present.
As the biggest country in Africa, with the biggest economy, and one with a bigger stake in climate action as a country with a huge extractive economy, it is a no-brainer that delegates from Nigeria will be more than any other country in Africa.
Among the delegates from Nigeria are UBA Chairman Tony Elumelu, Abdul Samad Rabiu, Chairman of the BUA Group, and other billionaires whose businesses promote sustainability and climate action through their philanthropies.
These businessmen and women and their staff who came with them to promote their own business interests are part of the 1,411 delegates from Nigeria.
Their trip to Dubai is not funded by the federal government. The United Nations Climate Summit, by its very nature, commands the attendance of big names from across the world—statesmen and women, politicians, lawmakers, corporate titans, journalists, activists, etc.—who promote a big global agenda.
So, people attend the summit for many reasons. And because climate change is the biggest global issue of the moment, it is not surprising that over 97,000 people, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, King Charles of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and Mark Rutte of the U.S.
Vice President Kamala Harris, US Special Envoy on Climate Change and former Secretary of State John Kerry, President Bola Tinubu, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Bank President Ajay Banga, International Monetary Fund President Kristalina Georgieva, World Trade Organisation Director-General Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Africa Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, former US Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Al Gore, and almost 100 heads of state and government converged on Dubai for COP28.
It is the first of its kind in the history of the summit because of the importance of climate change to global well-being.
After the opening and national statements by Heads of State, which began on November 30 when the summit opened and will continue until Saturday, December 2, 2023, the real work of COP28, which is the technical sessions and negotiations, financing, etc., will begin from Monday, December 4, until December 12, when agreements will be reached on many proposals for consideration and ratification by the parties.
Those with sufficient understanding and knowledge of climate matters know that issues around the subject have layers and a multiplicity of factors that require experts from various fields.
There are lined-up technical sessions on financing climate action at sub-national, regional, and local levels. State governors from Nigeria, such as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun, and Umo Eno of Akwa-Ibom, have been really busy with their officials at COP28, making presentations, speaking at panel sessions, and pitching some of their sustainability projects to development partners and investors.
Multifaceted stakeholders from different countries, including Nigeria, are on the ground in Dubai because they don’t want decisions that will affect them to be taken without pushing their own agenda. It is the reason delegates from China and Brazil are over 3000, respectively.
China is one of the world’s biggest polluters, and Brazil is at the centre of the global climate debate with its Amazon rainforest.
These two countries know important decisions that will affect them will be taken, and they have to move everything to be fully on the ground and ensure they are fully represented by their best brains at every level of discussion and negotiation.
Like former President Muhammadu Buhari and other African leaders who demanded a fair deal and climate justice for Africa at previous UN Climate Summits, President Tinubu is leading the charge at COP28 on behalf of Nigeria and the rest of the continent, demanding from the West that any climate decision and action must be fair and just to Africa and Nigeria in particular, especially the debate around energy transition.
President Tinubu has been unequivocal in his position that Africa, which is battling problems of poverty, security, and struggling to provide education and healthcare to its people, cannot be told to abandon its major source of income, which is mostly from extractive industries, without the West providing funding and investment in alternative and clean energy sources.
President Tinubu and other officials on the Federal Government delegation are in Dubai for serious business, not jamboree. Our president has been very busy representing our country well.
Since Thursday morning, when he arrived in Dubai, President Tinubu has spent not less than 18 hours daily attending very important sessions, pushing our national agenda while holding bilateral and business meetings on the sidelines.
- Ajayi is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity