Climate Change Considerations

As Nigeria seeks to achieve its vision for the nation’s development over the next 30 years through the NIIMP, one important factor that will affect the country’s development journey is climate change. Climate change could make food, energy, and water security more difficult for Nigeria to achieve. It could also affect the nation’s infrastructure and make future investments more costly or require other types of investments to make the infrastructure climate resilient.

Nigeria’s agriculture is highly vulnerable to weather patterns, as most production is rain-fed. Stagnant crop yields and a growing population are leading to a dependency on food imports. Furthermore, livestock, a major source of livelihood in northern states, is already exposed to rising temperatures and declining pasture productivity.

These climate risks are further compounded by Nigeria’s rapid population growth, which, coupled with the nation’s pervasive poverty, reduces the nation’s resilience to multiple climate risks.

The World Bank has described the issues and opportunities that exist for Nigeria in several detailed reports. According to the World Bank, climate change will increase Nigeria’s vulnerability to weather swings and limit its ability to fulfil its development objectives. Potential impacts include:

  • A 20-30 per cent reduction in crop yields;
  • Lower livestock productivity;
  • Increased need for food imports;
  • Lower food security, particularly in the North and Southwest;
  • Reductions in GDP.

The World Bank’s analyses confirm the fact that Nigeria cannot ignore its current climate situation or put off preparing for the likely change in climate in the future.

Climate change has to be considered particularly when planning future infrastructure investments. For example, investment decisions (particularly for irrigation and hydropower) that are made using historical climate data may be incorrect, as climate change might result in under- or over-designing the required infrastructure. This could lead to capital costs or foregone revenues of 20-40 per cent of the initial capital invested.

Adequate planning of irrigation infrastructure is largely dependent on the expected climate. For example, a drier climate will require more water storage. This makes planning and designing difficult, as it is not possible to predict the future climate of a particular region with certainty. Using historical climate data to make these investment decisions might result in losses where the investment is undersized if the climate is drier than expected, or oversized if the climate is wetter than expected. The World Bank states these losses can be as large as 40 per cent of investment costs. However, losses can be reduced by 30-50 per cent where the investment strategy focuses on minimising the risk of misjudgements across multiple future climate outcomes, as opposed to solving for a specific climate outcome.

Climate variability also already has a strong effect on Nigeria’s power sector. Hydropower accounts for one-third of grid supply. As a consequence, poor maintenance of the nation’s dams and variability in rainfall result in power outages that affect Nigeria’s energy security and growth potential.

Given the uncertainty of future precipitation and river run-off, climate change should be taken into account when planning hydropower infrastructure. A drier climate could result in a hydropower plant delivering less than the intended amount of power. As with irrigation, designing a dam without considering climate change could lead to losses of up to 25 per cent of capital costs, but designing to increase the storage capacity in anticipation of a potentially drier climate could reduce possible losses to 5 per cent.

Beyond the uncertainty of the future climate situation, Nigeria’s infrastructure will also need to be climate-resilient. The 2012 floods caused by heavy rains between July and October resulted in damage to water, energy and transport infrastructure estimated at over USD 387 million. Floods are the most common and recurring type of disaster in Nigeria. Given the unpredictability of Nigeria’s future climate, steps should be considered for building more climate-resilient infrastructure.

Damage to existing infrastructure from extreme climate events such as flooding reduces the expected durability of assets like housing, roads and dams. Building climate-resilient infrastructure, e.g., flood-proof housing, may increase costs but will also extend the asset’s durability and lifespan. Furthermore, a potentially harsher climate in the future (that is not adequately planned for) will require higher maintenance.

The cost-benefit analyses of investing in climate-resilient infrastructure have to be made on a project-by-project basis. But given the cyclical nature and prevalence of certain extreme climate events, the upfront costs of building more durable infrastructure are likely to be lower than the forestalled maintenance and replacement costs.

Ensuring Accessibility For All

The development of infrastructure must take into account accessibility for all citizens, particularly those with disabilities. With the right infrastructure, people with disabilities can exercise basic activities for daily living, such as performing home activities, going to work, to school and using public and private facilities.

The World Health Organization considers a ‘disability’ to be a multidimensional life condition that consists of impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. To the extent that few humans remain healthy and able-bodied their entire lives, all people experience some form of disability at one time or another, whether it be from a broken limb or as an elderly person. Disability is thus an environmental construct in which actual performance depends both on the physical impairment and contextual factors. The contextual factors involved may make it more or less difficult for people with various levels of functioning to manage their lives. Infrastructure can consequently serve a major role in either facilitating or hindering accessibility to basic activities for daily living.

Nigeria’s infrastructure needs to take into account the needs of people with disabilities. The solution to addressing these needs should not be to create parallel institutions and processes, but rather to adapt existing services to include people with disabilities. This will help prevent an uneconomical duplication of services.

Accessibility of public and private amenities such as water, transport, education, and healthcare for all citizens is crucial to preventing exclusion and tapping into the full social and economic potential of the populace. Accessibility requires that the entire infrastructural service chain be fully accessible. As an example, in the Transport sector this means that stations, bus stops, airports, etc., should be fully accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.

As Nigeria builds new and rehabilitates existing infrastructure, design-for-all or universal design principles should be a key requirement in order to ensure the accessibility needs of people with disabilities (such as the hearing, seeing or physically impaired) are fully met.

Below are a number of accessibility guidelines and standards that can be employed in the development and rehabilitation of the nation’s infrastructure (the full text of these guides can be freely obtained via the websites of the respective authors):

  • Accessibility for the Disabled: A Design Manual for a Barrier Free Environment – A comprehensive accessibility guide published by the United Nations;
  • Promotion of Non-Handicapping Physical Environments for Disabled Persons: Guidelines – Guidelines developed by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific;
  • Enhanced Accessibility for People with Disabilities Living in Urban Areas – Guidelines developed by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development with a particular focus on developing countries;
  • Adaptive Environments Checklist – A set of standards and tools for universal design used by the United States for implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act.