The number of delegates representing Nigeria in the ongoing twenty-eighth Conference of Parties (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) increased by more than four folds when compared to the country’s COP27 delegates in Egypt last year, a PREMIUM TIMES analysis has shown.
Nigeria’s official delegation (i.e. ‘party’ badge holders) to COP27 last year was 120 persons, increasing from 87 in COP26 two years ago in Glasgow.
This year’s delegation of 590 persons under President Bola Tinubu, who removed subsidies on petroleum products and asked Nigerians to endure the attendant hardship resulting from the hike in the cost of living, is eliciting public outrage in the country.
Mr Tinubu, who has repeatedly told Nigerians that the government’s purse is lean, has been criticised by Nigerians for controversial expenditure embarked upon by his government including the funding for the large delegation to COP28.
In response to public criticisms, the government said it only funded 422 persons of the 590-person list that includes the president’s son, Seyi Tinubu, and other individuals believed to have no significant roles in the climate conference.
The 422 people funded by the federal government under Mr Tinubu are, however, more than triple the total number of official government delegations to COP27 last year (120) and COP26 in 2021 (87).
A review of the figures also shows that the number of government-funded delegates increased by over 250 per cent between COP27 in 2022 and COP28 even if all 120 official delegates at COP27 were government funded.
The 422 persons funded by the Nigerian government also suggests that the Nigerian government funded more delegates to COP28 than the UK and the US combined (even if both countries used government funds for all their party delegates – 234).
The US has 159 delegates with ‘party’ badges, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has 75.
‘COP attendance becoming too big’
It is not only Nigerians that are concerned about the bloated attendance at COP28 with a UN official saying the attendance is “getting too big.” Almost 100,000 participants from 195 countries. are attending COP28 compared to about 49,704 participants who attended COP27 last year.
“These conferences have become too big,’’ Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Programme, said in an interview on the sidelines of the conference on Monday.
Mr Steiner said while he does not want to tell anyone not to take part, the over-bloated attendance should not become a model for the future in terms of attendance.
Understandably, the host country, the UAE, has the highest number of delegates (participants). Brazil, which has had one of the largest delegates in the past two years, has over 3,000 delegates in total.
China and Nigeria have a total number of 1,482 and 1,411 delegates, respectively, currently in the UAE.
Total Participants Vs ‘Party’ Delegates
Meanwhile, less than 30 per cent of this year’s participants are official negotiators at the conference. There are 195 countries party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which make up the decision-making body for COP. Together, the parties were represented by 24,488 ‘party’ delegates.
The remaining 70,000+ persons attending the conference are observers from United Nations organisations, Intergovernmental Organisations, Regional Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations, the business community and the Media.
China, for instance, is in third place when ranked by the total number of participants. But will only take the 34th place when ranked by the number of persons representing it at COP28. Only 219 persons carry its ‘party’ badge.
These persons representing each country are accredited or given badges under the ‘Party’ category. Other attendees – including members of the business community, civil society and media – carry the ‘Overflow’ or ‘Party Overflow’ badges.
Others such as United Nations organisations, Inter-governmental Organisations, and Regional Organisations, are admitted as ‘Observers’.
There are, however, insinuations that some countries allocate some of their ‘party badges’ to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), which can artificially inflate the size of their official delegation, according to Carbon Brief, a UK-based publication specialising in the science and policy of climate change.
Also, while the UAE has the highest number of participants, Brazil has the highest number of persons representing a country (or carrying the party badge). Brazil has 1,337 ‘party participants’ at the conference.
It is followed by India with 725 representatives and the UAE with 620 representatives.
Nigeria and the Russian Federation are tied in fourth position with 590 persons carrying the ‘party’ badge from both countries. The total number of participants from Nigeria is 1,411 including the 821 ‘Party Overflows’.
The Nigerian government said it only funded 422 persons. It did not provide details about the remaining 168 persons carrying its ‘party’ badge but the government’s position suggests that such persons were funded by others such as development partners.
The 422 people funded by the Nigerian government are also more than triple the total number of official delegates from Pakistan (80), a country with a similar population as Nigeria.
The Republic of Moldova, Eritrea, Liechtenstein, Nicaragua and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea each have less than 10 delegates with ‘party’ badges.
Delegates for COP 27, 26
The total number of ‘party’ participants increased from 9,749 in COP26 held in Glasgow in 2021, to 11,969 during last year’s COP27 in Egypt, and more than doubled to 24,488 in the ongoing COP28 in the UAE.
For the past two years, Brazil has held one of the highest number of ‘party’ badge holders in the conference. The country had 406 party badge holders in COP26 and 470 in COP27.
During COP 26, India had 135 ‘party’ badge holders and 61 last year during COP27 in Egypt.
China, meanwhile, had 56 and 63 ‘party’ badge-carrying participants in COP26 and 27 respectively.
At the ongoing COP, Nigeria’s delegates have hinted that the country’s priority is to secure more finances from investors to achieve its Energy Transition Plan (ETP) and other relevant climate actions in the country.
Nigeria expects to spend $1.9 trillion between 2022 and 2060 to meet the targets of the ETP across five sectors. At several meetings at the summit, PREMIUM TIMES observed that core Nigerian Party delegates are pushing to attract investment into the country.