Fossil fuels range from volatile materials with low carbon:hydrogen ratios like methane to liquids, like petroleum to non-volatile materials composed of almost pure carbon, like anthracite coal. Petrified remains of dead plants by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth’s crust over millions of years, forms Fossil fuel. Fossil fuel was first introduced by Georgius Agricola in 1556 and later by Mikhail Lomonosov in the 18th century. According to Wikipaedia, Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms, containing energy originating in ancient photosynthesis. Fossilized fuels contain high percentages of carbon which includes petroleumcoal, and natural gas. Other commonly used derivatives include kerosene and propane, etc.

The Nigerian oil exploration of fossil fuel, dates back to 1907 when Nigerian Bitumen Corporation conducted exploratory work in the country, however, the firm left the country at the onset of World War I. Thereafter, licenses were given to D’Arcy Exploration Company and Whitehall Petroleum. Nevertheless, neither company found oil of commercial value and they returned their licenses in 1923. A new license covering 357,000 square miles (920,000 square kilometres) was given to a new firm called Shell D’arcy Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria. The new firm was a consortium of Shell and British Petroleum (then known as Anglo-Iranian). The company began exploratory work in 1937. The consortium was granted license to explore oil all over the territory of Nigeria but in 1951 and then between 1955 and 1957, the acreage allotted to the company in the original license was reduced. Drilling activities started in 1951 and the first test well was drilled in Owerri area. Oil was discovered in non-commercial quantities at Akata, near Eket in 1953. Shell-BP in the pursuit of commercially available petroleum found oil in Oloibiri, Nigeria in 1956. Other important oil wells discovered during the period were Afam and Bomu in OGONI territory. Production of crude oil began in 1957 and in 1960, a total of 847,000 tonnes of crude oil was exported

However, Nigeria Petroleum industry is the largest on the African continent. As of 2014, Nigeria’s petroleum industry contributes about 14% to its economy. Over 58 years since the discovery of crude oil (black gold) in Nigeria, the nation suddenly awoke to a huge source of income generation. This was followed by the gradual slinking away of the many other sources of income that had supported the country through its pre-oil period, one of which is agriculture and aquaculture. The oil boom brought about a great revenue turnaround for Nigeria and further brought it to international limelight as a major oil producing country in Africa but it also brought about a complete and senseless desecration of the environment especially in the oil sector, loss of indigenous occupation among local communities, corrupt practices, conflict and rural to urban migration in search of perceived oil related white cola jobs among others.

Nigeria flares 17.2 billion m3 of natural gas per year in conjunction with the exploration of crude oil in the Niger Delta. This high level of gas flaring is equal to approximately one quarter of the current power consumption of the African continent. Even though we have grown to be fairly dependent on oil and it has become the centre of current industrial development and economic activities, we rarely consider how oil exploration and exploitation processes create environmental, health, and social problems in local communities near oil producing fields.

The Nigerian government has not enforced environmental regulations effectively because of the overlapping and conflicting jurisdiction of separate governmental agencies governing petroleum and the environment as well as because of non-transparent governance mechanisms. Neither the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) nor the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has implemented anti-flaring policies for natural gas waste from oil production, nor have they monitored the emissions to ensure compliance. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) has had the authority to issue standards for water, air and land pollution and has had the authority to make regulations for oil industry. However, in some cases their regulations conflict with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)’s regulations started in 1991 for oil exploration.

Petroleum exploitation and production in the Niger Delta over the years have resulted in a number of environmental, socio-economic and political problems in the region. Oil spillage and gas flaring have caused severe environmental damages, loss of plants, animals and human lives, and loss of revenue to both the oil producing companies and the government. Petroleum exploration, exploitation, production, storage, distribution and transportation activities affect the environment in a conspicuously negative manner. Vegetations are removed to make way for seismic lines and sites. Storage, distribution and transportation of oil and gas using Tankers and pipeline network result in some quantities of petroleum products being released into the environment.

From an economic perspective, the Nigerian government’s main interest in the oil industry is to maximize its monetary profits from oil production. Oil companies find it more economically expedient to flare the natural gas and pay the insignificant fine than to re-inject the gas back into the oil wells. Additionally, because there is an insufficient energy market especially in rural areas, oil companies do not see an economic incentive to collect the gas. From a social perspective, the oil-producing communities have experienced severe marginalization and neglect. The environment and human health have frequently been a secondary consideration for oil companies and the Nigerian government. However, although there may be reasons for the continuous oil explorations, there are many strong arguments suggesting that it should be stopped. Corporations’ accountability to the people and environment surrounding them imply that oil companies should be required to re-inject the gas, to recover it, or to shut down any extraction facilities in which the gas flaring is occurring. Because of this massive oil exploration in the Niger Delta and Rivers State, the ramifications for human health, local culture, indigenous self-determination, and the environment are severe. As is the case in most oil producing regions of less developed countries, the economic and political benefits are given significantly more weight by the government than the resulting damage to the environment and human health. However, as far as this topic is concerned, it will be pertinent to discuss the Environmental and health implications of Oil exploration in Nigeria.



Climate Change

Gas flaring contributes to climate change, which has serious implications for both Nigeria and the rest of the world. The burning of fossil fuel, mainly coal, oil and gas-greenhouse gases-has led to warming up the world and is projected to get much, much worse during the course of the 21st century according to the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC). This scientific body was set up in 1988 by the UN and the World Meteorological Organization to consider climate change. Climate change is particularly serious for developing countries, and Africa as a continent is regarded as highly vulnerable with limited ability to adapt. Gas flaring contributes to climate change by emission of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Venting of the gas without burning, a practice for which flaring seems often to be treated as a synonym, releases methane, the second main greenhouse gas. Together and crudely, these gases make up about 80% of global warming to date.



Drilling mud and oil sometimes find their way to the streams, surface waters and land thus making them unfit for consumption nor habitable by man or animal. This problem has been produced by a range of international oil companies which have been in operation for over four decades. The economic and environmental ramifications of this high level of gas flaring are serious because this process is a significant waste of potential fuel which is simultaneously polluting water, air, and soil in Ogoni land and the Niger Delta.


Acid Rain

Acid rains have been linked to the activities of gas flaring. Corrugated roofs in the Delta region have been corroded by the composition of the rain that falls as a result of flaring. The primary causes of acid rain are emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NO) which combine with atmospheric moisture to form sulfuric acid and nitric acid respectively. Size and environmental philosophy in the industry have very strong positive impact on the gas-flaring-related COemission.

Acid rain acidifies lakes and streams and damages vegetation. In addition, acid rain accelerates the decay of building materials and paints. Prior to falling to the earth, SO2 and NO2 gases and their particulate matter derivatives, sulfates and nitrates, contribute to visibility degradation and harm public health.



The flares associated with gas flaring give rise to atmospheric contaminants. These include oxides of Nitrogen, Carbon and Sulphur (NO2, CO2, CO, SO2), particulate matter, hydrocarbons and ash, photochemical oxidants, and hydrogen sulphide (H2S). These contaminants acidify the soil, hence depleting soil nutrient. Previous studies have shown that the nutritional value of crops within such vicinity of Niger Delta and Rivers state are reduced. In some cases, there is no vegetation in the areas surrounding the flare due partly to the tremendous heat that is produced and acid nature of soil pH.

The effects of the changes in temperature on crops included stunted growth, scotched plants and such other effects as withered young crops. Reference concluded that the soils of the study area are fast losing their fertility and capacity for sustainable agriculture due to the acidification of the soils by the various pollutants associated with gas flaring in the area.




 Adverse Effects

The implication of gas flaring on human health are all related to the exposure of those hazardous air pollutants emitted during incomplete combustion of gas flare. These pollutants are associated with a variety of adverse health impacts, including cancer, neurological, reproductive, haemoglobin and developmental effects. Deformities in children, lung damage and skin problems have also been reported.


Haematological Effects

Hydrocarbon compounds are known to cause some adverse changes in hematological parameters. These changes affect blood and blood-forming cells negatively. And could give rise to anemia (aplastic), pancytopenia and leukaemia.

Oil exploration causes a range of environmental problems. These include: contamination of both surface and ground water by benzene, xylene, toluene, and ethylbenzene; contamination of soil by oil spill and leaks; increased deforestation; as well as the economic loss and environmental degradation stemming from gas flaring. In order to address the problems of gas flaring, it is necessary to understand why the natural gas is being flared. Because oil and natural gas are mixed in every oil deposit, the natural gas called “associated gas” (AG) must be removed from oil before refining. Gas flaring is simply the burning of this associated gas. Gas flaring is currently illegal in most countries of the world, where gas flaring may only occur in certain circumstances such as emergency shutdowns, non-planned maintenance, or disruption to the processing system.

Nigerian Government should pay more attention to the activities of militants engaged in oil bunkering as some of the spills in the oil rich region occur due to this. A thorough and planned clean up will provide immediate employment for thousands of disaffected youths that are currently taking up arms, kidnapping and disrupting the lives of the people of Niger Delta. In addition, Government should ensure that regulatory bodies have the authority to sanction oil companies who spill oil in the region. More and strict laws with stiffer penalties should be passed so that oil companies are more mindful of their activities and the spills that they cause. Although Nigeria is highly dependent on oil as a means of foreign exchange and revenue but it is time to diversify the Economy. Recession to Nigerian economy was caused by over dependency in Oil. The government is unlikely to want to discourage the presence of foreign oil companies that drill for oil in the oil rich region despite the spills that their activities cause. A shift from the dependence on oil to other  sources of revenue such as agriculture and aquaculture will make it more likely for stricter laws and stiffer penalties for organisations guilty of oil spills to be implemented.

More so, it is time for youth and non Governmental organisations on climate change to rise up and put a halt to this menace called Fossil fuel. Clean energy is the solution.




The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and – for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework for action and support.

The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts. There will also be a global stocktake every 5 years to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the agreement and to inform further individual actions by Parties.

The Paris Agreement opened for signature on 22 April 2016 – Earth Day – at UN Headquarters in New York. It entered into force on 4 November 2016, 30 days after the so-called “double threshold” (ratification by 55 countries that account for at least 55% of global emissions) had been met. Since then, more countries have ratified and continue to ratify the Agreement, reaching a total of 125 Parties in early 2017. The current number of ratifications can be found here.

In order to make the Paris Agreement fully operational, a work programme was launched in Paris to develop modalities, procedures and guidelines on a broad array of issues. Since 2016, Parties work together in the subsidiary bodies (APA, SBSTA and SBI) and various constituted bodies. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA) met for the first time in conjunction with COP 22 in Marrakesh (in November 2016) and adopted its first two decisions. The work programme is expected to be completed by 2018.

Essential Elements

The Paris Agreement, adopted through Decision 1/CP.21, addresses crucial areas necessary to combat climate change. Some of the key aspects of the Agreement are set out below:

Long-term temperature goal (Art. 2) – The Paris Agreement, in seeking to strengthen the global response to climate change, reaffirms the goal of limiting global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.
Global peaking (Art. 4) –To achieve this temperature goal, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) as soon as possible, recognizing peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of GHGs in the second half of the century.
Mitigation (Art. 4) – The Paris Agreement establishes binding commitments by all Parties to prepare, communicate and maintain a nationally determined contribution (NDC) and to pursue domestic measures to achieve them. It also prescribes that Parties shall communicate their NDCs every 5 years and provide information necessary for clarity and transparency. To set a firm foundation for higher ambition, each successive NDC will represent a progression beyond the previous one and reflect the highest possible ambition. Developed countries should continue to take the lead by undertaking absolute economy-wide reduction targets, while developing countries should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move toward economy-wide targets over time in the light of different national circumstances.
Sinks and reservoirs (Art.5) –The Paris Agreement also encourages Parties to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of GHGs as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d) of the Convention, including forests.
Voluntary cooperation/Market- and non-market-based approaches (Art. 6) – The Paris Agreement recognizes the possibility of voluntary cooperation among Parties to allow for higher ambition and sets out principles – including environmental integrity, transparency and robust accounting – for any cooperation that involves internationally transferal of mitigation outcomes. It establishes a mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of GHG emissions and support sustainable development, and defines a framework for non-market approaches to sustainable development.
Adaptation (Art. 7) – The Paris Agreement establishes a global goal on adaptation – of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reduction of vulnerability to climate change. It aims to significantly strengthen national adaptation efforts, including through support and international cooperation. It also recognizes that adaptation is a global challenge faced by all. All Parties should engage in adaptation planning and are expected to submit and periodically update an adaptation communication on their priorities, implementation and support needs, plans and actions. Developing country Parties will receive enhanced support for adaptation actions.
Loss and damage (Art. 8) – The Paris Agreement significantly enhances the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, which will develop approaches to help vulnerable countries cope with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow-onset events such as sea-level rise. The Agreement provides a framework for Parties to enhance understanding, action and support with regard to loss and damage.
Finance, technology and capacity-building support (Art. 9, 10 and 11) – The Paris Agreement reaffirms the obligations of developed countries to support the efforts of developing country Parties to build clean, climate-resilient futures, while for the first time encouraging voluntary contributions by other Parties. Provision of resources should also aim to achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation. In addition to reporting on finance already provided, developed country Parties commit to submit indicative information on future support every two years, including projected levels of public finance.
The agreement also provides that the Financial Mechanism of the Convention, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF), shall serve the Agreement. International cooperation on climate-safe technology development and transfer and building capacity in the developing world are also strengthened: a technology framework is established under the Agreement and capacity-building activities will be strengthened through, inter alia, enhanced support for capacity building actions in developing country Parties and appropriate institutional arrangements.
Climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information (Art 12) is also to be enhanced under the Agreement.
Transparency (Art. 13), implementation and compliance (Art. 15) – The Paris Agreement relies on a robust transparency and accounting system to provide clarity on action and support by Parties, with flexibility for their differing capabilities of Parties. In addition to reporting information on mitigation, adaptation and support, the Agreement requires that the information submitted by each Party undergoes international review. The Agreement also includes a mechanism that will facilitate implementation and promote compliance in a non-adversarial and non-punitive manner, and will report annually to the CMA.
Global Stocktake (Art. 14) – A “global stocktake”, to take place in 2023 and every 5 years thereafter, will assess collective progress toward meeting the purpose of the Agreement in a comprehensive and facilitative manner. Its outcomes will inform Parties in updating and enhancing their actions and support and enhancing international cooperation. For 2018 a facilitative dialogue is envisaged to take stock of collective progress towards the long-term emission reduction goal of Art 4.
Decision 1/CP.21 also sets out a number of measures to enhance action prior to 2020, including strengthening the technical examination process, enhancement of provision of urgent finance, technology and support and measures to strengthen high-level engagement.
The decision also welcomes the efforts of all non-Party stakeholders to address and respond to climate change, including those of civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other sub-national authorities. These stakeholders are invited to scale up their efforts and showcase them via the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action platform ( Parties also recognized the need to strengthen the knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples, as well as the important role of providing incentives through tools such as domestic policies and carbon pricing.