COP27: Time to act

Doaa El-Bey , Monday 7 Nov 2022

Africa is the continent that contributes least to the causes of climate change — it is responsible for less than four per cent of global emissions — yet it remains one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impacts. Its exposure is driven mainly by low levels of socioeconomic growth, poverty, and the absence of resources to mitigate the repercussions of climate change and recover from the worst of its effects.

Time to act
photo: ICRC


Since the start of 2022, natural disasters have left at least 4,000 Africans dead and affected the livelihood of a further 19 million, according to Carbon Brief, a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy, and energy policy.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, president-designate of COP27, has repeatedly underlined that COP27 will address African concerns on climate, including the implementation of climate pledges, most recently at a meeting of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) held in September on the sidelines of this year’s UN General Assembly in New York. A major focus will also be on the integration of mitigation and adaptation strategies, loss and damage and climate finance, with a special emphasis on enhancing implementation.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has also repeatedly raised the issue of loss and damage, underlining the need for action.

“Failure to act on loss and damage will lead to more loss of trust and more climate damage. This is a moral imperative that cannot be ignored,” he told the media at the UN headquarters in New York last month, adding that COP27 “must be the place for action on loss and damage.”

Though the G77+1 had proposed that loss and damage mechanisms be agreed at COP26 in Glasgow the proposal was blocked by wealthy countries. Instead, the Glasgow Climate Pact — the document issued at the end of the COP26 — opted for a set of dialogues to be held over the next two years to discuss financing to address loss and damage. The issue was raised again by the G77+1 during the UNGA meeting in New York when the group requested it be added to the agenda of COP27, a move that will require a consensus of all countries on the first day of the talks.

Shoukri underlined that the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is “more fragile” than ever because of “the impact of the current global situation”, in an interview published in The Guardian on 29 October.

Stressing that the circumstances in which COP27 is being held are more challenging than those that existed in Paris in 2015 or in Glasgow last year, he insisted “we have to remain hopeful and focused and try to isolate and insulate the negotiating process from some of the external circumstances.”

He warned that any backtracking or deviation from prior commitments will place the world on track to warming that could reach 3.6 degrees Celsius.

During COP26, countries committed to handing updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) highlighting their climate actions to the UN by September. Yet only 24 out of 193 countries have submitted their plans.

NDCs were part and parcel of the Paris Agreement. Nearly 70 per cent of the signatories of the agreement submitted their initial NDCs, including 53 out of Africa’s 54 states, though it was clear before COP26 that the submitted NDCs were doing little to help meet the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius warming set in the Paris Agreement. Indeed, one of COP26’s successes was to convince states to present updated NDCs, though any optimism on this front has now dissipated.

“The UN report [on NDCs] is a testimony to the fact that we are off-track on achieving the Paris Climate Goal and keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. Several of those expected to do more are far from doing enough and the consequences are affecting lives and livelihoods across the globe,” Shoukri said in comments on the report.

“I am conscious that there should be a continuum of action until 2030 and then onto 2050 but this requires a transformative response at COP27.”

Shoukri has also asserted that there needs to be greater equity between finance for mitigation and adaptation.

“For mitigation there are economic benefits, whereas the return for adaptation is more impactful in terms of lives and livelihoods,” he said.

Though the fact remains that Africa still doesn’t have access to the financing it needs to adapt to climate change which it is estimated by 2030 will have reached between $1.3 to $1.6 trillion, the continent has nonetheless seen some progress in adaptation initiatives, with a number of regional-level actors making progress. Advances include the development and adoption of regional climate change adaptation strategies, and the African Development Bank (AfDB) is devoting 67 per cent of its climate financing to adaptation.

The AfDB, together with the Global Centre on Adaptation, has developed the African Adaptation Acceleration Programme which has targeted $25 billion in climate adaptation finance for Africa.

An important point that will be highlighted during COP27 is that financing adaptation should come through grants, not loans, so as not to burden the continent with debt.

Climate finance is once again expected to be a dominant theme at COP27. Developing countries are expected to repeat their calls for developed countries to furnish adequate financial support and there will inevitably be a lot of discussion about the $100 billion promised annually by developed nations, an amount that has yet to be delivered. Rich countries committed to the amount in 2009 in Copenhagen but the target has yet to be hit.

African states will continue to call on developed countries to meet their obligations and work with other parties to ensure the swift implementation of climate finance delivery plans, and hopes are high that work at COP27 will see progress that pledges made will actually materialise during COP28, to be held in the UAE.

“Clear climate action decisions will constitute success at COP27. We must have tangible, implementable outcomes. We must have decisions that people can point to and say this is being implemented,” the current Chair of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) on climate change, Ephraim Mwepya Shitima of Zambia, told the media.

Natural disasters in Africa

- Drought and famine killed 2,500 people in Uganda and affected eight million in Ethiopia this year.

- More than 600 people died in Nigeria’s worst floods in a decade. This includes 76 people who were killed when a boat carrying flood victims capsized.

- Southern African countries, including Madagascar and Mozambique, were battered by six severe storms this year, killing at least 890 people.

- Temperatures reached 48 degrees Celsius in Tunisia in July, fanning the flames of extreme wildfires.

- Nearly two million people in Chad were affected by floods in August and October.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.


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