Africa at the crossroads

Ahmed Morsy , Thursday 10 Nov 2022

Africa — the continent most vulnerable to climate change and least responsible for emissions — needs more than promises.

Africa at the crossroads
Africa at the crossroads


Dubbed as the implementation summit, COP27 is widely viewed as a test for developed countries’ credibility in terms of translating pledges into action.

One breakthrough is the inclusion of loss and damage funding as an agenda item for the first time, though participants warn it is too early to celebrate given that the $100 billion climate-finance pledge promised by developed countries in 2009 and due to be fulfilled by 2020 remains unmet.

Ahmed Al-Droubi, campaigns manager at Greenpeace MENE, warns that the wording of the loss and damage item is vague. While it acknowledges a historical and legal responsibility on the part of developed countries it hedges around whether help is viewed as compensation or just another aid item.

The flagship UN report on climate change issued in April which showed carbon emissions between 2010-2019 are the highest recorded is proof that the world is on a “fast track” to disaster, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned in September, adding that G20 countries are responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions.

“In the course of negotiations and the history of COPs, the inclusion of loss and damage as an item on the COP27 agenda is an achievement,” Al-Droubi told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“But what we need now is to establish a mechanism for loss and damage funding this year, or at least a  complete agreement in principle which can then be activated in the next two years.”

Lorraine Chiponda, Don’t Gas Africa facilitator and Africa Climate Movement-of-Movements facilitator, says developed nations still need to develop a convincing loss and damage facility that benefits vulnerable communities and is dubious about some of the existing mechanisms. It is unclear, for example, how the Just Energy Transition Partnership provided for South Africa is structured, and questions remain over whether financing will come in the form of grants, or in loans that will increase the debt burden of poorer states.

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi urged a “rapid, effective, and equitable implementation” of climate commitments and pledges to overcome the current crisis, demanding real steps rather than slogans.

Developing countries, especially in Africa, need to feel their priorities are being addresses into consideration, said Al-Sisi.

Many civil society organisations (CSOs) have been outraged that discussions on Africa’s particular needs and circumstances have been dropped from the COP27 agenda.

Under the umbrella of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) more than 1,000 African CSOs issued a statement requesting the COP27 president, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukri, “put his foot down and ensure we do not lose on other fronts.”

“Africa is a region with special needs and circumstances under international climate law. The region suffers more severe climate change impacts than most parts of the world mainly because it is exposed to unrivalled weather extremes, is heavily dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as rain-fed agriculture for economic services and livelihoods and has the least capacity to respond adequately to climatic stresses due to chronic poverty,” the PACJA said on Monday.

Al-Sisi also called on developed countries to take additional steps to fulfil the pledges they have made to finance and support adaptation efforts and address the losses and damages resulting from climate change in developing countries.

All efforts should focus on implementing measures that curb climate change so coming generations do not bear the consequences of mistakes they did not make, Al-Sisi said.

COP27 High-Level Champion Mahmoud Mohieldin noted on Monday that though Africa currently contributes only three per cent of the carbon emissions the situation will not last forever. African countries want to improve the living standards of their populations and ensure they all have access to electricity: should Africa’s interest in green transformation not be taken seriously this will inevitably lead to an increase in emissions.

Kenya’s President William Ruto, chair of the Committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change, the continent’s leading decision-making body on climate issues, highlighted in his speech on Monday how the State of Climate in Africa report had laid bare the facts — that high water stress impacts 250 million people in Africa and is expected to displace 700 million by 2030.

“In the past 50 years, drought-related hazards have claimed the lives of over half a million people and led to economic losses of over $70 billion in the region. More than 1,000 flood-related disasters were reported, involving more than 20,000 deaths over this period.”

It is estimated that by 2050, climate impacts could cost African nations $50 billion annually, according to Ruto.

Climate financing is insufficient and there is an annual $1.3 trillion gap between available and required funds, said Mohieldin.

While the world continues to suffer from the impacts of Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, developing countries are being asked to foot the costs of a climate crisis they have not made. The current financing of climate action in developing countries is profoundly unfair, stressed Mohieldin, and is compounding the debt distress faced by many states.

Mohieldin praised the efforts of African and other developing countries to provide climate action financing solutions by linking public budgets to development and climate action and activate innovative finance instruments and debt swaps for co-investing in climate-linked projects.

Tuesday saw the launch of the Africa Carbon Markets Initiative, a project, a result of regional collaboration between African countries, that will, according to Mohieldin, help provide finance for climate action across the continent.

The initiative, which seeks to establish carbon markets, “will help localise climate action since the results will be felt by farmers and local inhabitants”.

The initiative, Mohieldin continued, enhances the capability of the continent to finance climate action and reflects Africa’s appreciation of the value of such markets.

In remarks to Reuters, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Monday the price of carbon needs to average at least $75 a ton globally by the end of the decade for global climate goals to succeed, adding that the pace of change in the real economy was still “way too slow”.

Georgieva noted that “unless we price carbon predictably on a trajectory that gets us at least to [a] $75 average price per ton of carbon in 2030, we simply don’t create the incentive for businesses and consumers to shift.”

With skyrocketing energy prices, soaring inflation and the looming climate crisis, the EU should not undermine its climate objectives and efforts to move more rapidly to energy savings and renewables, the Climate Action Network (CAN) said on Monday. CAN noted in this context that a large number of African CSOs, gathered together in the Don’t Gas Africa campaign, are demanding that the EU’s hunger for gas should not lock Africa into fossil fuels.

In 2021, the International Energy Agency said that to reach net-zero emissions globally by 2050 no new oil or gas fields should be approved for development. At Glasgow’s COP26, several EU countries, including Germany, promised to curtail international funding for fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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