Contextualizing the problem
The 27th Conference of Parties, or “COP27”, will be held from November 8th –18th, 2022, at Sharm – el Sheik International Conferences Center in Egypt. This year’s theme will be “Climate Action for Sustainable Development.” In addition to discussions about how best to integrate climate action into sustainable development goals (SDGs), there will also be sessions explicitly devoted to indigenous knowledge systems, loss and damage mechanisms, and grassroots action-related topics regarding climate change adaptation/mitigation strategies around Africa.
The global community, especially the global north, needs to understand that for Afrika, mitigation measures do not cut it for us anymore; the challenges presented by the devastating effects of climate change call for urgent and not perfect solutions. This is what adaptation means to someone like me, urgent and radical innovative climate solutions.
The Conference Of Parties (COPs) have been disappointing in their outcomes. Since the first COP in Berlin in 1995, we have seen emissions rise by over 50%. The Kyoto Protocol was meant to be a stepping stone towards carbon neutrality. Still, it left many countries out of the game and failed to address deforestation and land-use change as sources of emissions.
The current state of affairs is bleak: the Paris Agreement has only been ratified by 55% of countries (of which just 17% are industrialised nations), making it difficult for parties to meet their commitments under the climate deal; meanwhile, recent research shows that even if all countries manage to fulfil their voluntary pledges, warming will still exceed two °C above pre-industrial levels—a threshold beyond which scientists say “dangerous” climate change is inevitable.
Leading up to COP 27, the IPCC report 2022 has provided a critical synopsis of the global climate situation, the progress made and the actions required. The report recognises the integrated nature of the climate crisis, with effects spanning human societies and natural ecosystems. Even still, the information places humans at the centre of this interconnection, with their vulnerability playing a crucial role in mitigating or exacerbating the risks. According to the report, human-induced climate change, including the frequency and intensity of climate events, has resulted in widespread impacts relating to loss and damage compared to natural climate variability. Today, climate change continues to increase food and water security, risk human life and health, property loss and damage, and biodiversity deterioration.>> Even though adaptation efforts, if well implemented, have proved to reduce human vulnerability and boost resilience, the most affected persons and areas (MAPAs) today continue to be disproportionately affected.
Amid increased recognition of the intersecting nature of the climate crisis and the need for an integrated approach to the problem, COP27 in Egypt offers a timely opportunity for UNFCCC member states to determine how best they want to meet their climate 1.5 targets. From our Afrikan perspective, the problem is perpetual; a disconnect between policy and action, de-prioritization of climate action and a game of blame between the socio-economic factions (developing and the developed world).
Afrika’s Special Needs and Circumstances
Afrika’s climate challenges are systemic and perpetual- tied to decades of treachery, delayism and neglect. Despite our negligible contribution to the crisis, and stouch commitment to the course, we continue to suffer disproportionately from the climate effects- this, a result of both the actions and inactions of the perpetrators.
Today, the continent is dealing with multiple adverse events simultaneously; heat waves, disease and pests, floods and droughts, food insecurity and wildfires, to mention but a few. At present, high water stress has displaced about 250 million across the continent, with up to 700 million expected to be affected by 2030. Over the past 50 years alone, Afrika has reported over 1000 flood-related disasters.; over half a million lives have been lost in the process, and about US$ 70 billion in development funding have had to be redirected to disaster management. In the process, the continent has been fixed in a perpetual dependency and debt cycle, with only the crises alternating. Yet, throughout, the continent has proved resilient, providing the much-needed climate leadership in the face of calamity. We readily avail resources, manpower and goodwill to facilitate and expedite the climate-resilient transition.
However, this is just but the end of our bargain. On their end, all we get is lengthy COP discussions, characterized by technicalities, delayism and procrastination, even as the region continues to be dragged to an evitable destructive oblivion; at the worst, a climate apartheid regime where the wealthy perpetrators will buy their way out of the crisis while the victims self destruct. This, we MUST never allow happening. May we affirm that no meaningful progress can be achieved while the bargain loop remains open and one-sided? It is incumbent on all parties to play their fair role of the ordinary but differentiated responsibilities if any tangible climate outcomes are to be realized for humanity and the planet.
Negotiations must thus recognize and deliver on the special needs and circumstances Afrika currently is in. As an Afrikan as well as Implementation COP, we continue to see negotiations deliver implementable climate actions for Afrika and the rest of the developing world, prioritizing adaptation, loss and damage, and the much-needed implementation support. We are hopeful COP 27 will adopt a resolution to recognize “Afrika’s Special Needs and Special Circumstances.”
Implementation of Afrika’s climate needs is heavily pegged on financial and international community support, which, at present, is very dismal. COP 27 negotiation and outcomes must deliver grant-based financial resources to enable Afrika to achieve its adaptation targets. Key adaptation goals must be set to fast-track work on the Global Goals on Adaptation (GGA). These goals include but are not limited to eased and streamlined access to more diverse sources of at-scale and predictable finances on reasonable and affordable conditions that will not worsen our already terrible debt crisis.
Other issues are essential to the climate change conversation, such as indigenous knowledge and loss and damage. Indigenous knowledge is relevant to climate change because it encompasses indigenous peoples’ collective wisdom about living in harmony with the environment. Loss and damage refer to those who suffer from climate change-related disasters or impacts and need some compensation or assistance from wealthier countries, which are often responsible for emitting greenhouse gasses. Sustainable development is also an essential aspect of addressing climate change. Many developing countries don’t have access to clean energy sources like fossil fuels due to the lack of infrastructure needed for such projects—thus leading them further into poverty as they struggle with rising temperatures.
As you may know, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty aiming to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Although they have been held annually since 1995, each COP of the UNFCCC has had its unique focus. The 20th Conference of Parties (COP20) was born in Lima, Peru, and focused primarily on short-term goals such as mitigation targets and adaptation efforts. The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), which took place in Paris in December 2015, focused on long-term solutions like sustainable development and indigenous knowledge.
Youth Washing and Tokenism
Youth washing and tokenism are rampant. Youth action and contribution to climate action are being recognized, praised and commended, but very few entities and individuals are willing to fund their work. In every conference or climate nature event, youths and most affected people and areas are invited to speak and share their opinions and ideas, but they are only being heard and not listened to. It is all for the show. The climate circus has gone on for a long time, and as a youth, I can confidently say that I don’t want to be a pawn in someone else’s game. If I am going to be a pawn, it will be in a game of our devising as the citizens of this planet. African youths are hungry and eager for meaningful participation in the climate space. What does COP27 mean to Afrika? Yes, let us ask ourselves this question. Most people are currently holding workshops and discussions to try and answer this question. While that is commendable, it is not enough; we need to engage local communities and hear and listen to what they have to say about COP27 and how they hope to benefit from it.
Like most oil-producing states, Afrika has massive fossil fuel deposits, which, if harnessed, would have gone a long way in fueling socioeconomic development pathways. Kenya, for instance, has vast hydrocarbon and coal reverses at its disposal to elevate it to a strong middle-income economy. However, like most Afrika countries, we continue to see a resolute commitment to investing in green, cleaner energy in an intentional effort to abate pollution. Today, 93% of Kenya’s electric grid is green! Further, the country continues to invest in more green energy options, including plans to produce 10GW of geothermal and 20GW of wind power and the recently signed agreement to kick start green hydrogen production at 30GW. While green energy production opportunities remain vast across Afrika, industrial investment opportunities for these resources from international players significantly lacks. A paradigm shift towards African green energy investment would go a long way in the fast-tracking just energy transition in the continent and beyond.
- Institutional and individual capacity
- Training and awareness creation
- Gender balance and youth participation in Climate Action