COP27 should be all about Climate Justice

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Africa: Innocent bystander hit by climate change bomb.

With less than a week to go before the next climate change summit, COP27, opens at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, it is time to ensure that the agenda is not again hijacked by the developed world. Let this COP27 be all about the host continent, Africa, and the dire need for rendering climate justice to a continent that is at the receiving end of the worst of climate change impacts, though it has had negligible role to play in global warming.

Never in the history of UN’s Climate Change Conference African continent has been so well prepared.  On the eve of the global meet, COP 27, to be held at Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt, in about a week, the delegates from African countries are well set to make difference.  ‘Strategic’ is the word that perfectly describes African-preparation for the 12-day meet from November 6-18. The host country proudly identifies itself as an African country and is determined to make the COP-27 stand apart from other COPs to show that Africa can handle things better, when given an opportunity. Indeed, Africa is land where humanity took birth and survived in the most adverse condition.

COP is one of the myriads of complicated abbreviations used in UN’s climate taxonomy, meaning ‘Conference of Parties’ to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change -UNFCCC. The ‘Parties’ are all the 198 countries in the world that have ratified the UNFCCC. COP serves as the formal meeting of the UNFCCC Parties to assess the progress on agreed goals and targets. It also helps Parties to enhance their targets and provide to the Parties science, technology, and policy related information to agree on policy decisions.

In face of growing criticism from vested interest of the developed countries, mainly due to host continent’s growing focus on increasing extraction of natural gas, particularly in Egypt and Congo, the 53 African countries are determined to make COP 27 a significant success in forging partnerships to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They have reminded the developed countries of their past climate pledges and forgotten promises on funding even in the Pre-COP27 African Climate summit.

Egypt is also being cleverly criticized by the developed world for submitting its NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) very late and not being pro-active for ‘net zero’ pledge. Undeterred, it has very effectively proceeded with determination to unify African countries before COP27 to have a common African agenda in wake of life-threatening impacts of climate change.

Towards that Egypt has set in motion continentwide consultation and common approach that hits nail on the head of climate agenda. In African pre-summit consultations held in the beginning of October in Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt took a stand that COP27, which is 5th COP taking place in African continent, should be ‘implementation-COP’ and not ‘Negotiation-COP’. It is very powerful strategic approach the host country has ever taken recognising that era of discussion on agreed goals is long over and window of opportunity for carbon neutral world is fast closing.

The unity amongst African nations to develop a common strategy for COP27 has been driven by a recognition of the gross climate injustice that the continent has had to face. The dire, distressing, and dreadful facts about Africa are laid out in the section The State of the Climate in Africa 2021 in the report of the World Meteorological Organisation released last month. It reveals the extent of damage that climate change has caused in terms of droughts and flash floods occurring in quick succession, almost at a level of humiliating the Africans. Rainfall patterns are disrupted, glaciers on Mount Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro and Ruwenzori that straddle the border between Uganda and Zaire are disappearing, and key lakes are shrinking.

These have done more to damage the communities and demolish the progress made by them than perhaps even the seemingly never-ending conflicts that have gripped many parts of the continent. In fact, climate change is also stoking fresh conflicts, due to severe shortage of water as well as disputes over cultivable land.

Rising water demand across Africa combined with limited and uncertain  supplies threaten to aggravate local and regional conflicts and displacements. Extreme weather and climate change also harm the human health and threaten food and water security and undo the socio-economic development in Africa. It is not only sub-Saharan region which is often quoted as most severely affected region in the world but even the richer southern tip of Africa  Cape of Good Hope, which now appears to be a queerly enigmatic name, is experiencing in the nearby cities going deadly dry.

Clearly, even though Africa only accounts for about 3-4 pc of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet it suffers disproportionately from the its impacts. The minimal share of emissions of Africa hides the fate of the 75 pc of population in sub-Saharan Africa that lack access to the electricity or piped water. This lack of development has crippled the manufacturing and hence  economic development of Africa.

The story of climate injustice to Africa triggers the thoughts whether such injustice in the modern times could be issue for International Court of Justice in Dan Hague. The story of injustice gets further magnified if one considers high water stress is estimated to affect about 250 million people in Africa and is expected to displace up to 700 million people in the continent by 2030. Four out of five African countries are unlikely to have sustainably managed water resources by 2030. Adverse impacts of climate change would cost Africa USD 50 billion annually by 2050 as per World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). “Water shocks are threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and destabilizing communities, countries and entire regions,” says WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas.

African countries along with all developing countries have already realised that various COP meetings, year after year, have proved to be sham-shows which are nothing more than talking-shops, pledge-factories, and promise-machines. The NDCs by almost every country have been found to be miserably far from what is needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 as per the UNEP annual reports called ‘Emission Gap Reports’ being published annually.  The latest report released on October 27, is titled Closing Window. It calls for the rapid transformation of the societies globally, whatever it means. This is what was expected from implementation of NDCs as per Paris Climate Agreement 7 years back . Sadly, NDCs are now called by some as ‘Non-Deliverable Cuts’ in emissions in the decorative corridors of climate conferences.

In a tweet on October 29, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said “Latest UNEP Emission Gap report makes it clear, we are headed for economy-destroying levels of global heating. We need Climate Action on all fronts and we need it now. We must close emissions gap before catastrophe closes in on us all”.

Egypt, supported by all African countries in the Pre-Cop27 summit,  has called for the need for more funds, specifically mentioning an agreement dating back to COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. It was agreed then that developed countries would provide to developing countries ‘new and additional’ funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation starting from USD 10 billion in 2010 to reach to USD 100 billion in 2020 and then USD 100 billion per year from year 2020.

Bizarrely, the Green Climate Fund has received from 32 developed countries only USD 10 billion as of August 2022, that too in the form of pledges. Such pitiable performance by developed countries  professes nothing but gross failure principle of ‘polluter to pay’ and associated collective responsibility to save the life on the Earth.

Following the call by developing countries, the COP26 in Glasgow UK, noted with regret that developed country parties have not met the USD 100 billion goal annually. The COP also agreed in Glasgow on a ‘Climate Finance Delivery Plan: Meeting the US$100 Billion Goal’ by 2025. African countries have taken a unified position that would like to drive a very clear distinction between Official Development Assistance (ODA) and climate finance.

Congolese Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba, host of the pre-COP 27 summit,  called on developed countries not only to respect past financial pledges but  also to endorse proposals to compensate least developed economies for climate-inflicted damage, under ‘Loss and Damage’ mechanism, which would be yet another priority for African strategy. Article 8 of the Paris Agreement enshrines the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage and the role of sustainable development in reducing the risk of loss and damage. The cost of structural damage caused by natural disasters in Africa will increase to USD 415 billion a year by 2030.

The ‘Loss and Damage’ issue, propounded first by Small Island Countries (SIDs) – another group of countries that have minimal emissions but are facing the prospect of being submerged within this century, is still being deliberated if it is compensation for the damage caused in the developing countries or for the prevention of damage.   Africa looks at it as both since it feels that Loss and Damage is part of climate justice. It also shows that USD 100 billion a year for the developing countries is grossly inadequate considering the cost of loss and damage in the poor countries.

The current Chair of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) on climate change, Ephraim Mwepya Shitima of Zambia, says that another strategy for Africa would be the need to enhance the Adaptation Fund. Though it is agreed to be part of the USD 100 billion per year, the latest IPCC working group report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, highlighted the annual cost of adaptation in developing countries from USD 140 billion to USD 300 billion by 2030. Africa wants to call for adaptation financing to match these figures. The Adaptation Fund completes the third dimension of Climate Justice.

Though collectively well-prepared for COP27, African leaders will  nonetheless face profound challenges when they arrive in Egypt. The world is reeling under recession in post-Covid era and torn due to conflicts and war between Russia and Ukraine. It is next to impossible to get all the funding expected by them from developed countries.

Deputy UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, of Kenyan origin, during the African summit warned that “all indicators on climate are heading in the wrong direction”. COP26 is will be known for promises and pledges. Egypt and rest of Africa wants COP27 to be known as COP for implanting all these pledges. Africa wants to warn developed countries with their own African proverb that ‘A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest’.

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