Solidarity key to halting climate change impacts in Africa

Source: Solidarity key to halting climate change impacts in Africa | The Herald December 16, 2019

Solidarity key to halting climate change impacts in Africa

Jeffrey Gogo
Since 2011, African climate diplomats, Government ministers, activists and journalists have met on the sidelines of the annual UN climate change summit to rally support for the continent’s cause, often relegated to the backwaters in negotiations dominated and monopolised by wealthy Western countries.

The meeting occurs on a special day aptly called “Africa Day” mirroring the May 25 continental public holiday, which commemorates Africa’s long-drawn independence from colonial servitude.

At the Madrid leg of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25), which ended in the Spanish capital on Friday (December 13), the Africa Day meeting resolved that the continent’s future regarding climate change in and outside global negotiations “depends on solidarity”.

Leaders and development partners called for a united front to tackle the challenges of climate change in Africa, according to a press statement released by the African Development Bank (AfDB)

Yasmin Fouad, Egypt’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, on behalf of the African Union, expressed disappointment that issues pertinent to Africa’s development had not received due recognition.

“We have, and will continue to engage and to seek landing grounds on the outstanding issues,” she said, in her opening statement.

“But we must flag our concern at the apparent reluctance by our interlocutors to engage on issues of priority to developing countries, as evidenced by the large number of such issues which have simply been pushed from session to session without any progress,” Fouad added.

Africa contributes the least to global warming emissions – accounting for under five percent of the global emissions total – yet the continent if the most vulnerable to climate change. Repeat extreme events like drought and flooding have become commonplace in a continent where about 70 percent of the population is directly dependent on agriculture.

Future models predict temperature increase in sub-Saharan Africa to tip the scales at 6 degrees Celsius by the end of this century – a rise which is much faster than the global average. According to the UN expert panel on climate change, rainfall will decline sharply across Southern Africa and hot days and droughts will become frequent.

As a result, food security will be threatened, water stress worsens and adaptive capacity compromised. Zimbabwe is expected to suffer yield declines in excess of 30 percent by 2050, according to the panel’s study.

Against this background, Africa is keen to see measurable progress around climate finance, adaptation, mitigation, damage and loss and technology transfer. But the global climate talks, which are progressing under the guiding force of the Paris Agreement, have been disappointingly slow, and often with disregard for Africa’s priority areas.

“The climate disaster issues confronting the continent demand a predictable and unified response,” said Mohamed Beavogui, director general of African Risk Capacity, an agency of the African Union that helps governments respond to natural disasters.

“Africa needs to move towards market-based innovative financing models to achieve a strong, united, resilient and globally influential continent. The future of Africa depends on solidarity.”

The African Risk Capacity has become pivotal to restoring economies and livelihoods ravaged by climate change.

Since its formation in 2012, the agency has provided up to US$400 million in drought risk coverage and nearly US$37 million in insurance payouts, helping to support 2,1 million people exposed to various disasters.

These financial resources have nothing to do with the $100 billion per-year pledged by rich countries under the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to help developing nations cope with climate change.

Since it was announced a few years ago, the pledge has turned out to be a trickle which has seldom found its way to Africa, thanks in part to the GCF’s strict fiduciary standards, built to keep the poorest of borrowers away.

The GCF has extended about US$12 million to Zimbabwe for climate resilience since 2016.

Zimbabwe’s Chief Fortune Charumbira, vice president of the Pan-African Parliament, told the Africa Day meeting in Madrid that robust climate legislation was key.

“The world’s response to the challenge has shown that legislation is imperative to cement efforts employed by various stakeholders; from the Paris Agreement to Nationally Determined Contributions,” he said.

Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said the ECA would support African countries to revise their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – voluntary mitigation and adaptation goals – to attract private sector investments in clean energy.

“The lack of concerted and meaningful global ambition and action to tackle climate change poses an existential threat to African populations,” Songwe said.

The Paris Agreement calls on nations to curb temperature increase at 2°C by the end of this century, while attempting to contain rises within 1.5°C. The next step is to implement NDCs, which set out national targets under the Paris Treaty.

While African countries outlined bold aspirations to build climate resilient and low-carbon economies in their NDCs, the continent’s position is that it should not be treated the same as developed nations as its carbon emissions constitute a fraction of the world’s big economies.

Barbara Creecy, South Africa’s Environment Minister and current chair of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, said the Africa Day event should come up with new ideas to enhance the implementation of NDCs in Africa.

Africa is already responding positively to the challenge of climate change, said Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank, citing huge investment interest in renewables at the Bank’s Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg.

“Clearly, we are a continent that has what it takes to create the Africa that we want to see happen.

“I believe what has been the missing link is the ability to brand right and to act on the market signals,” Nyong said.

“We continue to present Africa as a vulnerable case and not as a business case with opportunities. In fact, where we have attempted the latter, the results have been spot-on,” he added.

When COP25 ended in Spain last Friday, it was apparent that the negotiations had, once again, failed to rise to the expectation of the scale of action and urgency needed to contain the dangerous impacts of climate change in Africa as is demanded by science.

God is faithful.