Africa’s big chance to make case for sustainable climate financing

Africa’s big chance to make case for sustainable climate financing

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The world’s focus on biodiversity, climate change and desertification, first seen at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, has expanded significantly as the global effects of climate change have become more obvious and global temperatures have increased each decade since.

This “Conference of the Parties” now meets annually to discuss how to jointly address climate change and its impacts. This November, world leaders, ministers, negotiators and civil society and business leaders will meet again in Egypt, 30 years after the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was first adopted. With the past meetings’ detractors having warned of a discrepancy between dialogue and action, this year’s strapline is “Together for Implementation.” Within this context, sustainable finance must be a key pillar as the world seeks solutions to keep the rise in the global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius and to adapt to climate change.

All of the UN Sustainable Development Goals require financial support and investment. And almost all countries around the world committed to align finance flows with “a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development” under the Paris Agreement of 2015, which was the first legally binding global treaty on climate change.

The Paris gathering recognized that only individual countries could decide on their rate of reduction of national emissions, taking into account the scale of the threat posed to them by climate change and their varying levels of prosperity. Subsequent studies continue to show the inequity in national climate histories of rich nations having benefited from the very pollutants that harm poorer ones. And there is no doubt that damage from increasingly extreme weather events is falling especially hard on developing countries, even though they have contributed the least to climate change.

How these effects, which the UN labels “loss and damage,” can be compensated for and how developing countries can be supported to invest in renewable energy and the infrastructure needed to mitigate extreme weather must feature highly at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh.

It will be important for African countries to make the most of COP27 to draw attention to their acute challenges concerning climate change

Zaid M. Belbagi

At Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries agreed to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 in climate finance. Though $83 billion has been made available, such investment is not always integrated into national policy or deployed in sustainable projects. The sporadic nature of the financing also prohibits developing countries from including such projects in an overall strategy, making wealthy donors lukewarm about the prospect of further investment.

According to Dr. Amiera Sawas, director of programs and research at Climate Outreach, “the focus of COP is all about implementation and how to set the target for a new collective quantified goal for climate finance post-2025.” She added: “However, civil society organizations and Southern governments will also have cases to make for loss and damage finance, in addition to the $100 billion Copenhagen goal. Part of the implementation is the regulation and accountability of industry against national emissions reduction targets and adaptation plans. None of which can be enforced without governments leading the way in setting standards and providing support and incentives.”

Nowhere is this challenge more pertinent than in Africa, where the Sustainable Development Goals are significantly off track following the pandemic and the subsequent global economic challenges. It is therefore incredibly apt that the upcoming summit is being billed as “Africa’s COP.”

At the center of both extreme weather patterns and slow onset climatic processes like sea level rises, desertification and salinization, it is not surprising that African nations are pushing for firm commitments on climate finance. Meeting recently in Cairo, African finance ministers called for a sharp expansion of climate financing for their continent, while pushing back against an abrupt move away from fossil fuels.

The ministerial communique that reinforced the African position ahead of COP27 called for rich countries to meet and expand climate pledges, while also allowing poorer nations to develop economically and simultaneously receive more funds to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The urgency of this challenge was reiterated in a recent report by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, after which Bill Gates urged wealthy nations to further support Africa amid the twin challenges of famine and climate change.

With just over a month until the gathering in Egypt begins, it will be important for African countries to make the most of this event to draw attention to their acute challenges concerning climate change. The key focus is likely to be an emphasis on gas as a transitional energy source, thereby allowing African countries to exploit their resources, while simultaneously investing in renewable projects.

Significantly, African countries must make the case for greater climate finance, discouraging donor countries from claiming the sum of their aid to Africa as such, even when it is not related to climate change and does not allow African countries to meet their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement.

The upcoming summit is therefore a real opportunity for African countries, alongside others, to make the case for sustainable financing to meet the challenges of climate change and to avoid any further delays to 2030 objectives, which would result in increased poverty, disease, displacement and conflict.

Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator and an adviser to private clients between London and the GCC. Twitter: @Moulay_Zaid

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