South Africa, like many other countries in the world, still uses coal to power its economy, but now the country wants to become a low carbon economy and a climate-resilient society and to do so, it has announced a major U.S.$8.2 billion deal with Europe and the US.
This deal makes South Africa the only African country to have come out of COP26 with a tangible, actionable and financed plan to make it climate change resilient. The energy embattled country has signed the deal with all the big boys, the UK, the U.S., Germany, France and the European Union.
The pact is considered the first of its kind, where the so-called ‘Global North Countries’ are funding a ‘Global South Country’ to transition to renewable energy. Granted in this case there is the interest in coal since South Africa is heavily reliant on coal and so the deal is considered a model of how to end reliance on coal.
Nonetheless, the key point here is large funding from the North, the countries responsible for climate change, to the South, the countries ‘paying’ for the aftermath. As mentioned, other than South Africa, few other African countries can boast of any tangible deal to help them become climate-resilient.
“Countries of the global South, which are already facing the worst impacts of the climate emergency, have expressed their deep disappointment about how the COP26 talks have unfolded,” writes
At the COP26, it is Guinea, that represented developing nations, and as representative Guinea has expressed extreme disappointment at the outcome of the climate change summit. Bluntly speaking, the COP26 did not hold the Global North accountable for failing not only to reduce their carbon footprint but for not seeing through their promised funding to the Global South.
Other than the South African deal, the best Africa came out of the talks with was a promise for more talks, once every year. Admittedly the annual talks are said to be dialogue on funding activities to avert, minimise and address loss and damage.
Even though the summit admitted that “climate change has already caused and will increasingly cause loss and damage and as temperatures rise, will pose an ever-greater social, economic and environmental threat,” the admission did not result in it tangible action, except of course for the promise of more talks next year.
I say that is just too little, too late, but don’t listen to me, though a resident of one of the most affected African countries, lets listen to the experts. Here is what the Senior Advisor with Climate Action Network International, Harjeet Singh had to say about the no new deal and promise for talks.
“Even though the Glasgow outcome did at least recognise the rising costs of losses and damage in developing countries. But the failure to put a fund in place to help poorer nations pay those costs means we are walking in inches when we must move in miles.”
We are walking when we should be running, we are covering inches where we should be leaping miles, again too little too late.
Here, maybe this will help put things into perspective: Consider the Lake Chad Basin, according to the UN has shrunk 90% since the 1960s because of drought wrought upon it by climate change.
As a sub-Saharan tropical country, Tanzania in E. Africa gets two rainfall seasons Sep-Nov and April-June. Even as I write this article, this is the short rains season but the country is under siege with a heatwave that none can remember ever occurring.
It is during these two seasons that the country cultivates its food, which in many cases, even on good rain years is not sufficient to feed its 60 million-plus people. So to lose an entire rain season is devastating and even that is an understatement when you consider the fact that over 80 percent of the country are peasant farmers who farm for substantial needs, millions are doomed to famine come Christmas.
It goes without saying, with so much damage already incurred over the last decade alone, it was prudent that actual deals, like the South African one, would be signed with each nation or rather with the African Union and in turn disbursement to each nation through the Africa Development Bank.
Every nation in Africa has its priorities and has suffered climate change impact on varying degrees and in different areas. Some countries have suffered flooding while others have a drought. Each country has its own climate change resilience action plan and that would be submitted to the AfDB for funding.
However, like Guinea, the African representative expressed, the summit gave Africa only a promise of talks about funding. It is not surprising though, because already the United States, the European Union and other rich nations have expressed their reservations to the creation of a damages fund for Global South nations.
It is not all doom and gloom, on a positive note, Ani Dasgupta, President of the World Resources Institute, which is a U.S. based think tank, acknowledged that at least the Global North had, “…finally put the critical issue of loss and damage squarely on the main stage.”
However, even the positive and hopeful Dasgupta admits that this ‘acknowledgement’ by the Global North is far from enough, “…to meet the needs of vulnerable countries, it is essential that the dialogues established in Glasgow be more than talk and result in recommendations on the scale of funding necessary,” he admitted.
Notably, though, there was a commendable paradigm shift by the United States which has ever been reluctant to agree that industrialised countries, the source of high levels of carbon pollution, should lead funding of other countries for damage caused to support their climate resilience efforts.
Yet the fact remains, the Global North can no longer dillydally with climate change action, the need for funding for climate change resilience is now and even now is late, so action must be swift, far bearing and long term.
A Broken Promise: Will Global North Ever Fund the South?
Here is a recap of the situation. The talks for funding to support the Global South to become climate change resilient have been on the table for decades. Consider this, during the United Nations climate summit some twelve years ago in Copenhagen, the Global North nations pledged funding to the South.
At that sit-down, they pledged $100 billion annually to the Global South, the less wealthy nations and they pledged to do this every year until 2020. The funding was meant to help the South adapt to climate change and mitigate further rises in temperature.
Twelve years later, the UN secretary-general António Guterres admits, “We are not there yet,” or more bluntly, the funding promise was never upheld for over a decade. In fact a UN report released last year concluded that the $100-billion target is out of reach.
Just before the COP26 in Glasgow, the Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka, Saleemul Huq had this to say; “By the time we get to Glasgow, if they haven’t given us another $100 billion [for 2021], then they are completely unable to meet their obligations.”
Well Glasgow came and left, all that was given of the $100 billion was a promise for more talks next year. If it is any consolation the talks will at least be held in Africa this time around, if we count Egypt as part of Africa that is.