COP 27 is just a month away.
This convocation of global leaders from politics and business takes place annually and it has brought matters around climate finance sharply into focus.
Memories of COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland beckon. COP 26 took place last year at it was at the climate conscious convention that calls for net zero grew louder and louder from all spheres of society right from political leaders to business leaders and environmental activists.
- COP 27 will be held in Africa, specifically in Egypt, in November this year. Billed the Conference of Parties 27 or COP 27, it is an annual conference on climate change hosted by the United Nations.
- Climate change is wreaking havoc on the world through erratic weather patterns. COP 27 is where government leaders and business executives will reaffirm their commitment to reducing carbon emissions and reach net zero.
- That the COP 27 UN Climate Change conference will be held in an African Country is especially symbolic given the pledges that wealthier countries have made.
The message was clear from COP 26, we all need to make a collective effort to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our collective footprint. The target developed during the conference is straightforward. Temperatures need to reduce by 1.5 degrees. This, it was reasoned, will mitigate the threat of the existential crisis humanity faces from rising global temperatures and the natural disasters that have ensued.
The calls for concrete, concomitant, and substantive actions against carbon emissions are not an exaggeration. The effects of climate change are obvious, even for the casual observer to see. Presently a devastating hurricane, Ian has made landfall on the United States coast of Florida. The tropical storm which tore through Cuba and made landfall in the United States a day ago has reportedly left an estimated 2.5 million people without electricity.
NBC News called hurricane Ian one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the United States. The hurricane it is said, has caused devastation and flooding that has left residents of Miami and Florida trapped in their homes. Hurricane Ian has been described as a category 4 hurricane with speeds of as much as 150 miles per hour or 240 kilometres per hour. Speeds like that make such a storm a threat to life and property. President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster in Florida and ordered that Federal assistance be rendered to the state efforts.
There have been reports that the polar ice caps are melting at a rapid pace and may no longer exist in this current generation. There have also been media warnings that should this eventuality become inevitable, then the low-lying parts of Denmark and surrounding countries could be submerged under water. The impact of climate change has not spared the African continent. It must be said that the impact of climate change is more devastating in Africa.
The devasting effect of climate change through erratic weather patterns is especially severe in Africa.
This is because in Africa natural disasters tend to have pointed economic effects. This stems from the fact that countries that make up the continent of Africa are still largely low-income and vulnerable to shocks caused by erratic weather patterns to infrastructure and to agriculture. Erratic weather patterns destroy infrastructure which in most cases is already scant and they also destroy crops leaving citizens of countries food insecure and economically ruined.
- The impact of climate finance will also be in sharp focus at COP 27. Specifically, the US$ 100 billion annual pledge made by advanced economies to assist low-income countries in transition to renewable energy sources.
- COP 26 is where this commitment to fund low-income countries was made. This pledge remains largely unmet. At Cop 27, this pledge will likely be in discussed further.
The case of Cuba’s experience with hurricane Ian stands out. The island nation which is off the United States coast of Miami bore the brunt of hurricane Ian’s fury. The country’s rickety power infrastructure has been ravaged leaving most if not all parts of the country without power. Tragically the people of Cuba have little hope of getting their power restored as this will require substantial capital expenditures to repair the broken and antiquated infrastructure.
Reports have emerged from the island country that businesses in the tourism sector are already starting to feel the pinch of the disaster. Restaurant owners and residents of affected areas have had to see their food stocks go bad because of the power outages and the inability to trade.
Cuba is a microcosm of what Africa would experience if a natural disaster on the same scale and magnitude of hurricane Ian were to occur on the continent. The devastation would go beyond physical damage to an economic and health crisis.
Africa has its own precedents on the unmitigated impact of natural disasters resulting from climate change. The floods that took place earlier in 2022 in the coastal province of KwaZulu Natal in Durban are a case in point. The floods destroyed land, buildings, and life. The only saving grace in the case of South Africa is that the country was in a position financially to meet the costs of the natural disaster and repair the damage to infrastructure. Its northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, is not as fortunate. Its eastern highlands province of Manicaland suffered extensive damage to land and property from cyclone Idai in 2019, and the cash-strapped government could not do much to for its citizens without humanitarian assistance.
The cases of South Africa and Zimbabwe show two things. The first and most glaring fact is that Africa cannot afford to ignore the effects of climate change because they affect the continent more severely. The second fact is that Africa is not responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint that has led to rising temperatures and the resultant erratic weather patterns.
- Africa has a low carbon footprint regarding climate change compared to the United States and China.
- Climate finance ever since COP 26 has been growing in significance as funding moves away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
The countries with the largest emissions of greenhouse gases are the United States and China. What these countries have in common also is that they are advanced and industrialized countries. They are also leading the charge in the transition to renewable energy.
They can withstand a natural disaster or natural disasters on account of their vast financial resources. Africa cannot do that. This conundrum presents a painful dilemma for Africa. Should the continent remain resolute in asserting its right to development by continuing the use of fossil fuels to power its respective economies and to generate an income or should it join the international efforts to transition to renewable energy which is costly and which it honestly cannot afford?
This should be a priority on the COP 27 agenda. This year’s bill of the climate conference will be held in the Arab Republic of Egypt. At COP 26 leading multinational companies announced their intentions to reach net zero target emissions and their commitment to environmental, social, and governance principles. Most notably, global mining and resources companies announced their plans to exit their fossil fuel businesses lock, stock and barrel. This undoubtedly improved their green credentials but did little to stop the resurgent tide of fossil fuels. This is partly thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting increase in oil, gas, and coal prices. Fossil fuels are not going out just like that and at least not without a fight.
Global volatility and geopolitics have shown how impractical it is to expect the transition to renewable energy to be instant. This transition will be gradual and slowly gradual for that matter.
Other commitments made at COP 27 that need to be revisited include moving away from fossil fuel to renewables by finance. This resolution began a trend that continued into 2022 which saw an increasing number of financiers moving their funds to sponsor renewable projects and discontinuation of financing of fossil fuel projects. Perhaps the biggest highlight of COP 26 which will probably feature in this year’s bill of the climate conference will be the pledge that advanced nations made in 2021 to provide financial support to developing economies to aid their transition to renewables. The number was said to be US$ 100 billion. This pledge one year later remains largely unmet. This failure has made certain circles in Africa skeptical of the sincerity of advanced nations in aiding the African continent.