Africa optimistic as COP27 offers bright outlook and opportunities

Civil society members calling for balance between funds that go to mitigation & adaptation

By Tony Malesi
Published: Thursday 10 November 2022
Children who have dropped out of school to join their parents in search of food and water in Northern Kenya, which is experiencing prolonged droughts. Photo: Tony Malesi

World leaders and policymakers are meeting in Egypt for the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The fact that the summit is taking place on African soil has given residents of the continent, the worst-hit victims of climate vagaries, high hopes that urgent issues like climate financing will be at the centre of discussions.

The conference comes at a time when Africa is facing prolonged droughts, food insecurity, high energy cost and disasters like floods. The residents are happy that, in these circumstances, the climate agenda will be highlighted comprehensively at COP27. 

Wycliffe Osundwa, a small-scale farmer from Kenya, said: 

Agriculture, especially crop farming, was never a trial and error affair due to failing rains. As droughts ravage some places, unusually high rainfall overrun others. 

“This meeting should provide tangible solutions and compensation for the losses,” added Osundwa, who has abandoned crop farming and switched to beekeeping.

The latest United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Adaptation Gap Report highlighted the sad state of affairs and the impending danger that the continent faces.

Africa has contributed negligibly to the changing climate, with just about two to three per cent of global emissions, the report noted. “But it stands out disproportionately as the most vulnerable region in the world.”

The African Development Bank, one of the biggest funders of climate mitigation efforts across Africa and headquartered in Ivory Coast / West Africa, detailed how the continent loses up to an average of $15 billion annually to climate crises.

“The figure is expected to hit $50 billion a year by 2030 if no appropriate mitigation efforts are put in place,” the bank said in a statement.

A section of experts and climate activists from Africa, however, are optimistic and hopeful that this year's conference, which some described as "Africa's COP", will be a game-changer because it's a mega opportunity to highlight the continent's unique needs and dire circumstances.

Amid unmet climate commitments, energy and food supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the current chair of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) on climate change, Ephraim Mwepya Shitima of Zambia is happy that the continent's priorities are already taking centre stage at the summit. 

"The Russia-Ukraine conflict is a setback to Africa's climate agenda. It diverts the continent’s attention from climate obligations to food supply chain resilience. But we will not allow a geopolitical situation to lower our expectations," said Mwepya, the lead negotiator, in a statement to the press.

COP27 could also advance the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) implementation, including adaptation and mitigation efforts and delivering necessary finance to enhance implementation, he added.

"Besides new agenda like push for a dedicated loss and damage facility, some of our agenda items are from previous summits and we plan to reiterate them,” he said, adding: 

For example, we will push for delivery of the $100 billion a year by 2020 promise that was not met by developed nations.

Africa has high hopes from COP27, partly because it is the fifth to be held on African soil, said the executive director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), Mithika Mwenda from Kenya. PACJA is a powerful consortium of over 1,000 organisations from 48 African countries and is very vocal in the fight against climate change.

“Despite the summit being christened 'the African COP', the African civil society wants to qualify it to be the ordinary Africans’ COP. This is because we want the issues that are pertinent to Africa to be abundantly articulated throughout the 11 themed days,” he says.

The activists and members of civil society are calling for a balance between funds that go to mitigation and adaptation, especially after a statement released by the Global Center on Adaptation showed that only 7 per cent of the funds go towards climate adaptation.

Climate change is likely to cost $579 billion by 2030, with a big chunk of the global finance skewed toward mitigation, according to the report. “Only 7.2 per cent of global climate finance goes to adaptation efforts.”

During the opening of the COP27 summit on Sunday, delegates agreed to include the contentious issue of loss and damage on the agenda. As expected, this will generate a heated debate and probably be the biggest highlight of the two-week meeting. 

One challenge African parties face in the negotiations is the inability to quantify intangible loss and damage such as deaths, loss of livelihoods or cultures due to displacements for financial compensation.

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