New Delhi: The Egyptian presidency of the COP27 — the world’s largest annual climate summit — has put the spotlight on Africa and its needs in light of the climate crisis.
The continent is hosting the COP between 6 and 18 November after six years in the coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh, the last one, COP22, was in Morocco.
Despite contributing to just three to seven per cent of the world’s emissions, the African continent bears a “disproportionate” burden of the climate crisis, a 2022 report on the state of Africa’s climate by the World Meteorological Organization found. By 2030, four out of five countries in the continent would be severely water stressed, leading to the displacement of up to 700 million people.
The Egypt presidency has said this COP will focus on implementing the Paris Agreement — the outcomes of which could have a significant impact on the African continent, whose needs to tackle the climate crisis outstrip available resources.
ThePrint spoke to Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, Zambia’s Director of Green Economy and Climate Change and Chair of the African Group Negotiators (AGN) at the COP27, to learn more about what the continent’s expectations are from the negotiations this year.
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Key issues for the AGN
The AGN represents 54 countries. According to Shitima, the most pressing concern is augmenting support for adaptation — activities and finance that will improve climate resilience.
In his own country, Zambia, Shitima said rainfall patterns had shifted dramatically with repercussions in every sector of the economy, since 70 per cent of its population is either directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture.
“We are focusing on practical actions that will translate into alleviating the climate suffering experienced by the people on the African continent. Adaptation is key to that. We have the Global Goal on Adaptation adopted in Glasgow, Scotland, but we’ll be looking for substantive milestone achievement at the COP27 that makes a difference,” he said, adding, “We must make progress, there must be tangible results on the ground in terms of people having the adaptive capacity to address climate change.”
Another key issue will be setting up a loss and damage finance facility — a fund through which developing countries will be repatriated for the unavoidable destruction linked to climate change, for which they are less responsible. In 2022, every part of the continent was affected by extreme weather events.
“Sometimes there is a misunderstanding that Africa in general doesn’t pay sufficient attention to loss and damage. We do,” said Shitima. “Our hope is that we resolve all the outstanding issues on that agenda item, including the financing for loss and damage, resolving the institutional arrangement from the Santiago Network for Loss of Damage, as well as the governance structure,” he added.
The issue of loss and damage finance has been contentious, with developed countries — particularly the U.S. — reluctant to set up a finance facility. Developing countries and civil society groups have insisted the funding for loss and damage be in addition to the current obligations developed countries have on delivering finance for climate adaptation and mitigation.
In 2009, developed countries pledged to deliver $100 billion in climate finance for adaptation and mitigation purposes by 2020, but have failed to do so.
“We’ve done some work in averting [disaster] when you talk about adaptation planning. Of course, adaptation plans haven’t been fully funded for implementation. There is work taking place on minimising, such as risk transfer schemes,” said Shitima, adding, “But what happens when a disaster strikes? Extreme weather events like a hurricane or a tropical storm wipe out the community and the community’s livelihoods. We need a mechanism in place which doesn’t have the bureaucracy of concept papers, development of proposals. We don’t have that time. We need resources that will be made available immediately to address that. And that’s what has been missing and that’s what we think that financing for loss and damage should help address.”
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An “African” COP
Shitima hopes that by virtue of the continent hosting this year’s COP, Africa’s special needs and special circumstances will be recognised. Since the Paris Agreement talks in 2015, the AGN has pushed to include a segment on the continent’s “special needs and circumstances” in the official agenda, which have so far been unsuccessful.
“The IPCC’s sixth assessment report brought up the fact that Africa will be the region to be most impacted by the effects of climate change. And that is the peculiarity that highlights Africa’s special needs,” said Shitima, “But this is by no means exclusive. When we talk of the special needs and special circumstances of Africa, we do not do that at the expense of other needs and other circumstances for other developing countries.”
The Third World Network, an international research and advocacy organisation, reports that the Egyptian presidency has been discussing the matter with other countries to “enable a smooth adoption of the agenda,” the outcome of which is expected during the opening plenary session of the COP27 Sunday.
“Over 600 million people in Africa are not connected to any sort of grid. If you are talking of over 600 million people not connected to the electricity grid, the reality is they will go for carbon intensive energies, even if they want to contribute to the energy transition. We think there is a great opportunity here to scale up renewable energy sources and ensure that we light up Africa,” said Shitima, adding, “We believe the issue of Africa’s special needs and circumstances has reached sufficient maturity to be resolved here in Sharm el-Sheikh, on African soil.”
Keeping the ‘1.5 degree’ goal alive
At the COP26’s conclusion, president Alok Sharma said the 1.5 degree goal had been kept alive, but with “a weak pulse.” The run up to the COP27 has revealed that even the latest pledges will put the world on a path to 2.4 degrees of warming.
“We are not very sure at the moment whether the pulse of 1.5 degrees is even there,” said Shitima, “What would constitute a successful COP, for example, is developed countries taking the lead in addressing mitigation. We [all parties] have a work programme coming up for countries to enhance their 2020 ambitions, but we believe that the pre-2020 ambitions also need to receive that attention.”
Despite being responsible for the fewest emissions, Shitima said developing countries, particularly in Africa, have made ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) “that will result in enormous emissions reductions.” More than 83 per cent of national climate plans in Africa include greenhouse gas reduction targets, says the World Meteorological Organization.
“These goals were premised, and justifiably so, on substantial external support. A number of them are conditional on resources being made available by our partners to help us implement those,” Shitima said.
According to a report by the Climate Policy Initiative, the “continent requires $277 billion annually to implement its NDCs and meet 2030 climate goals. But, annual climate finance flows in Africa stand at only $30 billion.”
“Effective implementation of the NDCs that we have now is key to probably increasing the pulse of the 1.5 degree goal,” said Shitima.
(The report has been corrected to refelct the correct dates of COP27 and Shitima’s designation)
(Edited by Theres Sudeep)