By Dr. Yakubu Wudil and Umar F. Ahmad
As we head into the second week of the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which started on November 6, delegates and observers have been involved in discussions on various subjects regarding how to achieve climate action and build sustainable economies around the world. Therefore, taking a step back and reviewing some of the successes and drawbacks recorded based on the first week of the climate negotiation conference is essential.
COP27 is taking place, knowing fully that there is an inadequate will to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The past year has witnessed unprecedented heatwaves around the world and ravaging floods like the ones experienced in Pakistan and some parts of Nigeria. These saw millions of people confronting the impacts of concurrent crises in food, water, energy, and cost of living, worsened by fierce geopolitical tensions and conflicts. However, with all these adverse effects, some countries have reversed climate policies and returned to business as usual. This, in turn, poses a threat to the host continent, which remains vulnerable to the effects of climate change and has contributed the least to global warming.
The African Union (AU) marked the second day of the conference as ‘Africa Day.’ Africa Day offered the African Development Bank (AFDB) and countries, including development partners, the opportunity to pinpoint measures that can guide them in tapping the continent’s unique economic potential. However, a caution was raised by the AFDB president Akinwumi Adesina, “even with Africa’s unique and vast arable land, we cannot unlock our agricultural potential unless we adapt to climate change.”
A youth leader, Lucky Abeng, made it clear to the AU to ensure that the conference implements decisions reached at the meetings without further delay. The Global Center for Adaptation and the African Union Commission signed a memorandum of understanding that involves the mobilization of at least $25 billion for the African Adaptation Acceleration Program over five years. This will quickly prepare the continent for the consequences of climate change.
The national statement delivered by the President of Senegal made it clear that Africa is reaffirming its commitments under the Paris Agreement and its obligations to the continent’s specific needs being taken into account. “What we need is a just transition,” he further stressed. While these statements were ongoing, there happens to be a big climate financing for the African continent. Starting with the commitment made by a group of about 85 African insurers to come up with a facility that will climate-proof the most vulnerable in the continent known as the African Climate Risk Facility (ACRF). This commitment will provide $1.4 billion in climate risk insurance to protect 1.4 billion people against droughts, floods, and cyclones through African sovereigns, NGOs, and aid agencies. These measures will contribute to bridging the wide climate risk gap on the continent exerted by wealthy nations for compensation due to ‘loss and damage’ caused by global warming.
On decarbonization day, Africa’s renewable energy share is 40%, the highest in the world, says Amani, the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union. She added that the “African common position on energy access and just transition stipulates that Africa will continue to use its resources, including oil and gas, the cleanest form of fossil fuels.”
However, even with fossil fuels, the recent Russia-Ukraine war has exposed the world’s lack of preparedness to meet its energy challenges. These challenges have sparked present-day political debate due to scientific and public concerns about the environment. Consequently, the recent effort by Germany to restart its previously shut downed three nuclear power plants has made the world reconsider its position regarding nuclear power.
The African continent should be looking towards deploying all low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear, in the energy mix. Complementing renewables such as solar and wind, which are intermittent sources of energy, nuclear energy requires less land to generate the same amount of electricity 24 hours a day.
The President of the United States (U.S), Joe Biden, echoed that “the climate crisis is about human security, economic security, environmental security, national security, and the very life of the planet.” He further announced bolder protections against methane pollution from the oil and gas industry and that the U.S. will meet its emissions target by 2030.
The European Union announced its goal of becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and is set to host a high-level event in the second week of the conference to launch an initiative called ‘Team Europe Initiative on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in Africa.’ Consequently, a recent article by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, reported that “many of my peers are frustrated with Western hypocrisy and its inability to take responsibility.” He argued that governments have repeatedly failed to honour their commitments to the $100 billion fund for climate adaptation and mitigation in the developing world. Some also cite this as his decision to shun this year’s event.
Interestingly, the African continent sends many delegates to these summits. Still, there has been noticeable silence from leading African activists on turning ambition into action. This may be attributed to the no active role participation assigned to these delegates but rather appointed as observers viewing these proceedings on a TV screen.
Meanwhile, other African delegates seem to not care about the continent they are representing, however, and sadly, become ‘attack dogs’ for African governments in lobbying for ‘Climate Financing’ reparations and are being sponsored by their governments to attend these summits. The UN Environment states that Africa needs 3 trillion US Dollars to implement the continent’s National Determined Contributions (NDCs), but the question remains whether the national budget of African governments is considered a climate action instrument or whether they are utilizing their available resources to build climate-smart communities. In the remaining days of the conference, the delegates and observers from African nations need to look within the continent and work together as there are saviours out there.
Mr Umar Ahmad is a nuclear physicist working with the Centre for Renewable Energy Research at Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org). Dr Yakubu Wudil is with the Renewable Energy Research Center, KFUPM, Saudi Arabia. (email@example.com)