The meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of this year (the COP27) has been celebrated during the last days in african soilin Egypt. Although this could be seen as something positive for the interests of the continent, different international organizations defending human rights such as International Amnesty Y Human Rights Watch They have been very critical of the legitimacy of the host country to organize this event.
Africa in the face of climate change
The African continent It brings together many of the countries that suffer most intensely from the consequences of climate change. Although its impacts vary in intensity from one region to another, they are considered deep and severe. They cover different dimensions such as food, water availability, Healththe migrationsbiodiversity and ability to generate income.
More than half of the continent’s labor force is employed in the agricultural sectorand practically all the cultivated lands depend directly or indirectly on the rain. In this context, the United Nations estimates that since 1961 agricultural productivity in Africa has fallen by a third due to circumstances attributable to the increase in temperatures.
Thus, increasingly frequent and intense phenomena such as droughts have a high impact on important segments of the rural population. and in the cities the proliferation of informal settlements without basic services increases the vulnerability of its inhabitants to episodes of water scarcity, extreme heat and floods.
A fair distribution of responsibilities?
However, Africa is the region of the world that has contributed the least to the creation of climate change. In estimates of total CO₂ emissions (mainly responsible for global warming) between 1750 and 2021, Africa’s contribution stands at 3%, while that of the US is 25%, that of the European Union a 17% and that of the United Kingdom 5%.
If instead of the historical CO₂ emissions we observe the trend of recent yearswe will also see that the contribution of Africa continues to be minimal in relation to the emissions of the global North and China.
The contrast between the impacts of climate change and the share of global greenhouse gas emissions are the main argument for requiring high-income countries a fair distribution of responsibilities. Hence statements such as those of the United States special presidential envoy for climate john kerry on September 15 in Dakar, in which he assured that the “Mother Nature does not care where the emissions come from”They have created quite a stir.
In the African context, prioritizing policies to reduce CO₂ emissions as insisted on by the governments of the global north does not necessarily play in favor of the continent’s development agenda. This is a new example of how developed countries apply a double talk. On the one hand, they discourage the personal use of existing energy sources in Africaand on the other, they continue to increase the consumption of fossil fuels in their economies.
Let us remember that within 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015, the 7.1 points out that by 2030 it is necessary to “guarantee universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services”. Today, more than 500 million Africans do not have access to electricity. To guarantee this right in Africa, it must be possible to develop energy services with its own natural resources, although in the short term, and on the way to the necessary energy transition in the medium and long term, this means an increase in CO₂ emissions. In addition, the drive towards industrialization on the continent will also necessarily require greater use of energy resources in the near future.
Not enough financial resources
The new climatic conditions in Africa require a deployment of adaptation policies that require abundant financing. The same is true for the adoption of energy technologies based on renewable sources such as wind or solar. All of this has led to one of the star themes in the successive COPs being the mobilization of financial resources for these policies.
In the COP15 in Copenhagen (2009) the Green Climate Fund was launched, called to channel financial contributions from rich countries to countries of the global south. Although this is not the only fund explicitly oriented towards the fight against climate change, it is the one that has brought together the most funding, both globally and for the African continent.
The initial goal was for this fund to reach $100 billion annually by 2020 and to remain at that level. Confirming the less optimistic forecasts, the fund missed its target in 2020, remaining at 83.3 billion. On the other hand, it is estimated that only 26% of the total of these resources has been allocated to mitigation and adaptation projects in Africa in recent years.
The Paris Agreement (COP21) of 2015 included an agreement for the creation of a specific financial fund for loss and damage. This fund would be used to repair damages caused by extreme weather events such as cyclones, droughts or floods, attributable to global warming. None of this has materialized so far, despite the claims of the governments of the global south.
However, in the Glasgow COP26 (2021) the door was opened to the negotiation for its implementation, and in this COP27 it has formed part of the agenda and debates. The negotiation during the conference has advanced and there is even a text draft. However, given the resistance shown by the great economic powers, reaching an agreement on this issue is not proving easy.
Mitigation, adaptation and development
In the African case, different recent episodes, such as the destruction caused in 2019 by the passage of the cyclone Idai in Beira (Mozambique) or the extreme drought that has been observed for fifth consecutive year in the Horn of Africaand which is putting the food security of millions of people at serious risk, illustrates the urgency of activating financial commitments that are complementary to those already existing in terms of mitigation and adaptation.
The recognition of differentiated responsibilities in climate change must lead, first of all, to ensuring broad and sustained financing that allows the implementation of mitigation, adaptation and repair policies in Africa up to the challenge facing the continent.
Secondly, the medium and long-term commitments of African countries in terms of mitigation must be compatible with the universal access of their inhabitants to energy, and with the incipient processes of industrialization underway on the continent.
All this has been discussed and negotiated these days in the Sharm el-Sheikh COP27. Despite everything, it would not be surprising if there were no big announcements or far-reaching commitments that contribute to improving climate justice globally and with regard to Africa in particular. If that were the case, it would be sad to think that the conference has only served to highlight once again the great contradictions, inconsistencies and urgency that climate change confronts us with. Because, in the meantime, whether world leaders want to hear it or not, the tick-tock of the climate emergency will continue to echo.
This article is adapted from the letter of the Study Group of the Transformations of the World Economy of the UAM entitled ‘Africa in the face of climate change: between the effects, public policies and global environmental justice’ and written by the authors.
Artur Colom JaenAssociate Professor of World Economics, University of Barcelona and Eduardo Bidaurratzaga AurreFull Professor of the Department of Applied Economics, University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea
This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.