Climate issues at COP26: Key issues for Africa

– Chukwumerije Okereke

The UN COP26, where critical decisions will be made that will shape the future of climate governance, is currently taking place in Glasgow. As the continent least responsible and yet most vulnerable to climate change, African governments cannot afford to be complacent about the need for strong negotiating positions and astute diplomacy in order to secure good results of the UN meeting. Among the many negotiating issues affecting Africa, climate finance is high on the agenda.
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We are aware that several months of pressure from climate advocates culminated in major pledges of climate finance from world leaders at the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) which recently concluded in New York. US President Joe Biden doubled the US government’s climate finance pledge from $5.7 billion to $11.4 billion a year by 2024 and pledged “a new era of relentless diplomacy” of using the power of American development assistance to uplift people around the world. Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom (UK) touted his country’s £11.1 billion pledge made to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last year and said the UK would be open to increasing its commitment to climate finance at COP26. For his part, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to end overseas coal funding and indicated that China would instead increase its funding for clean energy around the world.

But while these new financial commitments are laudable, it is important that African leaders are not naïve or ignorant of a host of pending issues on climate finance at COP26, the outcome of which can either accelerate or hinder sustainable development. and resilient to Africa’s climate change. .
Here are some of the reviews:

1. The issue of adequacy

For a long time, rich countries have treated the $100 billion climate finance commitment to developing countries as a lofty goal, the achievement of which will absolve them of their climate justice responsibilities. The reality, however, is that the $100 billion pledged by rich countries is actually a tiny drop from what climate change costs and will cost developing countries. A study by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), now part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), indicates that the cost of climate change to Nigeria was around $100 billion by 2020 and could reach $460 billion per year. year by 2050.

According to official figures, the 2012 floods in Nigeria cost the country around $16 billion in direct and indirect damage. The cost of much larger subsequent incidents since 2013 has not been calculated. The World Bank calculates that the cost of Cyclone Idai which devastated Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in 2019 was $2 billion. These are just a few examples. So while rich countries are still far from reaching the $100 billion a year target, even with the new pledges, the truth is that the cost of climate change to Africa alone is trillions of dollars a year and many times over if you include the cost of climate change on the rest of the world’s developing countries. So while the euphoria that greeted the new climate change pledges is understandable, African governments should aim to get the wealthy countries responsible for climate change to increase their pledges at COP26. In addition, African leaders must push for a big increase in adaptation finance which currently constitutes less than 25% of total climate finance. They should urge other countries to emulate Denmark which has pledged to spend an equal amount of its climate pledge on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

2. The issue of additionality

In the first major text of the UN climate change agreement, signed in 1992, it was agreed that the climate finance that rich countries will provide to Africa and other developing countries of the world should be new and supplement existing overseas development assistance (ODA). The rationale for this decision was that the impact of climate change and adaptation measures impose additional costs on the current development burden. Thus, the UN Convention makes climate action in developing countries conditional on “the adequacy and predictability of the flow of funds” from rich countries to poor countries. However, despite the clarity of the rules, rich countries have long repackaged their traditional ODA as climate finance. There are several instances where finance that would normally support energy, transport, education and agricultural development is now being rebranded as climate finance and counted as part of actions taken by rich countries to meet their climate finance obligations. . This simply looks like cheating and is, in fact, a travesty, especially since developed countries have been unable to achieve the transfer of 0.7% of GDP for a very long time. It is therefore possible that the overall funding going to Africa is in fact much lower than what the continent could have received in the absence of climate finance. Current accounting and reporting measures are simply so opaque that it is actually difficult for anyone to verify exactly how much rich countries are giving away in climate finance.

3. The issue of energy security

Africa is energy poor. The total electricity capacity installed in Africa is 147 GW, equivalent to what China installs in one or two years. The whole of Nigeria has an installed capacity equal to that of London Heathrow Airport. Africa must increase its capacity by at least 6% per year to have a chance of achieving universal access by 2050. Unless this gap is closed, Africa will remain a dark and poor continent. The question is whether these new pledges of climate finance from rich countries will help finance energy security in Africa, particularly when they are most likely to come with stringent conditions, including funding for investments in coal, oil and gas. It is instructive to note that while many wealthy countries are pledging to stop investing in gas in Africa, many still retain gas as part of their long-term energy portfolio. It is also telling that China’s promise to end coal production does not cover domestic coal, which accounts for well over 55% of its national energy consumption. African leaders must therefore focus on how to unlock the scale of finance and investment needed to ensure Africa’s energy security today and in the years to come.

Unless there is a drastic change, more than 40% of the African population will still cook with firewood, charcoal and animal dung by 2050. It is essential to make financial flows compatible with the pathways to low GHG emissions and climate resilient development to meet the commitment. of the Paris Agreement and Africa’s development needs.

4. External and internal transparency

A vaguely defined, fragmented, unpredictable and opaque climate finance landscape will not promote the end of climate insolvency in Africa, but rather impose new risks on all. Africa should not only call for an increase in the overall amount of climate finance, but also for a set percentage to be dedicated specifically to Africa. At the ongoing COP26, Africa should demand more transparency and accountability to ensure rich countries do not steal traditional ODA to pay their climate finance bills.

Beyond the COP, African leaders must vigorously reject climate finance conditionalities that seek to undermine their countries’ energy security while showing a demonstrable commitment to embrace renewable energy as the energy of the future. Africa must also invest its resources to develop capacity in manufacturing and deploying renewable energy technologies to meet their growing energy needs. They need to know that going from a reliance on imported fossil energy from Europe to a reliance on imported solar panels from China is not a good definition of sustainable green transition for Africa.

Professor Chukwumerije Okereke is Director of the Center for Climate Change and Development, Alex-Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Nigeria

Teresa H. Sadler