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The 26th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP26, is in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, 2021, comes at a time when Africa is not only at the brunt end of the vagaries of the weather but is still reeling from the debilitating impact of COVID-19. These intertwined natural catastrophes have severe implications for Africa ahead of the COP26 summit and make it imperative for the continent to form a united front against promises and assurances of support from wealthy nations at a time when human existence is at the mercy of a global threat.
COP26 comes at a time when the global temperatures have gone about 1.02°C warmer than average. These extreme temperatures, which result from climate change, have been intense across Africa and have left the continent on its knees resulting in unprecedented human displacement and warped economies.
Greenhouse gases have largely been credited for irregular climate changes. Large concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane from the greenhouses trap solar energy and lead to global warming and climate change. By comparison, Africa finds itself in the melee of greenhouse gas emissions by industrialized countries like China, the U.S., Russia, and Japan. These countries have contributed more greenhouse gas emissions and cannot be matched by any African country due to poor mechanization, weak financial and technological advances. Therefore, COP26 is an opportunity for Africa to face the hypocrisy of the wealthiest nations, especially after the hard lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Climate change has severe implications on the economies of Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is estimated that African economies have been decimated by over $520-million due to the direct effects of climate change. The IMF further says that the continent requires close to $15 billion annually to respond to climate change’s annihilating effects adequately. Projections further show that by the year 2050, climate change would have cost Africa close to 5% of its GDP, while North America will only lose 1.1% of its GDP.
On the other hand, the second largest continent after Asia continues to witness a higher rate of warming than the global average of 0.15°C per decade, resulting in frequent and intense rainfall extremes ranging from aridity to flooding. COP26 then becomes a viable platform for Africa to alert the wealthy nations to adopt a hands-on approach towards climate change.
Jens Pedersen, the Senior Policy Adviser of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Southern Africa, argues that African leaders should therefore not make promises during the COP26 when “the continent’s population is at present suffering the effects of COVID-19 related inequity and false multilateralism.” He is of the view that Africa should form a strategic alliance at the COP26 by “demanding significant concessions and action from the wealthy nations on the matters of COVID-19 vaccines.” He further added that such a strategy should not be viewed as holding the COP26 summit to ransom over COVID-19 but to “make the world understand that Africa sees the bluff.”
Other experts have weighed into the debate and insisted on African leaders being resolute during the COP26. They believe that African countries should shape the COP26 agenda to immediately address the adverse effects of climate change primarily caused by developed countries. Reports have shown that developed nations are falling short of their $100-billion pledge per year towards the fund meant to ameliorate poor and developing countries from the harsh effects of climate change. COP26 is the best platform for African leaders to stick out their necks for future generations likely to bear the brunt of climate change and arguably the recurring virulent COVID-19.
In light of this, COP26 should not be another glitzy gathering of world leaders doling out pledges and empty promises in the face of a global threat. Instead, the summit in Glasgow should adopt a bottom-up approach in tackling climate change to remain in agreement with the Paris Agreement that saw COP21. The aim of the Paris Agreement to keep the rise in the global average temperature to less than 2 degrees should motivate world leaders at the COP26 of the profound implications and consequences of climate change for Africa and the rest of the world.
Written by Shepherd Mutsvara
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
The Africa Report: Multilateralism on a ventilator: Africa, Covid-19 and COP26
Daily Maverick: Africa’s environmental and economic challenges must steer the climate change conference [COP26]; by Victor Ongoma and Portia Adade Williams
Reuters: South Africa to call on rich nations to do more at COP26; by Tim Cocks
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Llee_wu’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Brent Newhall’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License