The 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as COP26, comes at a time when the world has just experienced one of the warmest years on record . The year 2020 reached temperatures about 1.02 ° C warmer than average. These kinds of extremes, driven by climate change, are felt intensely across Africa.
Greenhouse gases - such as carbon dioxide and methane - are largely responsible for climate change. Some of the sun's energy is reflected back into space and is trapped by these gases, causing the earth to warm up. The increase in the concentrations of these gases in our atmosphere leads to global warming and, consequently, to climate change.
Africa bears the heaviest burden of the effects of climate change, although it contributes less than 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Industrialized countries; namely China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan - top the list of emitters of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide.
Africa is the continent most vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to its low adaptive capacity, due to financial and technological limitations, and excessive dependence on rainwater to fuel its agriculture. The continent is also experiencing a warming rate higher than the global average of 0.15 ° C per decade between 1951 and 2020. Given the observed global warming, the continent is predicted to experience an increase in extreme heat as well as record highs. rainfall. All these climatic hazards will occur more frequently and more intensely.
Predicted climate changes are likely to have devastating effects across the continent. The current case of food insecurity resulting from drought in East Africa is a good example.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that sub-Saharan Africa has lost more than $ 520 million in direct economic damage per year due to climate change since the start of this century. The cost of implementing the continent's response to the challenges posed by climate change is estimated at between $ 7 billion and $ 15 billion per year. This figure is expected to reach $ 35 billion per year by 2050.
Consider this, by 2050 climate change is expected to cost Africa 4.7% of its GDP while North America will lose 1.1% of its GDP.
African countries cannot be ignored, or simply listened to. Their needs should shape the agenda. There must be measures that immediately respond to the challenges facing the continent.
How can the world come to recognize the magnitude of it all? COP26 is the perfect occasion.
Revisiting the Paris Agreement
The COP26 summit will bring together all the stakeholders in order to accelerate the actions necessary to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Paris Agreement, created in 2015, aims to limit global warming to well below 2 ° C, preferably 1.5 ° C, compared to pre-industrial levels. Essentially, the deal brought all countries together in a common effort to tackle climate change and adapt to its effects.
The agreement provides a framework for financial and technical support to countries in need. It also obliges developed countries to support developing countries in their mitigation and adaptation efforts - as they are largely responsible for the losses and costs associated with climate change.
Developed countries have pledged to raise $ 100 billion per year to support climate change adaptation and mitigation in vulnerable countries. However, reports show that this commitment has been below at least $ 20 billion since 2018. Unfortunately, there are no clear plans provided by “rich” countries on how this deficit will be closed. Now is the time to hold them accountable.
At COP26, countries will launch an adaptation goal and adopt strategies to achieve this goal. This gives African countries the opportunity to shape the agenda, once again.
Leaders of African countries should approach the convention with a strong and unified voice, presenting their concerns and needs on climate change.
The results of the COP26 negotiations must emerge from Africa and other developing countries by:
- Making finance more accessible and faster to African countries and other developing countries.
- Developed countries must commit to scaling up non-financial climate change adaptation efforts, such as education.
- A new commitment to finance the fight against climate change in accordance with revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
In addition, African countries should continue to remind developed countries of the need to complement local adaptation efforts with global emission reductions. The concentration of carbon dioxide is on the rise again despite a drop in 2020 due to the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
G20 countries account for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, with China alone emitting nearly 25% of global emissions, followed closely by the United States and India.
Although they emit the least greenhouse gases, African countries have sought to mitigate the effects of climate change. On average, in 2019, African countries were already spending around 5% of their annual GDP to support adaptation and mitigation initiatives, exceeding their contributions to climate change. In addition, regional organizations such as the African Adaptation Initiative are doing their best to build Africa's resilience in the agricultural sector.
Most African countries are developing renewable energy resources that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There have also been many eco-responsible carbon capture initiatives across the continent in the form, among other things, of heavy investments in sustainable development projects.
For example, Morocco has taken the lead in global solar energy production, providing the world with a reduction of over 760,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. The harnessing of geothermal energy in Kenya is another notable initiative aimed at reducing the country's emissions by 32% by 2030.
African countries are playing their part. But the commitment made in the Paris Agreement to respond to climate change with fair, equitable and ambitious responses rests on the shoulders of all nations.