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What is in it for Africa at COP26?

Author: Muloongo Muchelemba
26 October 2021

Africa is not immune to the effects of climate change. If anything, the problem is exacerbated by the low levels of economic development, lack of infrastructure, and limited innovation to solve some of the most pressing problems. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), some of the more serious changes being seen in Africa include rising temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns that lead to droughts or flooding. This has affected subsistence farming, a key source of livelihood for many Africans, and made it more challenging to manage seasonal diseases such as malaria, dengue, and yellow fever. Low adaptive capacity means competition for resources like water and farmable land will increase, as will internal displacement, poverty, and famine.

This is why the outcome of COP26, the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, is absolutely crucial. To be held in Glasgow from 31 October, the summit comes at a time when the world has just reached some of its highest temperatures ever. Africa witnessed a higher rate of warming than the worldwide average of 0.15°C per decade. Experts predict further increases and more frequent, intense spells of rainfall. Action must be taken immediately to meet the main goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement: limiting global warming to 1.5°C. It has four main objectives:

  1. Determining global emissions targets for 2030 to keep the 1.5°C degree rule achievable
  2. Boosting adaptation to protect communities and natural habitats
  3. Recommitting finance to climate action
  4. Uniting the world in the fight against climate change
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Climate change has resulted in rising temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns

In Africa, adaptation remains the most pertinent issue, along with climate finance - or the lack thereof. In fact, the latter is a major impediment in environmental action. The forthcoming conference will likely set fresh long-term climate finance targets for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) implementation in Africa. Adequate funding and properly defined financial systems are necessary for any climate action to be undertaken. Is that asking for too much, though? Last year, industrial heavyweights like the US. China, India, and Russia pledged to raise $100 billion to support adaptation and mitigation in vulnerable regions around the world. Unfortunately, they fell short. COP26 will hopefully determine why.

Fortunately, some African nations are already at it, allocating sizeable chunks of their GDPs to support the transition. Regional organizations like African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) and the African Adaptation Initiative (AAI) are also hard at work, trying to improve carbon footprints and sustainable investment. It is pertinent to mention here that though COP26 is still a few days away, African giants like Kenya have already made ambitious pledges like achieving a 32% reduction in emissions by 2030. Morocco, on the other hand, has been investing in renewable energy and recently became the global leader in solar power generation, sparing the world 760,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. These achievements are significant considering Africa has never contributed more than 5% of global emissions. That is one objective of COP26 checked.

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Morocco has established itself as leading producer of solar energy

Currently, 80% of African emissions come from its 10 most developed nations, including Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. This should make any potential new policies easier to implement via focused application. That does not mean the remaining 44 countries in Africa are irrelevant but their respective stages of development must be taken into consideration for COP26 to be fair and conclusive.The African Group of Negotiators is working to protect biodiversity and the Earth’s ecosystems in hopes of increasing mitigation and adaptation. Engaging the youth in climate advocacy is also high on the agenda, seeing as how Africa is the world’s youngest continent and coming generations will be the most impacted by climate change.

COP26 will be the ideal opportunity for African leaders to address issues and hopefully, turn the negotiations in their favour. Of course, they are already doing what they can but if population growth and urbanization continue, the results will be contrary to those determined under the Paris Agreement and perhaps, COP26. Economic growth is necessary but so striking a balance between industrial advancement and climate goals, supporting local knowledge and talent while also emphasizing upon sustainable technologies to create green industries wherever possible.

But it will all be futile without support form high-income countries (HICs). African countries are keen on partnering with their richer, more developed counterparts as they simply cannot afford to fail. The onus is on key political players like the USA, UK, China, India, Russia, and Japan to deliver a robust response to the mess that is climate change. After all, they are the ones who created it.



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