Inside Africa’s pitch at UN climate change conference

“Act now” will be Africa’s clarion call at the COP27 as the continent intensifies calls for a just energy transition amid a worsening climate crisis. The “action” is likely to be seen more in the halls and offices of the world’s financing institutions than on the ground, however, as Africa battles with how to finance its energy requirements.

Emerging details show that African envoys will press heavily polluting, rich economies to offset the continent’s environmental damage from global warming with favourable financing packages.

At present, Africa accounts for a fraction of global emissions – at just under 4 per cent – in contrast to China (23 per cent), the US (19 per cent), and Europe (13 per cent).

Studies show Africa is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change with extreme weather like drought and flooding already becoming commonplace on the continent.

Invest in clean technology
It is on that premise that African governments want wealthier nations to make big investments in clean technology and infrastructure to support developing countries.

Africa is keen to obtain green technology that can reduce costs and increase competitiveness in the clean energy sector.

This includes deploying efficient tech to help drive down the cost of producing green hydrogen, wind power and solar energy.

Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) expects Africa to push for reliable financing to establish renewable energy pathways through just energy transitions in Egypt.

Last month, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revealed that rich nations failed to keep a US$100 billion-a-year pledge to developing nations to help them achieve their climate goals.

UN summit in Egypt
Those will be among the concerns raised by African states at the UN summit in Egypt in November amid calls for more commitments beyond lip service.

But commentators – particularly those focused on the fossil fuel industry which has seen in the disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a welcome diversion – are already beginning to cast aspersions on the commitment of developed economies in light of the geopolitical environment.

“Going forward, the Ukrainian crisis will structurally push the world into a new phase of geopolitics that is likely to downgrade spirit and unity of purpose in global climate goals implementation,” wrote George Wachira, a director at Petroleum Focus Consultants.

On the flip side, however, the European Union is likely to accelerate investments into green energy – with Africa seen as part of the solution – to wean itself from dependence on Russian gas.

This could unlock an avalanche of finances for renewables projects the world over, especially in Africa which boasts some of the biggest potential.

But African states are not coming from a position of weakness: their policy decisions would either sabotage or reinforce the global climate change mitigation efforts.

Africa’s fossils
Samuel Nyandemo, an economist and senior lecturer in economics at the University of Nairobi argues that Africa’s leverage is its fossils which if scaled would add to the damage being done to an already fragile climate.

Given Africa’s rapid urbanisation rate, ambitious plans for cities to adapt and urbanise sustainably can also be expected to be among the priorities of COP27.

On July 15, the 41st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council adopted the African Common Position on Energy Access and Just Transition, a comprehensive approach that charts Africa’s short, medium, and long-term energy development pathways to accelerate universal energy access and transition without compromising its development imperatives.

It stipulates that Africa will continue to deploy all forms of its abundant energy resources including renewable and non-renewable energy to address energy demand.

“This is an important and major step forward towards ensuring and confirming Africa’s right for a differentiated path towards the goal of universal access to energy, ensuring energy security for our Continent and strengthening its resilience, while at the same time acting responsibly towards our planet by improving the energy mix,” said Dr Abou-Zeid emphasising that it is a timely measure to push for favourable outcomes and tangible investments in energy and infrastructure at COP 27 in Sharm El Shiekh, Egypt.

Move to renewables
According to Time, Africa’s pitch at the UN summit could further include “moving from high-carbon energy sources like oil and gas to renewables, and “carbon credit” schemes, where foreign governments and companies pay for tree planting in exchange for producing greenhouse gases.”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) notes that the vast majority of African Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) contain mitigation and adaptation targets that are conditional on receiving international financial, technical and capacity-building support.

“In aggregate to date, 48 African countries have requested over US$1.2 trillion of international financial support by 2030 to implement their NDCs. Almost 60 per cent is for climate mitigation actions, around 30 per cent for adaptation and the remaining 10 per cent unspecified or for both mitigation and adaptation,” the IEA states.

“Six countries – Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia and South Africa – account for about 60 per cent of the finance requested to implement NDCs.”

Time magazine has reported that according to UN and Africa Development Bank estimates, Africa needs around US$3 trillion to fulfil its self-determined emissions targets, known as nationally determined contributions – an amount that each country is required to submit as part of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate.

Adequate time
“Africa must be given adequate time to transition and transform its energy infrastructure. We cannot transform abruptly. We need resources, capacity, technology transfer and finance to power our development,” Harsen Nyambe, the director of sustainable environment at the African Union Commission told Time.

How to finance a faster transformation for the continent – given Africa’s rich abundance of renewable resources – could well become one of the most pressing issues at COP27.

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