COP27: Activists hoped Egypt would focus on Africa. They were disappointed

Sharm Alsheikh, Egypt

The crowd loved what Bhikomozi had said with his beh, and loudly cheered as he shouted “Don’t invade Africa!” in the loudspeaker.

Standing in the blazing sun at the UN’s COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday, Bahebeh, a South African climate activist, was protesting what he says is an attempt by rich nations to bribe Africa to invest in planet-heating fossil fuels.

In his view, this is yet another example of the hypocrisy shown by Western countries towards the continent – which has hardly contributed to the climate crisis but is suffering from some of its most devastating effects.

“Is this fair?!” he asked his fellow protesters. “number!” the crowd shouted.

The Egyptian government, which hosts and chairs the UN-sponsored climate talks, had promised that this year’s summit would be the “African Conference of the Parties” that would put the continent’s needs front and center.

But according to many representatives of countries across Africa, this promise remains largely unfulfilled.

Mohamed Addo, director and founder of Power Shift Africa, an NGO focused on accelerating renewable energy there, said at Sunday’s event that developments so far showed the conference was “African in name only.”

Any hopes that the summit would truly focus on Africa were dashed early on, when conference participants rejected a request by a group of African governments to include a discussion of the “special needs and circumstances of the continent” on the formal agenda.

Philip Osano, director of the Africa Center at the Stockholm Environment Institute, told CNN that recognizing the special circumstances has been one of the top three priorities for many African governments, along with climate finance and the clean energy transition.

“Africa contributes less than 4.8% of emissions, but the impacts are now very serious, which is why this is a priority item,” he said.

The bad news is that it’s off the agenda. But it’s very complex, because other parts of the world – especially small island states and developing countries – all have special circumstances when it comes to climate.”

Mithika Mwenda, the Kenyan co-founder of the Pan-African Coalition for Climate Justice, said he was “outraged” by the decision not to include the debate on the agenda. Speaking after the clause was scrapped, Mwenda said the development “paved the way for another COP that will disappoint the unjust deaths of millions of Africans” from climate change.

This year's climate conference has been widely described as

Some of the leaders of the countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis – many of them in Africa – have come to Sharm El Sheikh with high hopes that developed nations will finally agree to pay for the losses and damage already caused by climate change.

The idea is simple: countries that have become rich using the fossil fuels that caused the crisis should help those hardest hit deal with the devastating consequences.

Leaders of countries vulnerable to climate change said when going to the summit This was their first priority, and there was hope that a new financing facility could be established this year. But the negotiations proved difficult. Some of the richest countries are uniting in pushing against the idea of ​​a new fund.

The US, EU and UK are all trying to get the can down the road, saying they want to create a “process” that would lead to an “outcome” by 2024.

But for countries that see their coastlines disappear and their people drown in devastating floods or starve to death from drought, this is not good enough.

We had pledges, statements, and commitments. But we need comprehensive proposals. We already have concept notes, we already have proposals, we already have ours [emission cutting plans]”We need to move into implementation,” Edward Bindu, chief environment officer at Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Land, Country Planning and Environment, told CNN in an interview at the summit.

Bendu, who represents a country among those most affected by the climate crisis, said access to current climate finance is difficult and current financing options are not fit for purpose.

“It takes about three years to access the funds,” he said. “It is too late for us, we cannot handle loss and damage issues in this way.”

There were some positive moves coming from the top. Germany is leading a new loss and damage program called Global Shield that it hopes will provide funds faster for countries suffering from weather disasters.

The European Union and several of its member states announced on Wednesday that they “will provide more than 1 billion euros ($1.04 billion) for climate adaptation in Africa.” The bloc also said it would add 60 million euros ($62.2 million) to the total losses and damages.

But as is often the case with climate finance ads, the devil is in the details.

Delving into the numbers, it turns out that of the 345 million euros ($357 million) the European Commission will contribute to the package, only 220 million euros ($228 million) is a “new commitment,” according to a statement on Wednesday.

The rest of the €345m has already been pledged elsewhere in the past. Regarding the €60 million for loss and damage, these funds are included in the €220 million rather than being an additional amount. The EU did not provide a breakdown of contributions from individual countries. CNN has contacted the block for comment and more details about the announcement.

For the developing world, the bottom line remains that the promise of financing has not materialized. Under the Paris Agreement, rich countries pledged $100 billion annually in climate finance to the developing world by 2020. Two years after the deadline, the target has yet to be met.

The battle over the future of Africa’s energy infrastructure emerged as one of the key issues at the summit.

About 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity and nearly a billion of them do not have clean cooking facilities, relying instead on burning solid biomass, kerosene or coal as their primary cooking fuel, according to the International Energy Agency.

Experts and activists contend that many African countries are closing in on fossil fuel investments that pollute and are likely to prove uneconomic within a few years.

It is not a hypothetical issue. Many of the world’s richest countries are pushing for more fossil fuel investments in many African countries in a bid to wean themselves off Russian gas because of the war in Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz traveled to Dakar earlier this year and held talks with Senegalese President Macky Sall – chair of the African Union – about developing a new offshore natural gas field. And earlier this month, Italian energy giant Eni began exporting natural gas from a new deep sea gas field in Mozambique.

These developments are particularly infuriating for activists.

“It’s hypocritical and we’re calling it out,” said Omar Mawi, a Kenyan activist who has spent years campaigning against the planned East African crude oil pipeline, which aims to carry oil from Uganda to Tanzania, where it can be sold. international markets.

Africa has contributed very little to the climate problem, but fossil fuel companies are using that to their advantage. They say Africa has been left behind and so they want to explore the potential so they can help us develop.

“But this narrative does not hold because although they call it ‘development’, they want to exploit these resources and send them to the North of the globe,” he added.

Kenyan climate activist Omar Elmawy poses for a photo at the COP27 summit in Egypt.

El Moawy said he realizes that money provided by major fossil fuel companies may appear to be a lucrative option for some African governments. But he and a fellow activist say they want their governments to think ahead.

“My assessment has always been that either our government’s leaders are really ignorant and stupid, or some of them have been compromised and are not working in the interest of their people,” he said.

What El Moawi, Addo and other activists want is for COP27 to help African countries boost investment in renewable energy.

According to the International Energy Agency, Africa has about 60% of the world’s best solar energy resources, but only 1% of the installed photovoltaic capacity.

Addo said Africa could easily become a renewable energy superpower.

But instead, he said, “European countries want to turn Africa into their own gas station.”

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