A man walks through his village in Nicoadala district, Mozambique, which was flooded as a result of cyclone Freddy (file photo).
By Melody Chironda
The climate crisis cannot afford another round of negotiations that result in dragging down efforts to address it.
Will COP28 offer an opportunity to change that?
As the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) prepares for its annual Conference of Parties (COP) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in November, many African countries are looking to the event as an opportunity to advance their climate agendas and push for stronger global action on climate change.
Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the President-Designate of COP28, outlined his vision for the conference in a speech at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin. He said there’s an urgent need to reduce emissions and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, calling for a tripling of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and doubling it again by 2040.
The Sultan is also the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), one of the world’s largest oil companies. His appointment as the COP28 president-designate faced severe criticism from climate activists and civil society groups. They demanded the oil chief step down from his role as ADNOC CEO, arguing that it creates a significant conflict of interest with his position at COP28, according to Global Witness. However, al-Jaber’s office said he would have a crucial role in intergovernmental negotiations, with the goal of establishing a consensus during the conference.
Al Jaber spoke about the importance of delivering climate finance to developing countries, which are currently falling short of promises made by developed countries. He emphasized the need for pragmatic solutions, including phasing out fossil fuels, adapting to climate change, and transforming food systems and land use.
Al Jaber concluded by calling for unity and partnership to achieve lasting sustainable development.
However Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and 40 other organisations, In a joint statement, said the UAE is continuing its “sustained assault” on human rights and is using the criminal justice system as a “tool” to eliminate the human rights movement. HRW reports that civil society groups fear that the severe restrictions imposed by the UAE authorities in recent years will hinder the full and meaningful participation of journalists, activists, human rights defenders, civil society, youth groups, and indigenous peoples’ representatives at COP28. There was criticism during the COP27 climate summit in Sharm-el-Sheikh, as climate activists and civil society faced intimidation, harassment, and surveillance.
The UAE will host the 28th United Nations global climate talks from 30 November to 12 December 2023.
For Africa, the stakes are high. The continent is among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, from droughts and floods to heatwaves and other extreme weather events. Many African countries are already experiencing the devastating consequences of global warming, including crop failures, water shortages, and displacement of people from their homes and livelihoods.
At COP27 in Egypt, the most significant milestone was the agreement on a loss and damage fund. This proposal first introduced over 30 years ago, aims to assist nations that are most susceptible to climate-induced disasters. It was finally agreed upon by participating countries at the summit. A group of representatives from 24 countries would collaborate to determine the fund’s structure, donor countries, and how the money will be distributed, reported UNEP. Climate advocates argued that the conference failed to go beyond the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact’s promise to “phase down unabated coal power” and set new targets for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Many issues were swept under the carpet at COP27.
African nations were hoping that the “African COP” would recognise their special needs and circumstances to help adapt and mitigate climate change, but the Global North has yet to meet its pledge of U.S.$100 billion, which was promised to help support developing nations, reports UNFCCC. Al Jaber called for richer nations to fulfill their promise 14 years ago to mobilise a U.S.$100-billion climate package for developing countries.
Al Jaber said: “This is holding up progress. And as part of my outreach, I am requesting donor countries to provide a definitive assessment of the delivery of this commitment before COP28. It is vital to the political credibility of the UNFCCC process, that donors step up to this long overdue obligation ahead of COP28… especially as the real value of this commitment has eroded over time.
“f the world does not come up with effective mechanisms to deliver climate finance to developing and emerging economies, they will have no choice but to choose a carbon-intensive development path. That is an outcome we want to avoid simply because it is in nobody’s interests.”
Despite Africa contributing the least to the climate crisis, it suffers the most from its effects, while the rich countries failed to take strong action on phasing out fossil fuels at COP27, settling instead on a “phasing down” approach. The Guardian reported that this decision was influenced by the numerous fuel lobbyists who registered for the conference, perpetuating the trend of the burden falling on less developed countries while the rich continue to benefit from fossil fuel extraction.
As African delegates prepare to attend COP28, they are e xpected to focus on loss and damage, climate finance, and energy transitions, reports African Arguments . Many are now looking towards establishing the steps needed to ensure the next climate conference results in climate action on many fronts. African countries are also expected to prioritise increased support for climate adaptation measures, including funding and resources for infrastructure, agriculture, and water management.
They will likely also push for stronger climate ambition from other countries, calling for aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets, renewable energy, and low-carbon technologies, and asking developed nations to take stronger action and provide financial and technological support to developing nations. Finally, they will raise concerns around climate justice and equity, arguing that developed countries should take the lead in mitigating climate change and providing support to vulnerable communities in the Global South.
Ahead of the COP28 climate change talks, the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change (AGN) has committed to multi-stakeholder engagements to develop a unified position on Africa’s climate change and development aspirations. AGN Chair, Ephraim Mwepya Shitima said the African group remains committed to engaging with and providing technical guidance and support to all stakeholders ranging from political leaders, civil society, and other development actors to ensure Africa’s success at climate change negotiations.
Climate scientists sounded the alarm with the “final warning” in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s sixth assessment report. The IPCC’s report highlighted the urgent need for increased action on climate change, as global emissions need to be reduced by 43% by 2030 to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. However, the report also indicates that it is still possible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius through rapid and deep emissions reductions.
The Global Stocktake – a two-year process that happens every five years and assesses the global response to the climate crisis – provides an opportunity for countries to agree on concrete milestones towards meeting their 2030 targets, including steps for all sectors and themes such as climate adaptation, finance, and technology. The Global Stocktake will also come to an end at COP28.
For COP28 to make significant strides, the UAE and its participants must acknowledge the blunders made in past COPs and prioritize the planet’s well-being over self-serving national interests. Al Jaber wants the need for the first global stocktake at the summit to be a groundbreaking moment. With only seven years left to achieve the Paris Agreement’s target of a 43% reduction in emissions by 2030, it is crucial to maintain the Agreement’s objectives.
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