COP27 Funding Is Meaningless Without The Will To Act

By Greg Nott

COP27, the first African Conference of the Parties, is being hosted in Egypt this year and is particularly important for us as a continent as the event is providing a unique opportunity to shine the spotlight on Africa’s climate vulnerability. 

In some instances, it feels as though it’s the first time there is a real recognition that a ‘Just Transition’ – one supported by the global political community through commitments AND actions – is key to Africa’s energy transition away from fossil fuels to renewables.  

Africa, the continent least liable for climate change but paying the heaviest price for its impact by the actions of the world’s biggest economies, is demanding a seat at the table of this year’s event. Africa is uniquely positioned to demonstrate the risks and costs of not acting on climate change. World leaders need to accept that only a material amount of ‘loss and damage financing, international cooperation and implementation can set us on a course to overcome one of the most significant challenges facing our times. 

I’ve heard comments from prominent developed world leaders quipping, ‘Why should we pay for Africa’s climate crisis?’ and ‘We don’t have the money for loss and damage financing’. These comments get spoken from the mindset that dominated past international relations: each country for itself. Historical mindsets have put us in a precarious situation and won’t work in the future. However, we share a planet, and we will share our futures. The legacy roadmaps that got us to where we are today need updating and adapting to ensure a lot that is just for all of us, not just those in the developed world. 

I’m in attendance at this year’s event, and as it got underway, there seemed to be a greater sense of urgency in the air as many speakers outlined the devastating impact of climate change this year alone. This address got followed by 48 hours of consultations between parties adding relevant points of discussion to the agenda. 

With that, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Executive Secretary Simon Stiell warned, “The real test will be the quality of the discussions that will take place over the next two weeks and the eventual outcomes.” 

I couldn’t agree more and would add that the outcomes must be action focussed.

African nations have been affected by climate change, bearing the brunt of climate-induced disasters without playing equal roles in the cause. Compared to wealthy countries, Africa contributes a minuscule amount of carbon emissions, as G20 nations account for 80% of the total. Of course, Africa’s pertinent point of interest was receiving financial aid from G20 countries.

Macky Sall, President of Senegal and Chairperson of the African Union, reiterated that current levels of finance for adaptation programmes fall short of Africa’s needs. He, too, spurred on developed nations to honour their financing commitment stating, “those who pollute more have to pay more”.

Together for implementation

Not only is financial aid critical in moving Africa’s energy transition forward, but it will be more meaningful with implementation, a second essential key point raised during consultations. Reports suggest that implementing current commitments will keep the world on course to limit the average global temperature increase to 1.7°C. The sufficiency of this goal is open for debate, but it is clear that the longer the delay in implementation, the worse it will get.

Simon Stiell outlined these critical points for action:

  1. Demonstrating a transformational shift to implementation.
  2. Cementing workstream progress for mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage.
  3. Enhancing delivery on the principles of transparency. 
  4. Accountability throughout the process.

Speaking on behalf of Africa, Zambia said that adaptation is a matter of survival for the continent and must get upscaled with a substantive GGA (Global Goal on Adaptation) outcome. They and other nations called for fulfilling the $100b goal to implement adaptation. Implementation is paramount as climate disasters wreak havoc across the continent unchecked while policymakers fail to move on proposals, some a decade in the making.

On day two, over one hundred heads of state and government got locked into intergovernmental negotiations, with talk of implementation scarce.

The overarching goal must be to build sustainable momentum for climate change action. Heads of government negotiated on how they could work together under the Paris agreement (Article 6.2) to achieve much-needed results. The theme ‘Together for implementation’ introduced by Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi echoes the opening statements made on day one – we need action.

He emphasised that parties must deliver practical roadmaps that clearly explain the plan to reduce carbon emissions while prioritising the needs of emerging nations, specifically in Africa. 

Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania, adequately stated that science proves that correctly stewarding our environment will positively impact a nation’s prosperity. However, the challenges faced in countries like Tanzania places them at a disadvantage when raising funds necessary to fight climate change. The opportunity cost is too high. Other African leaders raised similar concerns calling for the ‘time of action’ to commence.

On day four, negotiators met from morning to night, discussing various finance-related issues and cooperative implementation plans under the Paris Agreement (Article 6).

However, parties expressed regret that the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) could not agree on an executive summary for its $100b goal report. One developing country lamented that the lack of predictability and inadequate support, not the lack of projects, is the issue for the implementation failure. 

Parties should express stronger accountability and transparency of the amount and the nations with outstanding pledges to remove barriers to much-needed action. Or will the statement by Leah Namugerwa, a youth climate activist, echo in eternity when she warned, “they will be remembered as doing a lot of nothing while in power.” 

Nott is the head of the Africa Practice at Norton Rose Fulbright. He specialises in energy projects and deals.

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