COP27: Activists expected Egypt to focus on Africa. They were disappointed

Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

The crowd was delighted with what Bhekumuzi Bhebhe had to say, cheering loudly as he shouted “don’t waste Africa!” on the megaphone

Standing under the Egyptian sun at the UN’s COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday, Bhebhe, a South Africa-based climate activist, was protesting what he says is an attempt by rich countries to bribe the ‘Africa to invest in the planet. warming fossil fuels.

In his mind, it is yet another example of the hypocrisy shown by Western countries towards the continent, which has barely contributed to the climate crisis but is experiencing some of its most devastating effects.

“Is this justice?!” he asked his fellow demonstrators. “No!” shouted the crowd.

Bhekumuzi Bhebhe speaks at a protest against the development of new fossil fuel projects in Africa.

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

But, according to many representatives of African countries, this promise remains unfulfilled.

Mohamed Adow, the director and founder of Power Shift Africa, a non-governmental organization focused on accelerating renewable energy there, said at an event on Sunday that progress so far showed the conference was “African in name only”.

Any hope that the summit would actually focus on Africa was soon dashed, when conference participants denied a request by a group of African governments to include a discussion of the continent’s “special needs and circumstances” in the official schedule

Philip Osano, director of the Stockholm Environment Institute’s Africa Center, told CNN that recognizing special circumstances was 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 now the impacts have become very serious, so this is a priority issue,” he said.

“The bad news is that it’s off the agenda. But it’s very complicated, because other parts of the world, especially small island states, developing countries, everybody has a special circumstance in terms of climate.”

Mithika Mwenda, the Kenyan co-founder of the Pan-African Alliance for Climate Justice, said he was “outraged” by the decision not to put the discussion on the agenda. Speaking after receiving the article, Mwenda said the development “set the stage for another COP that will fail as millions of Africans die unjustly” from climate change.

This year's climate conference was widely billed as a

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

The idea is simple: the countries that have become rich from the fossil fuels that have caused the crisis should help those most affected to face the devastating consequences.

Heading into the summit, leaders of climate-vulnerable countries said this was their number one priority, and it was hoped that a new funding mechanism could be established this year. But negotiations have proved difficult. Some of the richest countries are united to fight the idea of ​​creating a new fund.

The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom have tried to kick the can down the road, saying they want to establish a “process” leading to an “outcome” by 2024.

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

“We had promises, statements and commitments. But we need comprehensive proposals. We already have conceptual notes, we already have proposals, we already have our [emission cutting plans]we need to move on to implementations,” Edward Bendu, director of environment at Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and Environment, told CNN in an interview at the summit.

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

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

There have been some positive moves since the summit. Germany has been spearheading a new loss and damage program called the Global Shield that hopes to make money available more quickly to countries hit by weather disasters.

The EU 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 blog also said it would add 60 million euros ($62.2 million) to the loss and damage pot.

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

Digging into the numbers, it emerged that of the €345 million ($357 million) the European Commission would contribute to the package, only €220 million ($228 million) is a “new commitment,” according to a statement published on Wednesday.

The rest of the 345 million euros were already committed elsewhere in the past. And as for the 60 million euros for loss and damage, that money is included in the 220 million euros instead of being an additional sum. The EU did not give a breakdown of contributions by individual states. CNN has reached out to the blog for comment and more details on the announcement.

For the developing world, the bottom line is that the promise of funding remains unfulfilled. Under the Paris Agreement, rich countries pledged to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance to the developing world by 2020. Two years after the deadline, the target has yet to be met he has achieved.

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

About 600 million Africans lack access to electricity and nearly a billion lack clean cooking facilities, relying instead on burning solid biomass, kerosene or coal as their main cooking fuel, according to the International Energy Agency.

Experts and activists point out that many African countries are locked into investments in fossil fuels that are polluting and likely to prove uneconomical in a few years.

It is not a hypothetical question. Many of the world’s richest countries are pushing for more investment in fossil fuels in several African countries as they try to wean themselves off Russian gas because of the war in Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz flew to Dakar earlier this year and held talks with Senegalese President Macky Sall – chairman of the African Union – on the development of a new offshore natural gas field. And earlier this month, Italian energy giant ENI began exporting natural gas from a new deepwater gas field in Mozambique.

These facts are making activists especially furious.

“It’s hypocrisy and we’re calling it out,” said Omar Elmaawi, a Kenyan activist who has spent years campaigning against the planned East African crude oil pipeline, which is meant to transport oil from Uganda to Tanzania , where it could be sold. international markets.

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

“But this narrative doesn’t hold up because even though they call it ‘development’ they want to exploit these resources and send them to the Global North,” he added.

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

Elmaawi said he understood that money offered by big fossil fuel companies may seem like a lucrative option for some African governments. But he and his fellow campaigner say they want their governments to think ahead.

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

What Elmaawi, Adow and other activists want is for the COP27 conference to help African countries encourage more investment in renewable energy.

According to the IEA, Africa has about 60% of the world’s best solar energy resources, but only 1% of installed PV capacity.

Adow said Africa could easily become a renewable energy superpower.

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

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