AFRICA AND COP26: WHAT IS AT STAKE?
LEADERSHIP AND COMMITMENT TO NET ZERO EMISSIONS
Recently President Uhuru Kenyatta (President of the Republic of Kenya) among four other African leaders graced a virtual event initiated by President Joe Biden on climate change dubbed “Leaders’ Summit”. The US is the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases and during the Trump Administration Climate Change issues were ‘trumped’ on. President Biden’s win and quick overturning of the Trump era withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was therefore not only a big relief but a boost to efforts by activists to have Governments, especially in the west to commit to reduction of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. African Governments without prodding from anyone should commit to addressing emissions and adopting green energy and technology options for the continent.
While President Uhuru Kenyatta among other four African leaders were attending the virtual forum organised by the Biden administration the big question that begs for answers is: whether Africa has a stake at the climate talks. Africa is the least contributor to the greenhouse gases but bears the biggest brunt ,how then do African Leaders stay committed to achieving results from the Paris Agreement and protect Africa’s Biodiversity and safeguard its people?
COP26 is coming up in less than six months and the UK is hosting the forum with a singular mission to get the biggest polluters to commit to reduction of their gaseous emissions to below 1.5 degrees Celsius . The question that begs for answers is whether African nations are organised and prepared to bid for greater attention, commitments and support for mitigation of the negative impacts of climate change.
WHAT IS AT STAKE?
Africa is facing unprecedented impacts of climate change due to growing populations and haphazard exploitation of its natural resources further exposing its citizens to the vagaries of climate change. Large swathes of natural forest lands, which are sinks for carbon gases are being destroyed across African nations with wanton abandon. This is being done while corrupt and selfish leaders are looking the other away. For Africa to be on a path of creating resilience it should jealously guard its fauna and flora and avoid the useless over exploitation of the natural forest cover.
CLIMATE FINANCING AND DEBT RELIEF
A key focus for the COP26 talks is to re-engineer climate resilience financing especially targeting support for the global south. There is need for African nations to deliberately through the African Union and cascading to the lowest levels set up workable and practical policy frameworks that support mitigation and resilience for its people and land. The policies must ruthlessly protect natural forests like the Congo basin which has been overexploited. The west should commit to giving Africa a debt relief and provision of green tax rebates that will spur green technology transfer, knowledge building and investment in climate smart modern production projects that will build African economies without harming the environment. The World Bank and IMF should put in place special green funds to address climate change in Africa. Private enterprises also should be mobilised to put out the huge resources and financial power to fund climate smart projects in the continent like the carbon credit scheme targeting both small and big carbon markets.
CONSERVATION OF ECOSYSTEMS
African as a continent is losing its natural Fauna and Flora at a fast rate; that if ongoing exploitation would render over 60% of our biodiversity extinct in the next 20 years. The Conservation of The Congo Rainforest should be a top priority during COP26; African nations should seek to increase their natural forest covers up to nearly 60% of the current cover. We have had Governments in Africa give more attention to ‘investors’ than concern for the environment; best examples include the Ugandan Governments push to destroy the Mabira forest by giving it out for industrial investments, in Kenya large tracts of land in conservation areas are being hived off for farming activities with disregard to the wild animals; whose numbers are dwindling due to destruction of natural habitats. Due to climate change Africa is witnessing droughts and floods which compound food security issues and pose more conflicts as communities and nations dispute of the natural resources like water and grazing lands. Early warning systems and climate smart innovations should be implemented by African nations to cushion citizens from the adverse effects of climate change. Securing livelihoods and community incomes will be an important aspect of creating new structures for socio-economic development.
PLASTICS AND WASTE DUMPING
Rwanda has led by commitment and example as one of the cleanest, tidiest and organized country on the continent. The government of Rwanda has put in place a policy regime that minimizes waste dumping and the need to manage consumerism. Kenya has followed suit by passing progressive anti-plastic bag laws, however implementation has been a challenge. African leaders should more than ever lead from the front and ensure that waste dumping doesn’t occur on its soil. There has been a raging debate on trade agreements signed between Kenya and the US where one of the clauses allowed for dumping of waste into the country; there was hue and cry from Activists while government was hiding the facts from the populace. African nations should commit bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to greater citizen scrutiny to avoid signing agreements that will harm its people.
PARTNERSHIPS FOR CLIMATE ACTION
Africa has set forth an ambitious sustainable development agenda dubbed ‘Agenda 2063’ coupled with the UNFCC’s agenda 2030 the African nations should commit to implementing the blue prints to enable Africa achieve sustainable development. The modelling for self-assessment should be modelled on the African Peer Review Mechanism(APRM) which evaluates 360 degree commitment to resolutions arrived at by African leaders and Governments.
Africa should use every weapon in the rulebook to devise stronger collaborations to accelerate the practicalities of climate change projects. African research and academic institutions should further research on climate and churn out practical solutions and mitigation measures to be seen as committed to act. Government should create stronger and close liaisons with the businesses and investors to ensure that the codes and regulations are followed to the letter, with key determinations or resolutions especially on the businesses that violate set codes. Civil society and the religious entities remain the holders of the conscious of society and should treble their efforts in awareness creation and sensitization of citizens to focus on the achievement of the agreements set forth.
The Writer is An Anthropologist and a Global Greens Supporter
He is a Director for Youth ,Gender & Social Services, County Government of Kisii
(Views expressed here are his own)