Climate resilience in Africa

In light of its presidency of COP27 that will take place in Sharm El Sheikh next November, COP27 Egyptian presidency announced the launching of unprecedented initiative to enhance investments in different climate action sectors through putting climate projects, investors, companies, international financing entities, development banks and other stakeholders on one table with the aim of starting actual implementation of projects that help achieving climate action goals.
The Egyptian initiative includes holding five major regional roundtables. The first, taking place on August 2-4 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, which is the home of the UN Regional Economic Committee for Africa.
Part of the stakeholders in the discussions is the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change (AGN) which was established at COP1 in Berlin, Germany in 1995 as an alliance of African member states that represents the interests of the region in the international climate change negotiations, with a common and unified voice.
Capital’s Measebia Teshome reached out to Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, Chair of the AGN for insights on preparations and Africa’s expectation as a whole ahead of the COP27. Excerpts;

Capital: How has the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) been preparing ahead of the COP27?
Ephraim Mwepya Shitima: Following COP26’s summit which brought parties together to fast-track action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow, Scotland; we are currently in comprehensive preparations for COP27 which will be held at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
We started our preparations quite early. For instance, the lead coordinators and strategic advisors often meet at least three times a year to prepare group positions and strategies for the negotiation sessions for endorsement and adoption. These extensive preparations are important since the AGN serves as a unified African voice in the climate negotiations.
So far we have had virtual meetings in January, to which we have looked into and reviewed the discussion points that came out of Glasgow. We have further used those points to identify the priorities for COP27.
We have also held physical meetings hosted in Livingstone, Zambia, which has aided us to better understand our position. Furthermore, in June we normally have sessions in Bonn, Germany and we took advantage of that for additional preparations. And now, we are in Addis Ababa and again, we will also take some time to refine our priorities for COP27.

Capital: What are the priorities of Africa in COP27?
Ephraim Mwepya Shitima: Priorities for Africa are quite broad. As we all know, Africa is considered to be the most vulnerable continent to be impacted by climate change. In fact, science is telling us that we are going to be the most affected continent. And so priorities revolve around how we ought to ensure that these impacts of climate change are minimized and addressed.
Thus, adaptation is vital. You’ll find that most of our focus relies on adaptation, and how we are going to ensure that the global goal through the various programs are advanced to be practical, in terms of implementation on the ground.
And then of course to implement we need financing; adequate financing that would help Africa respond to climate change.
We also have issues of energy for example Africa’s transition to clean and green energies and we also need to ensure that livelihoods are protected, whilst in the transition.
In my perspective, Africa has special needs and special circumstances because of our vulnerability as a continent and yet we don’t even contribute a lot to climate change in terms of our greenhouse gas emissions.
This in addition to other factors such as our low adaptive capacity related to our development levels are multiple challenges. And even our geographical location gives us some disadvantage. When all these factors are brought together they make Africa very vulnerable. So it’s important that we consider the special needs and special circumstances for Africa and come up with solutions. And that is what our priorities are encompassed around going into COP27 which are also some of our talking points for deliberation for the next few days that we are here.

Capital: What lessons has the AGN learnt from the last summit? And do you think these priorities will be met in the COP27?
Ephraim Mwepya Shitima: We have had a lot of lessons not just from Cop 26, because as you know, this has been a long process. But yes, since Cop26 is the most immediate and we think that it had successes and of course, we do have some regrets of things that we thought could have worked out.
Well, some of the lessons have been gained from past challenges. For example, we had challenges on some of the agenda items for example by loss and damage. For instance, in Ethiopia probably there some extreme weather events where houses have been destroyed with people’s livelihoods devastated even to the point of unfortunate loss of life which you cannot adapt to. Citing this as an example, it is often not easy solving such issues in terms of financing institutional arrangements and so we’ve drawn lessons to see how we can ensure such crunching issues can be resolved in COP27.

Capital: In the last summits there were lots of promises made by the developed or western countries to support Africa. How do you see the practice of these ‘Promises’?
Ephraim Mwepya Shitima: Regarding the promises and pledges every country agreed that we need to ensure that promises and pledges are actualized.
There are two aspects to this. There are pledges that are made outside the UNFCCC process which is very difficult on our part as there is very little mechanism we can put in place to check whether these are being fulfilled.
But there are also indeed famous commitments like the 100 billion dollars a year to help poor nations cope with climate change in 2009 which have not been realized up to now.
So the idea is to push for these both from the negotiating side and the civil side through the African civil society. We expect a robust presence of the African civil society in Egypt to also push for this and other aspects so as to set pressure to achieve the set objectives and priority areas for COP27.

Capital: Countries or governments of Africa are working to increase climate investment. But still there are some challenges that governments are facing. What is the AGN’s view on the matter and are there ways you are helping governments to tackle the finance hurdle?
Ephraim Mwepya Shitima: African governments are spending quite a lot in addressing climate change and also the disasters which ensue from the changes such as tropical storms. These disasters cost huge amounts of money with cases such as that in Durban, which cost government huge amounts of money in disaster response.
Although we produce the least in terms of emissions we stand at higher risks to disasters because of the climatic change. For us, we emphasize for climate financing that was committed by the developed nations under the convention. Thus under that we push for response aid, which alleviates the burden of the governments across Africa.

Capital: How has the COVID-19 pandemic and the instability in several parts of the continent challenged you in setting up your priorities?
Ephraim Mwepya Shitima: COVID-19 has been quite a challenge. First, it just added to the multiple crises that Africa has and the rest of the world; but I think there are also lessons that we can draw from the COVID pandemic.
If you saw how the world was galvanized together and resources were made available, even to countries that weren’t able to manufacture the vaccines were supported, and received vaccines on time. If the same global commitments and efforts could be applied to climate change, we probably would be in a better place.

Capital: Generally, what do you expect from the COP27?
Ephraim Mwepya Shitima: I think broadly speaking what we expect at COP 27 is more practical solutions to the climate situation for Africa. For the COP26, we had a lot of processes we put in place but we don’t think we can afford to continue with those.
The expectation of the African continent is that the COP27 must result in some tangible solutions. We look forward to electrifying Africa for example since we are the only continent that is least connected to electricity in households that are still relying on primitive sources of energy.
We also expect Africa to gain support in the transition to clean and green energy because the alternative if Africa is not supported is to continue with the dated energy solutions which will not help the climate situation.
In nutshell, we expect practical solutions across all fronts whether it is on adaptation, mitigation or even on financing. To which on the financing end we expect access to finance.

Capital: Can we say that the developed countries which have huge contributions to climate change are supporting Africa?
Ephraim Mwepya Shitima: A number of them will tell you that they are providing a lot of support to Africa and they will quote figures that they have made these resources available. But for us the issue is to be able to distinguish between official development assistance and climate financing and the two are different. That’s why it has been very difficult to be able to assess whether the 100 billion dollars has been made or not because others count everything that they provide. If we focus on climate financing, unfortunately, there is more that needs to be done.

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