The drought agenda at Cop 27

With barely a month to go to the annual United Nations climate summit, African civil society groups are now demanding that drought be included on the agenda, because large parts of the continent are now in the grip of the worst drought in decades.

Speaking in Nairobi, African climate activists from East and Horn of African countries said they gathered for a climate march in Nairobi to raise their voices and influence an Afro-centric agenda at the 27th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, from the 6th-18th of November.

“We are suffering from the climate crisis. Africans did not create this crisis. The developed world should not punish Africa for it. It is unfair for Africans to be participating in COPs but leave with empty rhetoric,” said Ann Songole, the Climate Justice Coordinator, at African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET).

According to the UNFCCC, Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change impacts under all climate scenarios with a global temperature rise of 1.5°C.  The continent has often agitated for compensation for loss and damage, an agenda item that doesn’t usually yield much because the developed world refuses to take responsibility for it. In September this year, though, Denmark pledged 13 million dollars to support poor countries that have suffered loss and damage as a result of climate change. This made Denmark the first country in the world to do so.

“I am very happy that we have agreed to increase support for climate-related losses and damages,” the Danish Development Minister Flemming Møller Mortensen said in a statement. “It is grossly unfair that the world’s poorest should suffer the most from the consequences of climate change, to which they have contributed the least.”

Last year at COP 26 held in Glasgow, Scotland made a similar pledge of one million pounds to finance loss and damage and encouraged other countries to follow suit. But the Scotland pledge doesn’t count as a country pledge because Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom. This, therefore, leaves Denmark as the first country to offer compensation for loss and damage.

Last month, a group of pastoralists from Baringo County sued the government of Kenya for the losses the community has suffered as a result of climate change. Baringo is among the counties in Kenya that have been ravaged by drought and thousands of heads of livestock lost. The rising lakes too have left the county reeling in losses and damages to the tune of billions of shillings. In the suit, filed at the High Court, the pastoralists want the government held responsible for their losses and their loss of property since the government failed to put in place a policy that would enable the country to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. The group also wants the government compelled to compensate them.

Just this week, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled on a similar case in which the Australian government was found liable for failing to protect the people living on four Torres Strait islands from climate change’s impacts. The committee heard that the Australian government had failed to take mitigation and adaptation measures to address the impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, coastal erosion and flooding, and therefore failed to protect the islanders’ rights.

“Despite accounting for only 4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Africa faces climate-related challenges that risk livelihoods, public health and infrastructure investments, economies, water, food systems, and agriculture,” said Dr. Mithika Mwenda, the executive director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.

Towards this end, Civil Society Groups in the drought-hit regions of Africa are concerned that although the COP will take place in Africa, for the 6th time, the agenda might not reflect Africa’s and demands and hence the outcome might not align with the African aspirations.

“Forces that Africa is fighting against have captured our governments, our agriculture, our policies. They are after protecting their profits. But we have to stand up for the Climate Justice,” said Mwangi Waituru, the Policy and Advocacy Advisor (Africa) at VSO.

The Climate Justice Torch Campaign is an initiative of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance meant to mobilize, raise interest among the African public and coalesce various African voices towards a common position ahead of COP27.

First launched in Gabon on August 27, the Climate Justice Torch campaign has been moving across Africa collecting experiences of good practices on climate actions at local level.

Over the last few days, Kenya has been holding several meetings to develop a country position that will be presented at the COP. President William Ruto is expected to lead Kenya’s delegation to the Egypt meeting

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