COP27: Week in Review

The international climate talks, called COP27, have come to African soil to discuss how the world is to stave off the threat of climate change.  It was hoped that being on the continent suffering the most from the devastating impacts of the climate crisis would sharpen minds and lead to some concrete progress and a positive outcome for us Africans, and other vulnerable people.

However, with one week down and one to go, it seems that the talks are drifting badly off course.  Rich countries have offered very little apart from warm words.  They have still failed to deliver on their promise to provide $100bn climate finance to poor and vulnerable countries, despite the deadline of 2020 now two years past.

The US President, Joe Biden, popped in for a few hours to give a speech and make some more promises, but why should we believe what he or the other rich world leaders say, when they have broken their past promises and have still not even delivered on previous pledges?

The same countries have also blocked the creation of a fund to pay for the permanent losses and damages caused by climate change. This has been discussed for nearly a decade now, with the losses from intensifying droughts, devasting storms, sea level rise and ever-hotter temperatures, piling up.  And yet rich countries continue to only agree to talk, rather than act.

Those suffering from these losses have not been the ones to cause them. So why should they be picking up the bill? It should be those responsible.   If my car is crashed into, then I shouldn’t be the one to fix it, that should be the responsibility of the guilty party. The same is true for those rich polluters who have crashed our climate.

Sadly, we’re currently on track for this ‘African COP’ to be a huge disappointment.  The first week has been wasted, with talks barely moving, some important meetings not taking place and little to show for it except the many speeches from world leaders.  It’s time that, as hosts, the Egyptian Presidency get a grip on the talks and really pushes for a strong outcome that the continent of Africa can be proud of.

The frustrating thing is we’re seeing positive steps from some African countries.  Leaders of African nations have announced $18 billion of investment in renewable energy, laying the groundwork for the clean energy that is going to power African development.  Our abundant wind and solar energy are going to be an ever-greater asset as the world decarbonises and switches from dirty energy, which is causing so much suffering around the world, to clean energy which is already growing rapidly.

That’s why it’s also sad to see the climate talks hijacked by fossil fuel interests.  There are more than 600 lobbyists for coal, oil and gas at the summit, trying to push their dirty energy and doing deals on the sidelines while the world attempts to clean up the mess they have made.  In particular, they are trying to get African countries to dig up our fossil gas to bail out the European countries who have stupidly got themselves hooked on Russian gas before Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.

Those European countries are investing more in renewables so they can get off the gas, but in the short term they are trying to convince African leaders to spend money developing gas pipelines here, which will be obsolete in a few years when the world has moved on from fossil fuels.  And they want to burn our gas, knowing that it is Africans who will suffer the climate consequences of their doing so.  It’s actually quite shameful when you think about it.

We should tell them to stop inflicting yet more damage to our continent and redouble our efforts in leading the world as the clean energy continent.

And our Egyptian neighbours can help that become a reality by ensuring we get real progress in these final days of COP27 so that our big moment in the global spotlight is not wasted.

The writer is a climate justice advocate and director of energy and climate think-tank, Power Shift Africa, @mohadow

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