Africa short-changed in COP27 climate finance talks

"What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! Now!" chanted angry protesters who had camped at the main entrance of the convention centre with banners and placards.

"We are not here to elicit your pity, express our grief or call for your sympathy. We demand justice and reparation," shouted their leader who was backed by activists from countries suffering from the adverse effects of climate change.

The protests were held at a COP that has been christened the 'African COP' because there are high expectations that the conference will deliver substantive progress and implementable climate actions on the priority issues for Africa and other developing countries.

As it stands, that is unlikely to happen.

Ahead of COP27, Ephraim Mwepya Shitima of Zambia, the current Chair of the African Group of Negotiators on climate change had outlined some of Africa's priorities as: recognition of Africa's special needs and special circumstances, enhanced financing for loss and damage and the coordination of the funding to be led by the United Nation Climate Change Conference of Parties (UNFCCC), and delivering on robust financing for climate action.

Paris Agreement

The demands by poor and developing countries for climate financing to help them deal and cope with the effects of climate change seems to be falling on deaf ears.

According to Article 9 of the Paris Agreement, developed country parties should provide financial resources to help developing parties with respect to mitigation and adaptation.

Sadly, little progress has been made towards fulfilling the pledges that were made in 2009 during COP15 which was held in Copenhagen, Denmark where rich nations pledged to contribute Sh12 trillion ($100 billion) a year to poor nations by 2020. The money was for helping these countries adapt to climate change and mitigate activities that contribute to the rise in temperatures.

Those promises have not been fulfilled.

To worsen the situation, those who negotiated the pledges at COP15 never agreed on several things that have made the issue of climate finance complicated. They did not agree on how the pledges would be accounted for, how to define "climate" activities and which interventions count towards the Sh12 trillion $100 billion pledge and which countries are covered by the commitment.

Activists in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, during the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference. [Carole Kimutai, Standard]

Over the years, the world has been hoodwinked with reports from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an inter-governmental organisation made up of members from rich nations. These reports show money is mainly going towards climate finance in developing countries but most of this money is in form of public grants or loans.

These OECD figures claim Oxfam could be inflated. They say in 2017-18, public climate financing was only Sh2 trillion - 3trillion ($19 billion - $22.5 billion), one-third of what OECD reported. According to Oxfam analysts, "only the benefit accrued from lending at below-market rates should be counted, not the full value of loans."

Money conversations postponed

Earlier in the week, the discussion of loss and damage made it into the COP27 agenda. This provided a glimmer of hope to Africa and developing countries who have been agitating for the issue to be discussed because they are suffering from the effects of climate change yet they contribute the least to carbon emissions.

Sadly this joy was short-lived.

According to the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, it is only until 2024 that there will be clarity regarding loss and damage, sources of funds, administration mechanisms and procedural elements to accessing funds for loss and damage.

Another disappointment is that the matter of Africa being recognized as a continent of special needs and circumstances was dropped from the agenda.

Finance day at COP27

As climate change activists made demands at COP27, UN experts presented a list of projects in poor countries that can be funded immediately to help in reducing emissions and adapt to the impact of global warming. On the list is 19 projects in Africa.

On the sidelines, African leaders attending COP27 have been signing deals with the same rich nations they accuse of not fulfilling their pledges. This is happening as developed countries continue to exploit resources from Africa and grow investments in fossil fuels and solutions.

Mohamed Adow, founder and director of Power Shift Africa says Europe wants to make Africa its "gas station" yet it has not provided adequate funding for renewable energy like solar.

He has warned the European Union against using Africa to strike new deals to extract natural gas reserves to meet energy demands in the west. "This is a new type of colonialism and gas deals involving Africa's resources cannot be made in Berlin," said Adow.

"Poor start" is what Adow describes COP27. "The COP in Egypt needs to learn from the mistakes that undermined COP26 in Glasgow. For it to be a successful African COP, the priorities of developing countries must take centre stage. We cannot claim to be tackling the climate crisis if we kick the can down the road on issues like loss and damage. It is not too late for this COP to deliver for Africa and the developing world where other conferences have failed them!" he notes.