Africa readies to push climate justice agenda at COP27


The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP27 set for early November in Egypt, will be a chance for developing countries to push for climate justice. Developing nations suffer the brunt of environmental damage largely created by the developed world, yet their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is less than 4 per cent.

The event will bring together both public- and private-sector leaders to build on the success of COP26 in Glasgow and turn commitments into action to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Among the key priorities for Africa at this year’s COP27 are ensuring equity and justice in climate financing, scaling up climate change adaptation, and pushing for a just energy transition to renewable energy. 

Ahead of the event, The Standard spoke to Mills Schenck, Managing Director & Partner of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Nairobi. He gives his take on what will be Africa and Kenya’s priorities when the world gathers in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

What agenda will developing nations be pushing for at COP27?

Africa has contributed three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions yet will be the continent most affected by climate change in the years to come. 

In that context, at COP Africa must advance three concepts:

First, that Africa will continue on a development path but in a sustainable way.

Second, that the continent must leverage its abundant natural resources and sources of clean energy to make the green economy part of its growth and development story.

Third, that climate justice demands that the industrialised nations responsible for climate change must bear responsibility for the adaptation, resilience and loss of funding required to protect the continent from the worst consequences of climate change.

In addition, Africa could become a manufacturing hub for hard-to-abate industries like plastic, steel, and cement. With its access to hydrocarbon-based energy, African nations can become successful pioneers of electrolyzer capacity which could position them to lead the abatement of heavy industry.

What are some of the collective commitments that countries made at COP26 in Glasgow?

One of the positives was that 90 per cent of the world committed to net zero. Put simply, net zero means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible

Another progress is the completion of the “Paris Rulebook” which creates an international carbon market with stricter emissions disclosures.

Particularly relevant for Africa, the Glasgow Climate Pact focuses on a 2009 commitment of US$100 billion in annual climate funding by 2020. Industrialised countries missed this goal by US$20 billion and the Glasgow Climate Pact reinforces that these countries are still “on the hook” to fulfil this goal as soon as possible.

Additionally,-109 countries agreed to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and 46 countries including the UK, Canada, Poland and Vietnam made commitments to phase out domestic coal.

Some 141 countries agreed to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 backed by US$18 billion in funding, including US$1.7 billion dedicated to supporting indigenous peoples.

Some 29 countries including UK, Canada, Germany, and Italy committed to ending new direct international public support for unabated fossil fuels by end of 2022. This is the first time fossil fuels were explicitly called out in international climate agreements.

Kenya’s commitment to mitigating climate change is impressive. Kenya being one of the few African countries that have submitted an update of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), a requirement by the Paris Agreement.

What can Kenyans expect from COP27?

Kenya has many advantages that should enable the country to be a leader in Africa on climate change.  Its electricity grid is one of the most renewable in the world (up to 90 per cent renewable) and has strong potential for nature-based climate solutions. 

Ideally, Kenya would leverage COP 27 to make its advantages known to the world and also to attract investment from industries that require renewable energy sources and investors looking for nature-based solutions.

For example, Kenya has material untapped potential in its renewable energy natural resources and could become a destination of choice for energy-intensive industries looking for 24x7 affordable renewable power.

The country is actively pursuing green hydrogen potential and could use COP27 to attract investors and industry partners.

What specific solutions should African governments be investing in as far as climate change is concerned?

The top imperative today is for African governments to invest in more resilient food systems. On average, agriculture accounts for 40-60 per cent of employment and over 30 per cent of Gross Domestic Product across the continent.

The impacts of climate change on Africa’s food security are accelerating and further exacerbated by the acute grain and fertiliser shortage in part caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This is likely the single most important climate challenge, that African governments should prioritise.

Looking beyond agriculture, other key priorities should be:

  1. Improving the resiliency of cities through extreme weather damage prevention, early warning systems, increased green spaces, etc.
  2. Investments in renewable energy in Africa have tremendous potential for low-cost renewable energy and the economics are compelling today.
  3. Improved water security through drip irrigation, natural water solutions, efficient water allocation, reducing leakage, repair and fortifying water resources, and desalination among others.
  4. Nature-based solutions that provide dual benefits of climate mitigation—and carbon monetization for local economies in parallel—and climate resilience. For example, mangrove plantations offer massive potential for carbon sequestration, as well as better flood protection than flood walls. Carbon sequestration is a natural or artificial process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form.

What is the role of non-state actors in climate action?

The private sector has a strong role to play in advancing climate action.  For example, BCG is supporting the UN Global Compact in creating the Africa Business Leaders Coalition (ABLC) to advance climate action and sustainable growth across the continent.

Ahead of COP27, ABLC will bring together the perspectives of dozens of leading African CEOs and board chairs as they announce credible commitments and actions on climate action.

Private sector commitments and targets can drive climate action and innovative green businesses can create new sustainable industries on the continent.

Additionally, NGOs, research institutions and advocacy organisations have a strong role to plan in providing foundational data, identifying new solutions and spurring locally-relevant climate tech developments.

African leaders should also share success stories of positive climate action across the continent to build awareness of the home-grown solutions to climate shocks.

Do you think developing countries have gotten the finance and support they need given the fact that they contribute the least to climate change and yet are affected the most?

No. In 2009, wealthy countries committed to US$100 billion in annual funding for the developing world by 2020. As of 2020, funding was US$80 billion and the imperative for solutions and funding has increased. We cannot expect Africa to achieve what is needed on climate action without increased investment.  Nor can we expect Africa to slow its development because of a global challenge that it only had a small role in creating. 

Therefore, it’s fair to say that more financing and support are needed. We cannot expect African countries to uphold their pledges if the historically responsible industrialised countries are not doing the same.

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