Africa now reads malice in Climate talks with West

The Chair of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) has asked Africa not to despair about the happenings at the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) ongoing in Glasgow, Scotland. By all accounts, keen observers have noted that things are not going the African way, raising jitters in some quarters.

Speaking at a meeting with the African CSOs, Tanguy Gahouma (Gabon) said from the outset COP26 was not going to be an easy one, considering it was one to handle issues that had been pending over the last two years due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, whose outbreak last year led to the postponement of the meeting in 2020.

“We have spent this first-week handling issues that had been pending since last year,” he said.

Gahouma noted that the risk of infection with Covid-19 was still real even at the Glasgow event. A Gabonese delegate, he disclosed, got infected, leading to the quarantining of the entire team from Gabon.

The African CSOs had sought a meeting with the AGN Chairperson to get assurance that things were moving in the right direction for the continent and that matters concerning Africa were being taken care of.

But the AGN boss lamented: “We have tried all we could.”

Gahouma said long before the COP26, the AGN had tried to have the needs of Africa, namely adaptation, climate finance and the need to consider Africa a special needs and circumstances region integrated in the texts of the COP.

“Before we started the COP, engagements had been started, and we had pushed to have these issues in the agenda,” he noted. However, the major opposition to the African group had come from major regional groups from Latin America, the US and the EU, who had objected to have these matters in the agenda, forcing the AGN to change its strategy and engage individual key countries with the hope of pushing on to ensure Africa’s agenda gets into COP agenda.

That notwithstanding, it appears that the West had decided to prioritise achieving the 1.50C, an issue the AGN Chairperson said Africa was not opposed to. According to the AGN chair, it is the African group that had first recommended that to be a priority during the 2018 Paris meeting.

Mwanahamisi Singano, Programme Manager at the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) said from the outset, the global North came to COP26 with the desire for technical conclusions “while on the contrary, Africa had expected to see COP26 make strong decisions on agenda that favours it.”

This, noted Ms Singano, explains why the developed countries are out to reject such agenda items as decisions on adaptation, which they say is complicated.

On finance, COP26 President Alok Ssharma had released a report through which he did not commit on the issue of concluding on $100 billion climate financing for Africa, promising instead to have it as an agenda for COP27 to be held in Egypt in 2022.

The chair of the AGN tried to consult the EU on the finance matter, but was blatantly told the $100 billion was a matter of the past, and could not be repaid.

However, to save face, some remain sympathetic but are noncommittal as to when the funds will be released; a surprise to the AGN chair, who said the attitude he was getting was that the West wants to take time that Africa does not have.

Seyni Nafo, a Malian and former AGN Chairperson, presented key findings on the global climate finance flows from developed to developing countries. He gave an assessment of climate finance, bringing out lack of transparency.

African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina cautioned Africans against clinging on the $100 billion, which he termed a political figure not worth quoting. He said the real cost of climate change impact to Africa was in the range of $1 trillion and $2 trillion per year.  

On special needs and circumstances, Gahouma revealed that the issue continued to raise opposition and that the Paris Agreement had no reference to Africa. Instead, he said, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing states (SIDs) have more prominence. He called for some language scrutiny in the text to include Africa.

“What is needed is flexibility to access the climate finances that exist, which is also difficult to know due to lack of transparency,” he said.

Robert Muthami, a climate policy analyst, said it was important to hold leaders accountable for what they say on their climate change commitments.

According to Mr Muthami, it was evident that what developed nations’ leaders said and what their delegations wanted to achieve in the negotiation rooms were different.

A Ugandan delegation stressed on the effectiveness of climate finance, saying the mechanisms in place had not been delivered at the grassroots level, expressing the need to ensure that the bottlenecks be addressed so that “70 per cent to 80 per cent of funds gets to the grassroots”.

It underlined the difficulty of “access”, calling for “simplified mechanisms” and also highlighted thus: “Some of us cannot even borrow; so the issue of social bonds should be given priority for such countries”.

Mithika Mwenda, a Kenyan climate justice champion and Executive Director of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, wondered why the African agenda got so easily thrown out of key COP agenda items.

“Is it that Africa is not being taken serious? Is it that the continent is not mobilising? Why is the global North suppressing the voices of Africa? It is time for Africa to begin mobilising to showcase its strength and have its issues are taken seriously,” he said in Glasgow yesterday.