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Mo Ibrahim and African Agenda for COP27

By Khadija Nda Yakubu

‘There is always a big gap between talking and executing in Africa and we need to execute now. The African COP (COP27) must serve as a new dawn for African solutions developed by Africa for Africans. We need coherent voice for Africa in Egypt, we need to articulate Africa’s case. If we don’t set the agenda somebody will set it for us, and time has come for Africa to set the agenda’ – Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Climate change has been a global issue for decades and as COP27 approaches, the debate is heating up once more. Equity concerns between industrialized countries in the Global North and emerging economies in the Global South continue to shape climate debate and negotiations. The debate is largely over which countries have contributed most to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and how the costs of mitigating and adapting to climate change should be shared. The majority of GHG emissions in the atmosphere are caused by economic activities carried out in, or for, industrialised wealthy countries. Poorer countries, on the other hand, face the brunt of climate change’s effects and bear a disproportionate amount of the burden. Africa contributes the least to global warming of any continent, accounting for just about 4-7% of the total global greenhouse gas burden. Yet climate change is literally and symbolically transforming the continent. Drought and flooding have wreaked havoc on the continent, and temperatures have been rising faster than the global average. The current impact will be exacerbated unless Africans take immediate and urgent action to address the crisis.
To address these issues, the United Nations has held climate summits – known as ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) – for nearly three decades, bringing together almost every country on the planet to help find solutions to the problem. The 27th session of COP of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in November, giving Africas the home advantage to use their collective strength to secure a better deal for the continent. This has been dubbed a “golden opportunity” for Africa, a continent that contributes only 4% of global emissions but bears the brunt of climate change’s impacts, to band together to push for bold commitments and more accountability from developed countries. Egypt’s officials have also intensified their consultations with other African countries and important stakeholders in order to better reflect and identify the continent’s needs ahead of the Conference (COP27). The Mo Ibrahim Foundation (MIF), through the Ibrahim Governance Initiative, is one of the primary forums that has emerged to advance the discussion and echo Africans’ voices on climate change and its impact on the continent. The Ibrahim Governance Forum (IGF) is an annual event that brings together leading voices from across Africa and beyond to discuss issues of critical importance to the continent’s development.
The IGF event this year took place in person and online over three days (25-27 May) in London and was shaped by the latest Mo Ibrahim Foundation research data on climate change, fresh perspectives from the Now Generation network, MIF fellows and scholars, experts, global leaders, and many others. The discussions centred on three big issues. The first is Africa’s vicious cycle. This focused on the impact of climate change on Africa, as well as the specific challenges and vulnerabilities that the continent faces. It also discussed whether current climate solutions, which are primarily focused on reducing net carbon emissions, are effectively addressing Africa’s specific concerns holistically, and how the COP27 should take this into account in the future.
The second issue is the elephant in the room. This discussion revolved around access to energy for all – adoption of a one-size-fits-all approach to climate change such as commitment to stop funding overseas fossil fuel projects, as well as risks pushing Africa off the development ladder and compounding its pre-existing challenges. The forum noted that advanced industrialised countries have also defaulted on previous COP agreements on critical issues such as providing funds for climate change adaptation across Africa and compensating poor countries for the devastation caused by the Global North. Discussions here focused on what constitutes a reasonable trade-off between development and climate goals and how a complete phase-out of fossil fuels, at a time when Africa is still focused on its development goals, could exacerbate already unequal access to energy and undermine the gains made thus far.
Africa’s assets are key for a global low carbon future because the continent has a wealth of natural resources, including 30% of the world’s mineral reserves, which will be crucial to further developing low carbon and renewable technologies. However, while Africa possesses critical assets to expedite the global transition to a green and sustainable economy, the ability to realise this potential is contingent on factors such as human capital, financial resources, infrastructure, and good governance. The discussions here centred on the ecological and natural resource assets that designate Africa as a key player in the global fight against climate change as well as Africa’s distinct advantages, such as its potential for green economic growth and green jobs. In concluding the exhaustive deliberations, panelists and participants agreed to some key takeaways. It was resolved that to move beyond humanitarian responses, there is need to adopt a deliberate long-term resilience building and very deliberate national and global policy making that aims to look at the most sustainable way of helping the most vulnerable survive.
As African has always found a way to adapting to climate change through indigenous knowledge, the forum resolved on the need to highlight the small and impactful ways Africans are making change on the continent because that begins to shift the narrative. It was also resolved that before experts start talking about alternative energy in Africa, there is the need to give Africa an opportunity to catch up to the developed world. Whereas other countries have three to four options; Africans have two and primarily rely on one. It is therefore imperative that the reasonable step to take is to give Africa some time to catch up before asking it to measure up.
To read the full report and learn more about the foundation follow the link:
Khadija Nda Yakubu is a Doctoral researcher, SOAS University of London

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