It is very critical that the climate situation in Africa is no longer only tagged as an ‘emergency’ by the developed countries but some action in terms of firm funding towards the Africa Union’s Climate Adaptation Program provided. It is a major disappointment the only thing the Conference of Parties, COP 26, in Glasgow was able to hand to the planet was a prostrated, watered-down pact. An agreement actually scourged in overtime due to the reluctance of the developed countries to commit to toe the safe line.
Presently, Africa as a continent is paying the most for the environment destructive policies of developed nations. When it comes to climate change, it is in the eye of the storm. Even without the human link or those intertwined challenges in poverty, illiteracy, land degradation et all, Africa’s climate is very vulnerable. Despite the small contribution to global warming, its effects are becoming more intense and frequent within the African region with landslides, droughts, floods becoming a blaring norm. Climate change is an increasing threat in Africa and has a growing impact on the continent, hitting the most vulnerable hardest, and contributing to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources. When the wealthy countries fail to honor commitments to help developing nations tackle the challenge of climate change,it is a harrowing betrayal. During the Copenhagen Climate Summit, in 2009, a pledge was made to provide $100 billion a year of support to the poorest countries by 2020. As it stands this target is now unlikely to be met until at least 2023. The fight against global climate change cannot be won unless it is won in Africa, however, global support has been lacking. In the words of current African Union President , President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, H.E. Felix Tshisekedi during the COP 26 summit, ‘Africa is tired of waiting!’
Africa can no longer wait for a response and when it arrives, is too vague because it undermines the real solutions that address the core causes of climate change. There is failure by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — and within it the COPs — to advance to real solutions to the climate crisis because its agenda and actions have been mangled to preserve the profit-driven vested interests of powerful corporations, governments and other elites. Actually, there is no real guarantee of funding to the climate crisis. African countries are already spending around 5% of annual GDP on climate initiatives, compared to less than 1% in rich, developed nations. All this is despite the fact that poorer nations still have to pay around five times more on debt repayment than on climate measures not-withstanding the Covid-19’s effect on their economies.
The heavy carbon emitters, like China and the United States, have a moral obligation to help the nations of Africa, particularly the rural areas of these countries, mitigate the impact of climate change, not just to help Africa, but to help the rest of the world. Hypothetically, against all odds, Africa has made great efforts in driving the global climate agenda. This is demonstrated by the very high levels of ratification of the Paris Agreement – over 90%. Many African nations have committed to transitioning to green energy within a relatively short time frame. Clean energy and agriculture are, for example, prioritized in over 70% of African countries. This is an integral part of setting the tone of the economic development priorities of the continent. Climate justice demands that there be international cooperation to tackle this existential threat and to mitigate its effect.
What if this alleged tomorrow never comes? It is imperative that African governments collect and collate data to design customized frameworks for building the resilience of African economies, societies and ecosystems to climate change. The framework is to guide actions in member states towards low-carbon emissions development. The continent must adopt green pathways for economic growth. Whether or not the $100 billion per year pledge from rich countries set to be available from 2023 becomes a reality, the continent must strive to fend for itself. The plan has to be more comprehensive than just adaptation financing. Beyond financing, Africa urgently requires an insurrection in terms of knowledge and climate action planning.
The youth, women, girls, the disabled and every marginalized group should be at center stage in the fight for climate justice and a transformative shift towards a disaster-proof Africa. It is the youngest generations that stand to be the worst affected and thus should be heavily involved and supported with tools and resources even beginning from there time in the classrooms. Change is inevitable and at this juncture afoot. The introduction of compulsory climate change studies in both secondary and primary schools would be a step in the right direction for Africa and especially my country, Kenya. Climate references can be embedded into most school subjects, geography, history, science for example and also languages where the students have the opportunity to discuss the climate crisis in a new language. These issues can be incorporated into daily lessons, with age-appropriate discussions and topics. Children can see how climate issues fit into their world and in any way do something about it. In doing this Africa, or Kenya would be copy pasting a epic chapter in the books of countries like Spain, Argentina, Mexico, New Zealand, China and even Italy where former Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti championed a law which made Italy the world’s first country to make climate study compulsory in schools. The list is endless what the students can do that will enlighten them to the ramifications of climate change. Primary learners can for example be encouraged to think more about greening their own classroom, while young teenagers can learn about fast-fashion through upcycling their T-shirts.
Since Africa’s population is 60% youth, they could be retooled to take up climate action as an opportunity to offer impactful solutions to society. Being the most significant non-state actor constituency on the continent in terms of numbers, African countries could draw on the intrinsic abilities of their energy, creativity, skills and talents to drive climate action while unlocking opportunities for them and providing with employment. Training the youth on waste-recovery to wealth where they coalesce waste recovery to fuel charcoals and bio-fertilizer solutions, which are non-capital-intensive opportunities, into their enterprises. Youth can be taught to be au fait with markets by providing effective and affordable alternatives to contemporary non-sustainable solutions of charcoal and chemical fertilizers. Through the value added solutions, that are climate friendly, their income can go up by 150%. Their new knowledge can be used to make a case in formulating an institutional response to African states, of how the Informal sector in Africa can be leveraged as the foundation for rebuilding better, different more resilient economies in the region.
The last United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow delivered only on adaptation, climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building. The next conference COP 27, slated for Egypt next year should address the climate change impact on Africa per se. Failure to that, the African Union (AU) should call for an Africa-specific conference to address this issue, that seems according to them is – dastardly ours.