Collins Nzovu: What Africa is looking for at COP27

Collins Nzovu, Zambian Minister of Green Economy and Environment

Collins Nzovu, Zambian Minister of Green Economy and Environment and chair of the African Group of Negotiators.

Photo credit: Pauline Ongaji | Nation Media Group

As the COP27 comes into its final week, African negotiators have been pushing the continent’s agenda. And one thing that has taken center stage in their discussions has been finance, and pushing the developed world to increase their funding.

We spoke to Collins Nzovu, Zambian minister of Green Economy and Environment and chair of the African Group of Negotiators (from the technical team) on what has been happening behind the closed doors of negotiations.

What exactly is Africa looking for at this COP?

We are asking that the developed world fulfill its pledges from 26. What we are saying is that the rule books of the Paris Agreement must be respected and we need them to actualize what they committed.

On the other hand, loss and damage is on the table, but for us, that's not a win yet. A win for Africa would be that the funds start flowing.

I think all the topics, whether it's mitigation, adaptation, or loss and damage, or special needs, the critical thing is to ensure that the funds that flowing.

I think this is what we are telling the developed world. And even if it's on the agenda, we want to see that the implementation starts and starts as quickly as possible,

There is no dispute that the global north should be held responsible for what is going on a s far as climate change is concerned, and indeed the African governments have a right to seek loss and damage compensation.

But on the other hand, we should also hold our governments into account. What do you think African governments should be doing at this time?

I chair the African group of negotiators from the technical team, when it comes to amps, and this ministerial team will report to our presidents.

Our presidents have been engaging other world leaders. For instance, President Macky Sall of Senegal has been chairing the various engagements, so they engage at the highest level.

So, we believe that the presidents have been doing their part. Remember, it's economic diplomacy, it's development, diplomacy, climate diplomacy, what value do you extract out of everybody else? How do you make them account on mitigation as well? What we've been basically telling them is that can you increase your ambition? Because we are experiencing these devastating effects? How do you increase ambition? Again, that's a topic which our leaders at the presidential level have been taking.

On adaptation I'm sure you know that our demand has been that adaptation finances increased, actually, that is doubled. That they come through with $100 billion.

We've also been pushing their agenda and loss and damage. So for us, when we see the movement there, we are happy. However, we can only be happier when the funds start flowing.

What can you say about the negotiations so far here in Egypt? Are we gaining?

 I think we are gaining ground? Yes. I mean, the fact that we are beginning to talk about these things that they are on the agenda.

For us, that's a big score on its own. Before, this a bit of a difficult topic of loss and damage was not even on the table. If it's on the table, then you can discuss it. The fact that is on the table means that you have a chance to push the agenda even more.

For us that score.  Remember also that, as Africa, we are coming together more and more with one voice. So, our voice is being heard. And if you have had a chance to attend some of these sessions, you will find out that clearly, the developed world is listening.

The developing world has committed Well, they've committed before but we can see that they're moving in the right direction. So we are very hopeful that something very good will come out.

 What are the hurdles?

 There will ever be resistance. The resistance to spend will always be there. But science from the respected IPCC is very clear that they are the reasons we are where we are.

And if they continue on this trajectory where they do not raise their ambition will hit 2.7 degrees, and this will have devastating consequences, not only for us, but for themselves as well.

We are speaking more and more ourselves because we are the most affected, despite being the least contributors to climate change. So, we're making our case and our case is being heard.

You've spoken about the 100 billion dollars of your negotiating focus as African governments. Do you have structures to ensure that when and if this money comes, it will be channeled to the right areas?

 We are more knowledgeable about these things. Now, even if it is an IPCC report on one side, our own country's own governments are also making sure that we speak to these issues.

We've been building capacity in ourselves as governments, we've also been a lot of governments in Africa have been legislating, coming up with the necessary laws, to speak to the issues on climate change, to speak to the issues of trying to see how that finance when it comes is utilized.

And with this, I'm very sure that a lot of African governments are ready to utilize that financing. It's a given.

Is the money coming as grants or loans?

 We are fighting for grants, concessional loans, if their loans are concessional loans. Remember, this same continent, which is most affected, is also a continent which is distressed economically.

So, if it's distressed economically, it means that you cannot add more debt. So we are trying to push for concessional funding, for cheaper funding, because we believe that we need to hold them accountable because they emitted more greenhouse gases.

During the COVID-19, money came into the continent in trillions, but we understand that much of that money was actually stolen. Let’s talk about accountability from African governments.

 One thing is very clear, this money will not be just thrown at you. Remember, some of this money is on partnerships, some of them and some is on Paycheck Protection Program PPP, some of them is specific to projects.

We believe that the African governments are ready to utilize these monies better than before. So, it's money that is safe, which will go to ensuring that the lives and livelihoods of our people are improved. So, we are ready.

This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.