Tension. Fury. Disappointment. This has been the aura at the ongoing climate summit after drafts of the possible outcome started streaming in on Wednesday evening.
Today is the make-or-break day for the highly touted “African COP” being held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Ideally, this should be the last day of the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27), but parties dragged on and the events may spill over to tomorrow.
Yesterday, civil societies from Africa, least developed countries and small island states as well as some of the negotiators called for a series of press conferences expressing their displeasure on the decisions that this year’s COP is likely to come up with.
While no decision had been made by the time this article went to press, different observers who spoke to the media said nothing substantial for Africa may come out of COP27. So, they gave the Egyptian Presidency 24 hours to change the narrative, it is okay with having a failure tag as the conference host.
Negotiators from Kenya and Africa who are part of the Africa Group of Negotiators were hopeful that this time, the conference will have special consideration for the needs of the African people who are adversely affected by climate change.
The two-week conference started on a rather positive note for Africa since a key item – Loss and Damage – was included in the agenda, albeit, the last minute. Loss and Damage refer to the irreparable impacts of climate change.
In the first week of the conference, leaders came out with stinging messages as they supported everything that will ensure global warming remains below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
President William Ruto, who spoke on behalf of Africa, asked the west to stop their usual selfish delays.
“Against this backdrop, the lengthy discussions at COPs, with its stalling, delaying tactics and procrastination that have hampered implementation and delivery, is simply cruel and unjust. We cannot afford to spend more time skirting around the real issues and we must break out of the open-ended, process-focused discussions we are trapped in. Further delay will make us busy spectators as calamity wipes out lives and livelihoods,” he said.
Unfortunately, the West, if the grumbling on Thursday by African nations is anything to go by, seems to have moved on.
Charles Mwangi, the Head of Programmes at the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (Pacja) told the Nation yesterday that COPs have been reduced to “therapy sessions ... There is a lot of unnecessary procrastination”.
Indeed, the inclusion of Loss and Damage was a game changer, but Mr Mwangi said that the deeper the negotiations went, the more watered down the agenda became.
“Even the little money that is promised bilaterally doesn’t make sense and it is a bad trajectory. It is like a tokenism point of view; as we give you a token because we sympathise with your problems but we don’t want to take liability for that,” he said.
Countries expected that a Loss and Damage Facility will be established this year, with Sameh Shoukry, the COP president saying this one would be an implementation COP.
One of Kenya’s negotiators and climate change expert, Robert Muthami, who works at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung said that as of yesterday, COP27 was just a “process COP”.
“Critical issues like financing for loss and damage, doubling the adaptation finance meant to fast track implementation of climate actions are not receiving the attention that they deserve,” he said.
Pacja Executive Director Mithika Mwenda said the few hours remaining could change countries’ dissatisfaction, but there is little hope for that.
Representing women whose issues also needed to be addressed at the COP, Florence Kasule from the Uganda Climate Change Coalition said that this year’s COP has broken the Glasgow pact.
“This means that women of Africa have been left behind,” she said.
Health community protests
Meanwhile, the international health community protested at Sharm el-Sheikh and said the solution to most of the health crises affecting the Global South is reducing global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
“We, the global health community, came to the climate conference to tell the world leaders not to accelerate our patients’ death. They must do everything to keep the 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels alive,” said Ms Bea Albermann, a medical student and a climate activist. She added that the fossil fuel treaty must be respected.
“The world leaders and their delegates attending the COP27 must push for a just transition away from coal, oil and gas to clean energy,” she said.
She raised concerns that in the last couple of decades, the Global North has been setting false emission targets but the harmful fossil fuel industry has been continuously expanding production.
Dr Joe Vipond, an emergency physician practising at the Foothills Medical Centre in Canada, said the climate crisis affects the health of human beings “directly through air pollution, which has resulted in many kidney failures. This crisis is not about wildlife and ecology. It’s about the people’s health ...”. “I know over 600 people died in my home province last year from unprecedented heat-related illness.”
According to climate justice activists, the problem with more fossil fuel production is that global temperatures will rise above 1.50C of pre-industrial levels.
“The proposed solutions by the Global North are artificial as they are developed by the polluters on the negotiation table. It’s hard for someone perpetuating the crime to be the same person providing the penalty for that crime," said Ms Ige Aderonke Monunrayo, a climate justice activist from Nigeria.
This article has been publishedcourtesy of the Climate Tracker Fellowship and also with support from Mesha/IDRC grant.