As the world looks yet again with hope and anticipation to the current round of talks in the global climate conference in Egypt (COP27), it is clear that one of the most critical ways to address the climate quagmire is to make polluters pay.
This Climate Conference has already ensured that the issue of “loss and damages” is formally discussed and it must be pushed until it delivers justice to vulnerable communities at the frontlines of the climate crisis. It must be pushed until the business model of polluters no longer makes sense for them.
The science is clear on what drives the climate crisis: long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns caused by greenhouse gas emissions that blanket the Earth and trap the sun’s heat. Those who drive us to this crisis – through human activities like the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil and gas) – are equally known. We know them by name and by country, and by the billions they’ve been making for many decades at the expense of the masses.
Yet for any form of loss and damage to make sense, it must be accompanied by an urgent and immediate shift away from new investments in fossil fuels. That is essential to deliver on the net zero agenda by 2050, which the UN and the International Energy Agency call for, but it is also crucial so we don’t see even more loss and damage in the future.
A financial facility for loss and damages, just like contributing funds to mitigate and to adapt to climate change, cannot be a pacesetter for more investment in climate change inducing fossil fuels. Furthermore, as a Cameroonian living in South Africa, as a pan-african environmentalist at heart, I expect climate finance not be used as a prerequisite for climate action by African countries.
Climate funding is imperative on both moral and political grounds, but until it is secured, African governments must lead the way. A good start is frog leaping investments in fossil fuels altogether to investing strictly in renewable energy.
There are a plethora of examples all across our continent that speaks to the harm that climate inaction does to our communities and economies. Droughts, floods, and cyclones and other extreme weather patterns are devastating lives and livelihoods from Kinshasa to Cairo, from Lagos to Nairobi, from Pretoria to Praia and Port Louis. Cash crops and food crops, produced by small holder farmers, are the true backbone of most African economies. They are at high risk without concerted climate action.
Climate action in Africa and by Africans is the right thing to do for our communities, whose economies have forever been anchored in a meaningful rapport with nature.
The building blocks for a green pan-African revolution are there: leaders like Kenya’s President Ruto or Morocco’s King Mohammed VI have accelerated clean renewable energy on the continent, demonstrating what leapfrogging fossil fuels can look like.
When exploiting our wind and sun becomes the norm among Africa’s leaders and when they resist the scramble for our oil and gas reserves by multinationals, we can finally address the shameful scale of energy poverty in our continent. To do so would also mean to break free from the shackles of a neocolonial system of extractivism.
Extractivism – the notion that all Africa is good for is in logging, mining, drilling and trashing our ecosystems – is part of a colonial legacy. It has failed African people and left them with pollution, corruption, conflict and inequalities. It has made richer nations even more powerful.
When African leaders say simply ‘no to one more drop of fossil fuel investments’, they will not be doing a favour to any other nation but to their own. African climate action is not a favour to Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Beijing or Washington DC. Climate impacts are real and our agency as a people to deal with this crisis must supersede the quest for finances that rightfully comes with it.
They could then demand climate finance, rather than beg for it. They could take the lead on the global stage, instead of trailing behind, begging as helpless victims while accepting new fossil fuel investments that might soon become stranded assets.
Beyond whatever can be sought through a financial facility towards loss and damage, we should be forging meaningful and mutually respectful partnerships to ensure a just transition and decarbonisation at the required speed and scale.
Mbong Akiy Fokwa Tsafack – Head of Communication, Greenpeace Africa