The 26th United Nations climate change conference, COP26, recently ended, with the aim of uniting countries in the fight against climate change. Climate change issues are likely to hit African countries the hardest, although the continent is least responsible for climate change. We asked Mouhamadou Bamba Sylla, AIMS-Canada Research Chair in Climate Change Science at AIMS-Rwanda, who is the lead author of Assessment Report 6 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate Change (IPCC) for Working Group 1, what the conference meant for African countries.
What was the agenda of African countries at COP26?
According to the African Group of Negotiators, the main items on the African agenda can be summarized as follows.
Climate responsibility: Developed countries must take responsibility and lead the way to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Climate finance and adaptation: Developed countries must raise sufficient funds to finance adaptation in developing countries that are negatively affected by climate change. A financial architecture and transparency mechanisms should be put in place.
Technology transfer and capacity building: Developed countries need to transfer sound environmental technologies to African countries for effective climate adaptation, mitigation and transition.
Long-term climate finance: Developed countries must meet their pre-2020 pledge of US $ 100 billion per year and agree on long-term climate finance.
Which of their agenda items did they review?
It’s hard to say. There were a lot of announcements. For example, many countries have agreed to “phase out” fossil fuels in general. These are just promises and will remain so unless they are included in their Nationally Determined Contributions as formal commitments for full reporting and accountability. If they do, it will put the world on track for a better estimate of 2.4⁰C of global warming instead of 2.7⁰C before COP26.
We are a long way from net zero emissions, which is a carbon neutral world, by 2050.
The recently released IPCC Working Group 1 report that discusses the physical science basis of climate change is clear. Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to nearly 1.5 ° C or even 2 ° C will be out of reach. This means that considerable effort is needed to reduce emissions rapidly, especially in developed countries.
The level of commitment made at COP26 is therefore a total failure.
In terms of climate adaptation, progress has been made. The annual commitment of $ 100 billion from developed countries to support adaptation and mitigation in least developed countries has not been met. In 2019, total climate finance was estimated at $ 79.6 billion, of which a quarter was spent on adaptation. Now, in the Glasgow Climate Pact, it is agreed that developed countries will at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing countries from 2019 levels by 2025. This will amount to around 40 billion dollars. However, this is insufficient for the desired 50:50 balance between adaptation and attenuation. Right now it’s 40 for adaptation and 60 for mitigation.
Developed countries refuse to take any historical responsibility for the cost of loss and damage caused by the impacts of climate change, such as hurricanes and sea level rise.
The financial results of COP26 are therefore a glass half full, but it is not far from being a failure.
What agenda have African countries returned with?
It is difficult to determine, because there has been a lot of compromise. But they certainly didn’t come back with their own full agenda. Numerous obstacles due to high costs, the pandemic, travel restrictions and other logistical challenges have resulted in African voices being marginalized.
How much damage or good will someone else’s agenda do to African countries?
A lot of damages. Africa is home to most of the least developed countries. These countries are not well equipped in terms of funds and infrastructure to deal with the adverse effects of climate change. The recently released IPCC report in Chapter 12 states with great confidence that increasing temperature extremes, including heat stress and heat waves, coastal changes including coastal flooding, erosion and sea level rise, and extreme rainfall events will be common in Africa by the middle of the year. -century.
The report also states that every fraction of a degree counts as it leads to noticeable changes in these hazards. Right now, after Glasgow, the best guess is that the world is on track to reach 2.4⁰C of global warming. It is very far from 1.5 ° C. Africa must make its voice heard so that it is placed at the center of the negotiation process.
Is there room for improvement and where?
National contributions and commitments at COP26 are purely voluntary. The agreement is not binding. There are a lot of improvements to be made if the COP wants a stronger deal.
Africa needs more coordination and more science. I think the African Union Commission and other continental political bodies need to be more involved in the process.
The continent must also fund the science of climate change. For example, it is difficult to say what would be the impact of a global warming of 1.5⁰C, 2⁰C, 3⁰C, 4⁰C on sectors such as energy, water resources, agriculture, infrastructure and health. How these sectors will react to these levels of global warming remains to be understood.