What you need to know:
Unfortunately, the perpetrators are selectively reprimanded, with strong bias in favour of the wealthy folks
Egypt has been the world’s centre of attention in the last couple of weeks as host of the 27th edition of Conference of the Parties (COP27) of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We may recall that the catch word in last season’s UN climate summit was “phase out” which tactfully became “phase down” in the last moments before the final document of the Glasgow Climate Act was released. Annual global events such as the UN climate summit have a semblance of TV series where every season carries a different story. Climate financing took centre-stage at this year’s summit. The underlying concept is justifiable on all fronts: Climate justice! Reports reveal that Africa accounts for the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions at just 3.8 percent in sharp contrast of China (23 percent); allies US and European Union at 19 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Unfortunately, Africa, owing to our underdevelopment – or less development – carries the largest piece of the climate change effects pie because we are more vulnerable, and yet less cushioned from the aftershocks. The fundamental principles of climate financing are to compensate Africa for the loss and damage incurred; mitigate climate change effects; and support the continent to adapt durable and efficient technologies that are climate friendlier. Climate financing is not a new phenomenon at UN climate summits. However, hosting this year’s summit on African soil played the trump card to advance the idea and lure developed countries to not only honour their $ 100 billion pledge, but even double it. Over and above the enthusiasm expressed by African government delegations and climate activists alike at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, is climate financing the silver bullet to the looming climate crisis across our continent?
First, we need to address the biggest single threat to any form of climate financing: corruption. Drawing from experiences of various similar funded programmes in the far and recent past – poverty eradication, education improvement, food and nutrition, agricultural technologies, public transport upgrades, etc – corruption has been the most compromising factor. For economists such as Dambisa Moyo, the framework and design of western funding is problematic and has to be critically analysed because it is wrapped in such a way to keep Africa indebted to the West. In light of Dambisa, whose criticism caught the attention of top Western economists, it is imperative to clearly define the form and shape of climate financing: Is it compensation or aid or grant or debt? We know some African governments are in the habit of assenting to Western agreements with nearly no criticism, which has greatly contributed to our indebtness as a continent.
Second, “there cannot be climate justice without land justice”. This was underscored by the bishops of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) during their African climate dialogues held prior to COP27. The bishops cited commodisation of land as a major threat to land access and ownership in local communities across the continent. Forceful land evictions in favour of [foreign] land developers and acquisition of natural resources has caused land and water scarcity, which directly threatens the main livelihood of rural communities – agriculture. This trend brings two conflicting dimensions into sharp focus: development viz-a-viz environmental conservation. The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) is the most recent project that has advanced this debate to the extent of the EU parliament, which asked the Ugandan government to halt their plans.
Africa’s justifiable blame of the West for the looming climate crisis juxtaposed with our encroachment on the environment creates a glaring irony. In Uganda, for instance, human activity significantly accounts for the unpredictable nature of rain patterns, increased warming and, poor air and water quality. Unfortunately, the perpetrators are selectively reprimanded, with strong bias in favour of the wealthy folks.
Lastly, could climate financing premised on loss and damaged induced by Western industrial activity as well lay future grounds for compensation of Africans for pain, loss and humiliation caused by historical ills such as colonisation, racism and slave trade?
Mr Augustine Bahemuka is a commentator on issues of peace and society. [email protected]