Southern Times Writer
Windhoek – Absent drastic interventions, the world is on the brink of climate disaster that threatens humanity as we know it.
This was the consensus of global leaders meeting under the banner of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow this week.
Among the far-reaching actions agreed on to offset the evolving crisis are pledges to protect the world’s forests, cut methane emissions and wean economies off coal. One of the key goals in all this is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as agreed at the Paris Climate Conference six years ago.
UN Secretary General Dr António Guterres set the tone, warning: “Recent climate action announcements might give the impression that we are on track to turn things around. This is an illusion.
“Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink. We face a stark choice: either we stop it, or it stops us. It’s time to say, ‘Enough … Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.’”
And Southern African leaders contextualised this aptly by unequivocally calling on rich countries, as the prime polluters, to step up and put their money where their mouths are.
Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, who is Chair of the Southern African Development Community and also heads the Least Developed Countries group, said the rich were yet to pony up on the US$100 billion promised to help developing countries combat climate change.
“This is not an act of charity. So pay or die with us,” declared President Chakwera in an interview with British media. “When we say that they keep their promise, it is not about charity, but about paying a cleaning fee. If they have been involved in the changes that the world has experienced, let’s clean it up, but we must take responsibility.”
At COP15 in Copenhagen, developed countries promised to mobilise US$100 billion by 2020 to help developing nations cope with the effects of climate change and build green economies.
“The money pledged to the least developed nations by developed nations is not a donation, but a cleaning fee. Neither Africa in general, nor Malawi in particular, will take no for an answer. Not anymore,” President Chakwera declared.
In a powerful addressing to fellow leaders, the SADC Chair said: “This is what the people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi are asking after burying the relatives they lost during Cyclone Idai. This is what the people in Haiti, Kiribati, and the Philippines are asking after their children were swept away by hurricanes and this is what the people in Yemen and Lebanon are asking as they scramble for water.
“This is what the people of Africa are asking when you leave them with no tools for cooking than charcoal and no source of electricity except coal. And it is here that we must answer them. We must answer them with binding commitments from the G20 to cut emissions to zero. Period.”
Namibian President Hage Geingob was also in a no nonsense mood, saying this may well be the international community’s last chance to collectively combat climate change in a meaningful manner.
“For these COP negotiations, there are critical objectives that are crucial to protect us all from the impacts from runaway climate change, breakdown of the biosphere and the death of the world’s oceans. It is hard to overstate the urgency and consequence of getting these right,” President Geingob said.
He also said, “Namibia supports the UN Secretary-General’s push to ‘consign coal to history’. Namibia will support the phasing out of coal in our region by significantly scaling up solar and wind energy to support domestic demand, whilst working with our neighbours to responsibly phase out existing coal generation in the Southern African Power Pool and transform our region’s energy map…
“We urge for an increased volume of grants, rather than loans, to make it possible for emerging economies carrying high debt burdens to kick-start transformative projects… In this context, we call on other countries to show the highest levels of ambition and commitment possible. Namibia urges all COP negotiators to finalise the Paris rulebook, take meaningful action in areas of consigning coal to history, lay the foundations of international carbon markets, and honor and exceed financial commitments made.”
President Wavel Ramkalawan of Seychelles, whose small island nation is particularly susceptible to climate change, said: “Fellow leaders, from Seychelles, our message is simple: we have to act immediately. Let the change be a real one, let the paradigm shift happen. May those who exploit without thinking of tomorrow stop. May we realise that in this battle to save our planet, we are in the same boat—big, small, rich or poor. The time to act is yesterday.”
Also rallying the world to action was President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania.
“We know what is required and we know that if the world will not act accordingly the countries like ours with low adaptive capacity have no option than to brace for more impact, however what all to remember is when the drastic climate change is heat it will choose no location might a week poor of rich country,” she stated.
“For sure we know what is needed and we know what works. Our solidarity as leaders will be measured not by the set high ambitions we make today but our actions across all the pillars of Paris agreement mitigation, adaptation and financing.”
President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia weighed in saying: “We are confident that the global community will share our sense of urgency, if there is any lesson we have learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the need for our collaboration on this shared planet in order to secure our mutual safety and success.”
He, too, called for adequate and predictable financing to enable developing countries to make impactful contributions to addressing climate change.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa added his voice to the call for the rich to clean up their mess.
“It is most unfortunate that the impact of climate change is disproportionately borne by the vulnerable communities which have contributed the least to the current stock of atmospheric carbon,” President Mnangagwa said. “The expectation is that major emitters will scale up mitigation action.”
Researchers Aimée-Noël Mbiyozo and Alize le Roux have this week delved into this matter, saying: “Despite contributing little to climate change, Southern Africa is among the worst-affected regions globally. And those who are bearing the brunt are the ones with the least resources to adapt…
“The World Food Programme has called Southern Africa the ‘epitome’ of the link between climate and the water-energy-food nexus. The 16 Southern African Development Community states have recorded 36 percent of all weather-related disasters in Africa in the past four decades. These affected 177 million people, left 2.7 million homeless and inflicted damage in excess of US$14 billion. Climate change will continue to increase the frequency, intensity, duration and locations of these slow- and sudden-onset impacts.”
They pointed out that “Africa received only 26 percent of available financing between 2016 and 2019. Three-quarters of that was in the form of loans and other non-grant instruments that must be repaid. Most has been directed towards cutting emissions (mitigation), with adaptation assigned only 21 percent of global climate funding in 2018”.