Environment, Leadership

Why UN Climate Conferences Need a Radical Re-Think

So, glob­al del­e­ga­tions have just returned home after attend­ing a major Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence in Dubai.

Sep­a­rate­ly, if you are a farmer, you have prob­a­bly won­dered why rain is such a prob­lem these days. After five failed rainy sea­sons in the Horn of Africa, Soma­lia suf­fered 43,000 deaths. In East Africa, drought caused a death every 36 sec­onds as report­ed by Oxfam. This year’s intense rains led to dev­as­tat­ing floods where well over 100 peo­ple died and 1.4 mil­lion dis­placed in Soma­lia. Numer­ous casu­al­ties and dis­place­ment in Kenya’s coastal region have been report­ed. These extreme weath­er pat­terns, includ­ing severe droughts and floods, clear­ly demon­strate the nev­er-end­ing impact of cli­mate change.

Is this the new nor­mal or will things ever be dif­fer­ent? Many Kenyan farm­ers won­der. Their farm yield has gone down and isn’t bounc­ing back. Their sweat is use­less when rains fail. They feel abandoned.

Twen­ty-eight years ago, the UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change began host­ing annu­al con­fer­ences (COP) to address cli­mate change, bring­ing togeth­er inter­na­tion­al del­e­gates. Despite 28 years of these con­fer­ences, cli­mate change impacts in Africa have wors­ened, lead­ing to increas­ing deaths from famine and floods. The World Food Pro­gram notes over 23 mil­lion peo­ple in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Soma­lia are severe­ly hun­gry, under­scor­ing the urgency despite numer­ous glob­al meetings.”

We must there­fore ask this tough ques­tion – are the Unit­ed Nations COPs real­ly mak­ing a dif­fer­ence for Africa?

When last year’s COP 27 con­clud­ed in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh, the world cel­e­brat­ed per­ceived tri­umph. The land­mark estab­lish­ment of the Loss and Dam­age Fund at COP27 marked a turn­ing point in the fight against cli­mate change, par­tic­u­lar­ly for Africa, the con­ti­nent most vul­ner­a­ble to its impacts. This Fund seeks to assist Africa and oth­er impact­ed regions in the world to rebuild infra­struc­ture, restore liveli­hoods and adapt to a chang­ing cli­mate. It will do this by pro­vid­ing finan­cial relief through address­ing his­tor­i­cal injus­tices, build­ing resilience and empow­er­ing vul­ner­a­ble communities.

The ques­tion though, is this – Have you as a Kenyan farmer; an African farmer ben­e­fit­ed from this Loss and Dam­age Fund? All the farm­ers that I posed this ques­tion to told me that they haven’t ben­e­fit­ted from the Fund in any way. They don’t even know that it exists.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t sup­port that Fund. I do. Just as I sup­port a crit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion from the recent­ly con­clud­ed COP 28 in Dubai.

The res­o­lu­tion calls on coun­tries to begin ‘tran­si­tion­ing away from fos­sil fuels in ener­gy sys­tems, in a just, order­ly and equi­table man­ner, accel­er­at­ing action in this crit­i­cal decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keep­ing with the sci­ence’. I sup­port this whole­heart­ed­ly. African com­pa­nies like Autopax, Kenya’s first local com­pa­ny of elec­tric vehi­cles are already lead­ing Africa away from fos­sil fuels.

How­ev­er, we have learned from his­to­ry that vital COP res­o­lu­tions often end up unim­ple­ment­ed by rich nations that should be on the fore­front of imple­ment­ing them.

I sin­cere­ly chal­lenge all our African Gov­ern­ments to con­duct a com­pre­hen­sive audit of the res­o­lu­tions from glob­al cli­mate change con­fer­ences. The audit should deter­mine the extent of imple­men­ta­tion of these res­o­lu­tions and assess the per­cent­age of fund­ing that has reached the aver­age African cit­i­zen. I fur­ther sug­gest a detailed exam­i­na­tion of the lim­it­ed fund­ing received for cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion, to ascer­tain whether it is being used effec­tive­ly or embez­zled, con­tribut­ing to ongo­ing hardships.

This sin­cere audit must be con­duct­ed before the next Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence (COP 29) in Azerbaijan.

Large­ly, rich nations emit­ting most of the green­house gas­es that are accel­er­at­ing cli­mate change have failed to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for their actions. This behav­ior runs con­trary to the Unit­ed Nations’ prin­ci­ple of ‘com­mon but dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed respon­si­bil­i­ties.’ This sim­ply means that nations must clean the mess they cause, as per their capability.

As long as our farm­ers con­tin­ue depend­ing on increas­ing­ly errat­ic rain­fall, that mess remains uncleaned. Let’s free our­selves from imag­i­nary chains! Ama nia­je? Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Founder and Chair­per­son of Green Africa Foun­da­tion, an orga­ni­za­tion that was found­ed in the year 2000 that cham­pi­ons Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment in Africa.

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