Another year, another Conference of the Parties (COP) – the 27th one – and yet again, the world’s leaders have proven that they are not well-enough prepared to protect future generations from a climate catastrophe.
COP27 in Egypt was dubbed “The African COP” but no genuine commitments were made to end Africa’s reliance on fossil fuels, let alone a comprehensive, robust roadmap or plan of action to achieve this. The South African delegation, for instance, left the conference disappointed in the slow pace of adaptation.
Delegates arrived in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, with a clear agenda: how is the developed world going to repay their climate debt? And there’s no question about the necessity to do so.
Africa – the entire continent – has contributed just four percent to the greenhouse gas emissions driving the climate crisis that will, ultimately, curb economic growth by as much as 20 percent by 2050 and 64 percent by 2100.
The moral argument that Africa (and the rest of the developing world) will be restricted from developing and growing their economies, while the so-called Global North has been able to do so without pause for centuries is unquestionably valid.
And even if the joint hundreds of millions of dollars that the likes of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Walloon Region of Belgium committed to the Just Energy Transition is received timeously (over the next three to five years), it won’t be enough to cover the historic damage of centuries of colonisation, enslavement, resource extraction and debt-traps.
There’s plenty of nuance to creating opportunities for less wealthy nations to transition to sustainable energy solutions, as an example, and it’s certainly a necessary conversation. But this doesn’t mitigate the fact that we are on the cusp of a crisis.
From the floods in KZN earlier this year to those in Pakistan to the devastation left behind by Hurrican Ian in Florida to the more than 30,000 fires recorded in the Amazon in the month of September, a climate catastrophe is no longer theoretical, it’s reality.
More than half a century of denying climate change’s existence and prioritising economics over the planet that feeds us. For decades we’ve heard about how scaling down our reliance on fossil fuels will have disastrous economic consequences, such as job losses and supply shocks – an argument that in itself is not invalid.
Rich nations signing an agreement to pay for loss and damage is a win for developing economies, but when large parts of our planet become inhospitable, there will be widespread job loss, mass immigration, and famine and there won’t be anything left to fight for.
There were more representatives for fossil fuel companies at COP27 than for the 10 countries that will be affected the most by climate change. The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas is, by far, the largest contributors towards the crisis. They account for 90 percent of all carbon emissions, according to the UN.
Yet two weeks of dialogue between international governments at a critically important climate conference was structured around “loss and damage”? While it is the private companies that are doing the worst damage.
If there is an answer or a solution to the climate crisis, we need to be asking the right questions. And at COP27, we didn’t.
What’s the point of paying a climate debt if there’s no world left for us to use these funds?
If we’re not fighting for the survival of our planet and creating radical change to the industries that are actively and without remorse destroying it, what are we fighting for?
The developed world’s apologies and the miserly paychecks that accompany them will not fix our planet or mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Only targeting the fossil fuel industry will.