/ 2 November 2022

US COP27 envoy: Get African countries the money they need to fight climate change

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Screening of US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry message during the closing day of the C40 World Mayors Summit Buenos Aires 2022 on October 21, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)

The United States will advocate against investing in long-term oil and gas projects in Africa at COP27 in Egypt, said US climate envoy John Kerry.

In a conference call with journalists last week, he advised against the continued financing of oil and gas projects in Africa.

This is despite the decision by the US government to continue funding gas projects on the continent, which is against last year’s COP26 agreement in Glasgow, Scotland, which stated that developed countries should stop investing in “dirty fossil fuel projects”.

World leaders will begin climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh starting on the 6th of November. Tensions are expected to run high in the negotiations around reducing carbon emissions.

Kerry said developed countries planned to implement all the promises they made at COP26, including encouraging countries to adopt clean energy and development banks to increase funding.

“We view this year’s conference as an implementation COP. And the purpose of it is to make sure the promises that were made in Glasgow are actually being pursued at the pace they need to be pursued at, but also the folks who didn’t step up in Glasgow are, according to the Glasgow agreement, supposed to step up here and provide new NDCs [nationally determined contributions], new indicators of what they are prepared to do,”  he said.

He added that the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting is the “stepping stone to the next opportunity for all of us to get together and be able to measure where we are and what we need to do, to get on track where we aren’t today”.

Africa’s push for fossil fuels

But African countries are set to use the UN conference to advocate for massive new investment in fossil fuels in Africa.

During COP27 pre-negotiations leaders from African countries such as Uganda, Nigeria and Senegal advocated for an energy mix, with the use of fossil fuels to expand their economies and increase people’s access to electricity.

“Africa has woken up and we are going to exploit our natural resources,” said Uganda’s energy minister, Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu, during Africa Energy Week in Cape Town  last month.

Omar Farouk Ibrahim, secretary general of the African Petroleum Producers’ Organisation, told Reuters: “There is no way you can develop any economy, any society without energy. We are talking about coal, we are talking oil and we are talking about gas. At this time we are not discriminating.”

During a business forum discussion in June, Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum said the decision to stop the funding of fossil fuel projects in Africa was a punishment and they would continue to fight for them to resume. “We are going to continue to fight; we have fossil fuels that should be exploited.” 

According to the International Energy Agency, 43% of Africa’s people don’t have electricity, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Missing funding

At the COP meeting in Denmark in 2009, governments around the world committed to allocating $100-billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries address the harmful effects of climate change and mitigate further rises in temperatures. 

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development analysis shows that developed countries have not met the pledged amount to help African countries since 2019.

One of the key issues is how to ensure that African countries get the money to fight climate change that wealthier nations have pledged. Frustrations at this failure are contributing to rising tensions ahead of COP27. 

Kerry admitted that finance was a challenge and that the US and other countries were holding back on the capital or simply did not have it.

“The trick is to persuade both governments and financiers to take a chance on new technologies and meet their pledges. The biggest challenge in that regard is figuring out how to help poorer nations get the necessary capital without being short paid. The US is looking for money to give these poorer countries, so they can get on board,” he said 

If Africa continued with exploration for gas, and oil, it would be close to impossible for the world to limit global heating to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, Kerry said.

African countries will be hit the hardest

A report from the United Nations Environment Programme finds that African countries have fallen drastically behind in mitigating the effects of climate changes needed to avoid a future of even more extreme storms, heatwaves and floods. 

The report showed that countries globally have failed to meet the requirements agreed to at the Glasgow conference last year to limit the planet’s warming level to 1.5°C. The report added that developed countries are leading the planet to a minimum of 2.5°C, a level deemed catastrophic by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Most countries are lagging on their existing commitments to cut carbon output, with global greenhouse gas emissions set to rise to 10.6% by 2030. Although this is an improvement from last year which showed a 13.7% increase by 2030, and a continued rise of emissions after 2030, it is still not nearly enough to keep warming below the 1.5°C threshold,” the report said.

African countries are marginal contributors to global carbon emission yet are bearing the brunt of extreme climate change. A report by the World Bank estimates that, by 2030, 118 million people on the continent will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat if action is not taken now.

Loss and damage

Kerry urged developed countries to support developing countries with the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

He added that there should be sufficient conversation about loss and damage that developing countries will face.

“I think that the developed world has to take the lead in helping the developing world to be able to withstand the impacts of climate and to get ahead of the curve on the new energy future, and I’m all for it,” he said.”

“What’s important is that we’ve got to find new mechanisms of releasing the funding and new ways of providing concessionary funding to help countries to transition.”

He added that the US was prepared to support countries through finance for loss and damage and would lead discussions with other countries to discuss why a move to clean energy is better.

“We are prepared to discuss in Sharm el-Sheikh fully all the ways in which we can try to be fair and gather the efforts of the world to help us address the concerns of a lot of countries. So, we’re very supportive of addressing loss and damage in the context of the process of the UN — of the COPs,” he said.