THE tell-tale signs of global warming are no longer a secret or mystified but are now firmly in the public domain hence global warming trends have ceased to be global warning signs. No more warnings but warming that can now be controlled and captured, leading the global communities to depend on main polluting actors to decide how much warming the world can afford.
In this regard, despite the frequency of natural disasters, human-induced emissions can be monitored, regulated, denied, speculated or under declared. Therefore, global nations are no longer dealing with an exclusive natural phenomenon but a captured process where even the topical climate finance has been captured by the multilateral funding institutions and the main polluters.
They decide how much is pledged, disbursed, negotiated and allocated to whom, how soon or late. For these reasons, developing countries appear hard done and Africa appears anxious, restless and unsettled. Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change, facing multiple challenges and complex risks in the form of destructive cyclones, flooding, droughts, heatwaves, food insecurity, displacements and conflicts, among others.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference of parties (COP), global annual gatherings which still need to establish firm and positive footprints on the global arena are littered with controversies and ambivalence. These climate gatherings are supposed to be essentially rewarding schemes where ideas are shared, repackaged and rebranded rather than recycled and reproduced.
As developing countries eagerly lobby for bailouts in the name of climate finance, in their home countries, deliberate and uncontrolled human activities continue to degenerate into wide scale degradation, deforestation, emission galore and a disinformation crisis. Africa has a disinformation crisis yet it expects its climate problems to be handled impartially and smoothly. Too many half-truths and deceptions have been peddled by the continent thereby shooting itself in the foot leading to very few people taking it seriously.
Although the level of the continent’s emissions appears insignificant, it is the rate of self-destruction in terms of mortgaging its natural resources at an alarming rate never seen even during colonialism which has destroyed the environment as if there is no tomorrow. These are tell-tale signs in the public domain which signify more than global warnings.
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As COP28 approaches, global warming has ceased to be a global warning facility as nothing new is at stake. Although global warnings have been largely ignored, there is a realisation that at COP28, nations need to do global stock taking, which can also be said to be a process without an end. It is also at this forum that the nations’ progress must be checked and assessed against the goals of the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, to see if countries have heeded the global warning signs.
Several items and unfinished business are at stake at COP28, and they continue piling up under the banner of climate finance. The progress made on nationally-determined contributions need to be assessed as well, including green economy and how nations are transitioning to low carbon economies. Adaptation finance is also a bone of contention so is mitigation finance while loss and damage has come on board as a problematic new kid on the block, and it cannot be wished away.
Loss and damage is a sticking point especially in the context of destructive floods in the global South where properties, infrastructure, livelihood options have been destroyed while human lives have been lost too.
As the world stampedes to gather in Dubai, the host country sums up the whole irony and paradox. The Emirate of Dubai is the bastion of global emissions and large-scale fossil fuel burning, an advocate of polluter-pay principle and carbon markets for selling hot air, where host communities would never realise any co-benefits. Many lessons are going to come out of COP28, where everything shall be discussed in the context of large-scale emissions and fossil fuel burning by the host country. It is not about how much money the emirate pledges to the global communities, the question is how much behavioural change the Emirate and other like-minded main polluting actors have exhibited.
While loss and damage continue to hog the limelight and is the reason why developing countries need climate finance, developing countries need to see adaptation finance being increased as their adaptation needs and costs keep multiplying, especially for the African countries. For two weeks, the world will be talking the language of adaptation, mitigation, loss and damage, all under the banner of climate finance unfortunately without understanding each other.
This is the forum where the highest level of climate diplomacy and negotiation have been exhibited but this has not contributed to any positive outcomes.
There is a danger for African countries to put their eggs in one basket, as they negotiate for more climate finance, of which very few pledged funding will ever reach them in time. While COP27 failed to raise the zeal of reducing emissions and the 1,5 degrees benchmark already missed, there is a likelihood that COP28 will not be conclusive until COP29 beckons. The main polluting actors and multilateral financiers still need to buy more time before they fully commit themselves to bail out developing countries.
While the loss and damage fund can fit both into adaptation and mitigation, it will be difficult to contextualise and streamline loss and damage as a stand-alone entity or rather embed it. On mitigation issues, low emission development strategies remain weak in Africa to realise just transitions.
The language used is riddled with ambiguities and lack of clarity. As such, the burning of fossil fuels, large-scale commercial logging and degradation may not stop soon. There are no ambitions in Africa to upgrade for decarbonisation, together with lack of serious gender equality, climate justice and youth power.
Now that climate change is not a distant threat anymore but a present reality with no warnings necessary, no amount of disinformation will help to mask the reality.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on: email@example.com