Is the emission-free climate future still possible?

Peter Makwanya

Once again, it is that time of the year that the global nations are feverishly preparing to gather in Egypt for this year’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Conference of Parties (UNFCCC COP27) annual conference. The aim, as is always, is to try to find lasting and sustainable solutions to the escalating global climate crisis, towards emission-free and low-carbon transitional economies. Against this background, is the emission-free climate still possible? Which climate future are we choosing?

It is the thrust of this discussion that of all climate problems that are at the heart of global nations, climate agenda will be uncovered in order to present and project the unfolding drama taking place directly or indirectly behind the scenes. As the global community of nations is in the last lap of fine-tuning submissions that would make it to the COP27 agenda, the reality is that there are more sticking issues that member States have to negotiate and tackle than they will agree upon. Being able to reach a consensus at this global showcase has always been a challenge and this year’s COP27 is no different in terms of coming up with positive outcomes.

While COP27 is supposed to build upon the outcomes of COP26, quite a number of things have changed dramatically since Glasgow COP26. Therefore, what is happening now or what is going to dominate the COP27 agenda are not sincere   environmental issues and commitments but survival which reality can never background or mask. These issues and climate concerns will remain obstacles to the positive outcomes that all fair-minded nations envisage.

Africa has not been wasting time or stopping at anything in its attempts to make COP27 a success, that is why to date, a number of pre-COP27 conferences have been held in Senegal, Gabon, Rwanda and DRC, among others. On behalf of Africa’s civil society, The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) has been at the forefront, making its presence felt everywhere on the continent and abroad, with the aim of foregrounding climate justice concerns. If there are youths who have been so busy on the planet, it is the community of African youths, they really have put more than 100% in preparation to this global showcase, with the aim of contributing to the African future, they need or want, whichever brings better outcomes.

Africa’s sticking issues continue to increase. These are climate finance, reparations, compensation or climate debt, whatever the correct term. In the context of climate finance, Africa has since made another addition, which is climate-induced loss or damage from natural disasters, from ecological destruction, degradation and deforestation. Very soon Africa may be requiring funding for slavery, so the list keeps growing, rich nations, watch out, now it is Africa’s turn to seek justice.

Egypt as the host nation has an important role to play, that of building consensus among African countries so that they have a common position, one voice and unity. Even when COP27 is being held under the framework of UNFCCC, it is Egypt’s duty as the host to assure and demonstrate to the world that COP27 is a success. While a lot is expected from Egypt, its hands are not clean in terms of cracking down on and imprisoning of the journalists that drive environmental discourse in Egypt. While the world’s heart is beating faster in anticipation of the day countries travel to Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheik, the coastal venue of this year’s COP27 conference, many delegates seem not worried about those imprisoned but they are excited about one thing in common, which is travelling. Everyone enjoys travelling, especially considering the kind of benefits associated with the nature of this travel.

From the rich polluting nations perspective, the energy crisis brought about by the war in Ukraine, is a major strategic concern than the global conference to be held on African soil.

Even their attendance is just academic and procedural. With the inherent contradictions unfolding among the group of nations involved in the COP27 negotiations, it is difficult to note which of the climate crises and impacts would get preference over others, since almost all of them have been violated, directly or indirectly.

One wonders if the emission reduction concerns are still an issue to worry about, considering that some leading polluting nations have shifted goal posts already.

It is also evident that statistics do not lie as global emission targets have since surpassed the 2-degree benchmark. In this regard, who will tell who that global carbon emissions have to tone down when the initial test has been failed already.

Besides the accelerating warming levels, there is also rapid deforestation of tropical rainforests and river basins in Africa and the world. Furthermore, a new wave of oil and gas explorations is driving African nations like Mozambique, Uganda, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe haywire. All these countries cannot wait for the day they realise the taste of the revenue from the black gold, no matter the environmental repercussions. These developments, although they bring the much needed revenue, let us spare a thought for the forests that will be cleared, water bodies contaminated through unuser-friendly methods, human-wildlife conflicts and forced relocations. When the situation is like this, which climate future are we choosing?

According to the unfolding events and situations, the world is nowhere near meeting the highlighted climate action strategies and solution targets. Therefore, what sort of lies, pretences and smokescreens will dominate the COP27 agenda? While lies are common and a branch of propaganda, it boggles the mind when the world is made to believe its own lies as a result of the global greenwashing onslaught. Unfortunately, and regrettably, lies have short legs, very short like the biblical Zacchaeus hence they can easily be exposed.

While some financial pledges have not been met and accomplished to date, many financial promises continue to be broken, the same applies to emission reduction pledges because they lack binding since they are just pledges after all. The conference will be conducted in an environment where climate journalists have been incarcerated, which is characterised by fear, repression and heavy handedness. In this regard, what type of future are we choosing?

This is a different COP, conducted in the spirit of double-dealing, greenwashing and gagging of environmental advocates. Is the emission-free climate future still possible or is it  just time to play climate games. Therefore, which climate justice and future are we choosing?

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on: [email protected] 

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