Road to COP 27: It’s time for Africa to lead the climate conversations

As COP26 ends, Nature4Climate’s coalition lead James Lloyd, looks forward to COP27 and the the issues likely to be the focus of the first COP to be staged in Africa

Monday 15 November 2021 10:23
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<p>Activists at Cop26 in Glasgow</p>

Activists at Cop26 in Glasgow

This year’s UN Climate Conference, held in Glasgow, United Kingdom, was a historic moment for nature. For the first time in recent history, world leaders, financial institutions and companies have united on global goals to both halt deforestation and cut methane emissions. The levels of finance pledged surpasses USD $20 billion, and this is just part of the wide range of announcements that together signal a systemic shift to address unsustainable land use and accelerate a transition toward a low carbon, nature-positive and climate-resilient future.

On the implementation side, there is still a greater need for more robust frameworks and the NDCs still have far to go on ambition. Progress captured in the recent pledges of the World Leaders Summit and final decision text however provide optimism in terms of putting to rest doubts on the inherent interlinkage between nature, the climate, biodiversity and the whole ecosystem we live in.

As COP26 draws to a close, the world now looks to Egypt who will be hosting COP27 in November 2022, shifting perspectives to the Global South’s leadership role and looking more deeply into adaptation gaps.

African countries contribute only 4% to global emissions and yet they are among the worst hit by climate change. The latest IPCC report indicates that the African continent is warming faster than the global average, which makes its countries more vulnerable to climate change’s devastating impacts, from extreme rainfall to drought to coastal flooding. Adapting to such impacts will therefore be a priority for African nations.

African communities, which account for 18% of the global population, count on an estimated 33 million smallholder farms which together are responsible for 70 per cent of the continent’s food supply. Reducing countries’ and communities’ vulnerability to climate impacts requires urgent adaptation and finance to help developing countries absorb impacts and build resilient communities, with the meaningful engagement of indigenous peoples and their ancestral knowledge at the heart of this action.

As mentioned by Dr Yasmine Fouad, the Egyptian Minister for the Environment, during her interview for the Nature’s Newsroom at COP 26, “It’s very important to push the adaptation agenda forward by looking at nature-based solutions. It’s the land, the water, the ecosystem and the climate that together should be there for the benefit of the planet and the human beings’.

Land degradation is another hot topic as we look towards COP27. FAO’s recent report indicates that up to 65 per cent of productive land in the continent is degraded, while desertification affects 45 per cent of Africa’s land area. By 2050, it is estimated that land degradation will result in more than half of Africa’s productive land becoming unusable, which will have serious implications for food security. This is why the transformation of food systems is crucial to addressing the challenges brought up by climate change, as well as preserving biodiversity.

Speaking to Mr Alfred Okot Okidi, Permanent Secretary for the Ugandan Minister of Water and Environment, we heard that the financial commitments achieved in Glasgow are a step in the right direction, but still need to be increased further to fully address the gap in adaptation across the region. For him, COP 27 will be the moment to “raise the profile of adaptation and ultimately improve livelihoods and transformation of African economies for the benefits of its inhabitants.”

Nature-based solutions are key for this transformation. African landscapes have a vast potential for halting and reversing nature loss, reducing global emissions, and delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals. Across the African continent, they could offer over 1,798 million tonnes CO2e per year emission reduction from reforestation and avoided forest conversion alone. Done right, they will also help us increase capacity and empower local and Indigenous communities.

The evidence is there. Gabon is now a model on forest protection and biodiversity preservation, absorbing four times more carbon dioxide than it emits and with 88 per cent of its territory covered by the biodiverse tropical rainforest of the greater Congo Basin. Uganda is another of the leading countries in Africa seeking reforestation, with a plan currently underway to plant at least 40 million trees annually and is looking into partnerships with the private sector to make use of new technologies to scale it up further.

African-led climate action is already happening on the ground, and the Global North should learn from its Southern neighbours. Nature4Climate’s Case Study Map features incredible examples from Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Gabon, Zambia, and more. These encompass a wide range of remarkable projects, from climate-smart agriculture and agroforestry systems to restoration of degraded areas through tree planting and growing. These could, and should, be scaled up and emulated in other regions.

The Great Green Wall Initiative, for example, is an African-led movement to grow an 8,000km natural wonder across the entire width of Africa, restoring degraded landscapes, creating millions of jobs in rural areas, and sequestering carbon. In Egypt, the Bedouin seed plants and natural pastures restoration project is restoring natural pastures in large areas to improve Bedouin community livelihoods and achieve sustainable environmental development.

Our latest assessment of national climate policies featuring nature-based solutions showed great leadership of African countries, with examples from Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa and Uganda.

Kenya’s Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy, for example, harmonizes objectives throughout agriculture, development, and climate change under a single, cohesive policy addressing climate-smart agriculture. The policy lays out a budget equivalent to 50 billion USD to enable agricultural NbS through the integration of farmer livelihoods, diversification of agricultural products, baselining natural capital assets, and engaging with Indigenous Knowledge.

We at Nature4Climate are looking forward to extending our support to the Egyptian presidency as we approach the first assessment of the Global Stocktake, helping to highlight what’s happening on the ground and continuing to push for nature positive by 2030. Ultimately, we aim to see increased levels of implementation of climate policies and pay special attention to actions taken not ‘for’ but ‘by’ and ‘with’ the Global South. Hopefully, Egypt is positioned well to do just that.

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