COP26: World leaders may fail us, but there is another way to prevent climate catastrophe

As governments again fail to deliver, Africa can be empowered to solve part of the climate problem themselves, says the Founder and CEO of conservation organisation Space for Giants

Max Graham
Tuesday 02 November 2021 07:55
<p>Echuya Central Forest Reserve in South Western Uganda</p>

Echuya Central Forest Reserve in South Western Uganda

Cop26 is an epoch-defining moment in our fight to halt climate breakdown. The talks in Glasgow felt doomed from the start, after the G20 summit in Italy ended without an agreement to phase out coal consumption. Yet there is hope.

Since I set up conservation charity Space for Giants in 2010 to protect wildlife and the landscapes they depend on, efforts to tackle climate change and those to safeguard biodiversity have been running in parallel.

There is now a recognition that they are one and the same; nature-based solutions to tackle climate change can help drive emissions reductions.

Africa, which is home to 18% of the world’s population yet contributes only 4% of global emissions, will bear the biggest brunt of climate change impacts, with a predicted average 3°C degree warming, causing an increase in conflicts and insecurity across the continent.

African nations submitted ambitious national plans to limit their emissions to meet the Paris targets. But developed countries did not follow suit. Nor did they commit to the sums needed to help Africa and other developing countries to reduce their emissions and to adapt to the consequences of climate change.

The bad news is that the pledges made at Cop26 will likely again fall far short of what is needed; there simply are not enlightened technocrats waiting in the wings to save the day.

But the good news that if governments will not respond to the clear moral obligation that lies in front of them, Africa has an opportunity to take transformative, direct action.

Investors, consumers and shareholders around the world are demanding that companies commit to becoming carbon neutral, and this can only be achieved in the medium term by offsetting their residual emissions.

Africa’s vast areas of natural habitat put it in prime position to benefit from nature-based carbon offset payments; in fact this year is the first in which demand across the continent has outstripped supply - and demand continues to soar.

Not only does carbon offsetting help to both tackle climate change and restore and protect ecosystems, they also combat rural poverty and prevent future pandemics by stopping the illegal wildlife trade.

Delivering effective carbon offset projects that actually achieve these aims requires national governments to create an enabling environment for investment, with simple guidelines for the projects’ development and delivery.

The Giants Club is an initiative of Space for Giants which provides a link between the political, conservation, financial and technical worlds; all united in the mission to get this work done.

Its members include six African Heads of State, leaders of major businesses, philanthropists, global influencers, and wildlife conservation experts. Together, we are working to protect carbon sinks by helping Africa to open the door to the innovation, financial capacity and keen interest of the private sector, and to funnel that into restoring and protecting the continent’s invaluable carbon sinks.

It is true that carbon offsets are only a part of the answer to climate change; they are a stop-gap to slow the damage while the really hard work of cutting emissions accelerates. But this is an historic opportunity for Africa.

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C degrees by the end of the century is still within reach. Empty rhetoric from dithering and denying world leaders gets us nowhere; instead, the companies driving the consumption that contributes to climate change have the chance to empower Africa, and other developing nations, to find their own solution, before it’s too late.

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