After Covid, the world must next unite to stop climate change

The response to the pandemic has shown what nations can achieve when they work together, says Chair of the African Group of Negotiators on climate change Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale


Tuesday 21 July 2020 14:03 BST

Gabon has taken the leadership of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) for the next two years by putting priorities of working towards a stronger and unified African voice in the global climate change negotiations on which the President of Gabon has committed to supporting wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately, due to the outbreak and challenges of Covid-19, African countries – like other governments around the world – are facing multiple crises from the spread of the pandemic, which requires immediate and decisive action to save lives and overcome the social and economic consequences.

Covid-19 is severely testing our capacities to resilience. However, despite health challenges being a priority, it is crucial to remind ourselves that the world is facing two global challenges: the COVID-19 and the climate crisis.

Regrettably, the latter has been put on hold despite the increasing threat of climate change on human health, economies and the scientific warnings that we have reached the “tipping point”.

Scientists warn significant climate change impacts will occur much earlier than expected if actions are not taken urgently and Africa, a continent of 54 countries, will be the most vulnerable and adversely affected, despite contributing only to 4% of the total global emissions.

It is therefore vital that we must firmly put a similar focus and resource that we have devoted to Covid-19 to replicate it in addressing the threats of climate change.

We need to align our response to Covid-19 with the Paris Agreement and in the same process, pay close attention to the Nature-Based Solutions to reduce the probability of a recurrence of this pandemic, for biodiversity preservation, climate mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development.

The U.N. summit in Glasgow (now postponed to next year) will be the last mile before the initiation of the implementation of the Paris Agreement in 2021, and countries have to agree on the rules at COP26 as the Paris Agreement guides the efforts of parties and their obligation on climate action.

It is to be noted that before the epidemic, the African Group had a strategic meeting in Libreville earlier this year under the theme “Cop26: Africa's Roadmap for Climate Action.” This meeting leads us to endorse a clear African work plan to COP26 and to deliberate a strategy for updating and revising our Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, before the next conference of parties of the UN climate change.

Henceforth, due to the restriction to physically meet and to maintain our work, the African Group through my leadership has decided to keep the on-going conversation virtually and to use the available technologies to discuss with representatives from different African countries, other parties and partners to make sure we keep the momentum on climate action.

These virtual consultations will enable us to strengthen our climate action for the post-Covid-19 period, and reinforce our climate adaptation efforts – adaptation being the priority for African countries.

It is in this context that Mr Ban Ki-moon, 8th United Nations Secretary-General and Co-Chair of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), has expressed his desire to create a synergy between the GCA and the African Adaptation Initiative (AAI). This has been championed by H.E . Ali Bongo Ondimba, the President of Gabon. Mr Ki-moon requested the President of Gabon to join the Board of Directors of the World Commission on Adaptation due to his strong leadership on climate.

Gabon continues to champion the African Adaptation Initiative since it was launched in 2015, where it contributed $500,000 to support African countries in their efforts on adaptation.

As President Bongo has said, “The real impact of the coronavirus crisis on climate will ultimately depend on the choices we make in how we recover. Meeting the Paris Agreement's goals for mitigation and adaptation must be central to this effort to ensure we reduce the likelihood of future pandemics.”

Thus, this synergy will strengthen and enhance the implementation of the adaptation initiative for Africa and outlines the need for an integrated response in building the climate and the pandemic resilience in Africa. This year is crucial for aligning the recovery process with the Paris Agreement goals and to keep the momentum.

African countries have also called on developed countries to take robust action and implementation to close the ambition gap of both cutting emissions and through climate finance for climate action by 2020.

The gap in mobilising and dispersing $100 billion a year by 2020 is of crucial concern for African countries. The African Group has called on parties to deliver their obligation of climate finance to facilitate the implementation of more ambitious action in vulnerable countries.

Consequently, we need to remind parties that in 2015 countries agreed to an ambitious climate treaty to address the 'climate emergency' under the Paris Agreement.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a wake-up call and is teaching us that this fight against the virus cannot be won without us joining forces. We have witnessed a strong need for preparedness, cooperation, commitment and working together.

The world must take the lessons from it for climate action with a sense of solidarity and urgency in order to recover better for our future generation and our planet.

Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale is Special Advisor to the President of the Republic of Gabon and Chair of the African Group of Negotiators on climate change.

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