cop26 coal air pollution warming
Targeting the energy sector to address ghg emissions is one of the biggest ways to affect global warming. Image: Pixabay.

A briefing by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) stated that even if all current climate pledges are made, the world is still headed to 2.4°C warming if not more.

As excessive floods, severe drought and famine continue to be experienced in different parts of the world, global leaders remain largely unfazed with regards to making ambitious climate targets. Their decisions for making firm commitments and implementing climate action are set far too late for any chance of slowing down or reversing the harsh climate impacts. As activists fought and raised their voices during the recently concluded climate talks at COP26, literally the world’s best last chance to save the planet from a climate emergency, little tangible gains were made.

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Gap exists globally between net zero pledges and real action

For the umpteenth time, the global north has chosen to forsake the demands of the most vulnerable communities in the global south who are already experiencing the worst there is from the devastating effects of climate change. Wealthy countries that failed to honour their $100 billion commitment have now decided to put off that demand until an unlikely date in 2023. This comes even as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicated that adaptation and damage could cost developing nations between $140 and $300bn per year by 2030, dwarfing the initial pledge that is yet to be met. Leaders of wealthy nations are hesitant about meeting this target for fear of being the cash cow whenever climate finance is needed for addressing climate solutions even as they have for a long time been the biggest polluters on the planet causing climate catastrophe. 

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What’s worse, the summit showed that the appetite for continued fossil fuel use is set to increase with peak demands expected within the decade, and the fossil fuel industry sent the largest delegation to Glasgow just to ensure that their business model continues to thrive amidst an existential crisis. Arguably, there’s more money to be made in this industry and a lot of fossil fuels to be exploited before any binding and exit commitments are made. This fossil fuel addiction makes the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C ever elusive. A briefing by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) states that even if all current pledges are made, the world is still headed to 2.4°C warming if not more. Yet global leaders and the fossil fuel industry continue to make net-zero targets and announcements, another greenwashing tactic at play that is more of a lip service than geared towards real action towards zero emissions. 

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COP26 deal: How rich countries failed to meet their obligations to the rest of the world

Slow uptake of renewable energy in Africa contributes to warming

There’s huge potential for solar and wind energy even in the most vulnerable countries such as those in Africa. However, the transition to renewable energy is considered as an imaginable technology for the future, too complex to integrate now and too inefficient to sufficiently meet current global energy needs. As such, the uptake has been slow with unreliable products. Yet, the fossil fuel industry wants us to imagine the possibility of creating a carbon capture and storage mechanism just so that they can ensure that they keep up with their rising carbon emissions and greenwashing tactics.

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Energy transition or access: Africa’s fossil fuel problem

Resultantly, there is no convincing global leaders otherwise, as leaders want their pockets lined with money so that they can make life-saving pledges. In Africa energy ministers, financiers and leaders in the fossil fuel industry gathered during an energy conference to deliberate about “transition fuels” and the expansion of the fossil fuel sector in Africa. The industry leaders and relevant stakeholders called for the establishment of a united front to resist the coercion by the global anti-fossil fuel movement by positioning Africa’s oil and gas at the forefront of global energy growth and the continent’s economic development trajectory.

In a similar move to sabotage climate actions and commitments in Africa, the African Development Bank (AfDB), kicked civil society organisations to the curb minutes before a planned COP26 side event meant to chart the way forward as regards climate-related policies and investments. The CSOs (civil society organisations) had been pushing the bank to commit to a fossil fuel finance exclusion policy and establish a roadmap for reducing portfolio-wide emissions. On the day of the announcement ending public finance for fossil fuels by 20 countries and major financial institutions, one name was remarkably missing: the African Development Bank. Despite some of their efforts to invest in renewable energy, the Bank has also significantly contributed to fuelling the climate chaos by pouring about $229 million into fossil fuel finance between 2018-2020, probably the reason they did not want to entertain civil society organisations during this significant climate summit.

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African climate plan needs to be cogniscant of African challenges

The negotiations on loss and damage delayed the schedule of closure of COP26 with discussions spilling over into the weekend. Still, Africa has nothing much to look forward to as people on the frontlines are still to get any funding support and compensation necessary to avert the imminent and destructive climate impacts. The summit culminated in the hope that the next COP27 in Africa will be more than just talk and instead result in the scale of ambitious action and funding needed to address global warming and the climate injustices hitting those who have done the least in the current crisis.

Charity Migwi is an environmental and climate activist from Kenya, and is the Regional Campaigner at 350Africa.org. She has a background in communications and has worked with various conservation and environmental governance organisations keen on integrating climate change solutions to create a healthier, safer and more sustainable planet. Migwi joined 350.org in 2020 to champion effective campaigns that bring hope, power and dignity to the people of Africa. Since she joined the 350Africa team, Migwi has been at the centre of fighting for a fossil-free Africa and keeping finance away from fossil fuel projects on the continent. Her role has also been instrumental in incorporating alternative solutions requisite for the development of Africa, like focusing on a Just Transition and embracing renewable energy.