Africa's Climate Crisis: A Clarion Call for Global Action and Cooperation
By Marc-Antoine Eyl-Mazzega

Africa's Climate Crisis: A Clarion Call for Global Action and Cooperation

Jan. 08, 2024  |     |  0 comments

The climate crisis poses a severe threat to humanity, with the African continent unfortunately bearing the harshest impacts. Despite minimal contributions to global emissions, Africa is already experiencing intense consequences from climate change, including flooding, drought, famine, and extreme heat. The recent climate-fueled disasters across the world, from floods in China to wildfires in North America, are the intolerable "new normal" Africa has faced for years, with scarce global concern. Africa's plight should resound an unequivocal call for immediate worldwide action.

Fortunately, the world is mobilizing capital flows, both private investment and development assistance, toward Africa as well as other vulnerable regions. June's Global Reconstruction Summit in Paris continued dialogues on reshaping our international economic architecture. As we meet in Nairobi for the Africa Climate Summit, and look ahead to 2023, China, the EU, G7, BRICS, and other major economies must engage concretely to deliver outcomes matching the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. People across the Global South cannot afford to wait years for action.

Africa's plight highlights the urgent need for immediate global action. Current emissions trajectories put us on track for 2.5°C or more warming compared to pre-industrial levels. While the 1.5°C target may already be out of reach, every fraction of a degree matters greatly. Vast numbers of lives hang in the balance between 1.5°C and 2.5°C of warming. Without rapid acceleration of climate efforts, future generations will rightly judge today's leaders harshly. What will our legacy be? Unabated geopolitical tensions as climate chaos intensifies? Further erosion of global cooperation? Or courageous resolve to confront the existential challenge of our lifetimes? We may be the last generation able to meaningfully steer our climate future before irreversible tipping points are crossed.

President Xi is not attending the G20 summit in India, because the G20 is key for preparing for the next COP28. We need continued resolute action there. In global climate governance, it's all about the U.S. and China. The rest can work if those two cooperate. The big problem, the big stumbling block, is this permanent opposition between the U.S. and China. We must overcome that. The only way is for the two leaders to talk. We need much more engagement among countries.

Positively, China leads globally in deploying renewable energy like solar and wind. However, there might be some slowdown because of rising interest rates, etc. If we want to save the climate in the short term, we must focus on fugitive methane emissions, which have a warming potential 80 times bigger than CO2. China has not joined the Global Methane Pledge or related efforts, but also Iran, several Middle Eastern countries, Russia, etc. This is a low-hanging fruit where a lot of progress can be achieved quickly and efficiently.

Besides, phasing out coal must return firmly to the global agenda. We see continued high demand for coal globally. Russia decided to stop supplying gas to Europe and is unable to send it elsewhere. Many countries deprived of gas have reverted to coal because the alternatives are expensive. But this is an extraordinarily dangerous trend.

We should hopefully see more efforts toward energy efficiency, efficient appliances, and standards in this area— air conditioning for example— to reduce growth in electricity demand and pressure on generation. I'd like to highlight three risks that China, the EU, and the U.S. all face in this increasingly destabilizing environment.

China, on the one hand, is the absolute renewable energy deployment champion globally, which is extraordinary. But on the other hand, China risks harming its reputation with developing countries. As climate impacts accelerate, the Global South increasingly views China as a source of destabilization rather than an ally.

Secondly, for the EU, we must accelerate decreasing our emissions. Emissions continue declining overall in the EU, even last year, facing the abrupt fallout from Russia's behavior in the energy sector, emissions continued to fall. However, the EU must hasten its emission reductions to credibly advocate for more climate ambition globally.

The United States also needs far more ambitious emission reductions, as their greenhouse gas emissions are not falling. Current U.S. efforts are vastly insufficient considering its global responsibilities.

So, what concrete actions can we take? I believe three things are crucial. First, Russia, the EU, the US, and China must be considered responsible players who accept their duties as the largest historical and current CO2 and greenhouse gas emitters. They must take reasonable measures. We must combat imported deforestation – low-hanging fruit for action. China has done admirable domestic work reforesting and protecting forests but now must address its imported deforestation impact. The EU is attempting to tackle this issue while the US lags.

Methane reduction is another vital step. Implementing COP15 biodiversity commitments represents the sole chance to preserve forests and oceans as carbon sinks. If these are lost, rebuilding them will be impossible, with severe consequences.

Elevating global climate finance contributions is also key. China should now provide its fair share, given its economic stature. We must fulfil and even exceed, the $100 billion annual target. This funding enables developing nations to build resilience despite inadequate levels currently.

Several other constructive actions are readily achievable:

Aviation biofuel blending mandates, already undertaken by Europe and China, should expand to the Middle East and beyond. This will incrementally raise ticket prices, but with collective participation, the burden would balance.

Global emissions and sustainability standards for metals, mining, and other carbon-intensive sectors will also help move the needle.
Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and discussing mechanisms like carbon pricing to properly account for externalities, are powerful tools at our disposal. Carbon pricing could substantially cut emissions if implemented broadly over the next 3 years.

We must develop clear roadmaps for reducing coal-fired generation, rather than rely solely on marginal improvements. This issue warrants urgent attention.

With our remaining carbon budget nearly depleted, the next two years are decisive. China and Europe will face intensifying instability without action. Continued US-China climate cooperation is essential to break the gridlock, so recent renewals of dialogue are encouraging. I hope Europe can play a constructive role and countries move past damaging obstructionism. Our world is in a race against time - let us muster the courage and wisdom to unite behind science-based climate policies for a liveable future.