While the details of the loss and damage fund are deliberated upon, Africa continues to be battered by the effects of a rapidly warming planet. The aftermath of extreme weather events like Cyclone Freddy of 2023 on African lives and property is a real-time instance of loss and damage.
Last year (2022) was the Earth’s fifth-warmest year out of the last eight years recorded, as global temperatures continue to soar, seeing record-breaking heatwaves in Europe, and deadly floods in Pakistan, Nigeria and Australia. The Antarctic Sea also reached its lowest minimum extent on record. In January 2023, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that the annual average temperature hit 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, marking the eighth year within review that temperatures were at least 1 degree above the 1850 to 1900 reference period.
In March, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—of which Nigeria is a signatory—released a synthesis report, underscoring that unless immediate and radical action is taken, global climate goals could be out of reach. Climate scientists have found that the world could surpass its climate target—1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures—by the early 2030s.
‘The climate time-bomb is ticking,’ said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, at the launch of the synthesis report. ‘Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast.’
The report—the fourth and final instalment of the sixth assessment report—covers the observations and projections of global warming; details the impact of the climate crisis; how to adapt to them and proposes ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The newly published report includes three other IPCC reports published since 2018 on the impacts of global heating above pre-industrial levels, climate change and land sustainability, and the oceans and cryosphere. These reports were published in August 2021, February and April 2022 respectively.
The report notes that while limiting global warming to 1.5C is still possible, the window to achieve those goals is rapidly closing due to increasing emissions and pollution, which grew by nearly one per cent last year.
The findings of this report will feed into the next UN climate conference, COP28, holding in Dubai at the end of this year. This conference will see the first global review of the Paris Climate Agreement—adopted in 2015—and will assess what progress (if any) has been made towards addressing the climate crisis.
Every year, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly referred to as COP, sees world powers converge to discuss strategies, initiatives, and programmes aimed to address the impact of climate change globally. The global community also discusses what governments and companies can do to reduce contributing factors and mitigate loss.
In 2021, the International Energy Agency cautioned against the creation of new fossil fuel projects to meet climate commitments. However, in the face of Russia’s continuing onslaught in Ukraine, world leaders have doubled down on fossil fuel consumption and continued to approve oil, gas and coal projects for the sake of energy security. Germany had proposed phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2030 to reduce carbon emissions; instead, it revived coal projects to secure its energy sector. The result: recorded additional emissions of 15.8 million tonnes of CO2, according to a report by German consultancy, Energy Brainpool.
China intends to expand its coal operations, following the approval of coal production across 82 sites, the highest number of new coal-fired power plants since 2015, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air and the Global Energy Monitor.
Last month, the United States approved the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska; this is projected to produce enough oil to release 9.2 million metric tonnes of CO2. In protest, five million people (and counting) have signed a Change.org petition. Climate activists like Greenpeace USA and The Wilderness Society have also pushed back against the policy, in light of President Joe Biden’s campaign climate promise to ‘achieve a 100 per cent clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050’. Arati Prabhakar, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, defended the United States’ actions, saying the UN report shows ‘the Earth’s future is not predetermined.’
In 2009, higher-income countries like Australia, Canada and the US promised $100 billion annually in climate finance to lower income countries by 2020. However, by 2020 20 per cent of their pledged amount was still unmet.
WHAT ABOUT AFRICA?
Africa contributes about four per cent of global emissions—1.2 million tonnes of CO2 as of 2021—yet it remains at the frontline of the climate crisis. In 2022, Africa recorded multiple extreme weather events. From deadly floods in Nigeria to the drought in Somalia responsible for 43,000 deaths, an analysis by the Carbon Brief found that these extreme weather events killed at least 4,000 people and affected a further 19 million.
Erratic weather patterns saw African countries toggle between drought and flooding. Between October and December 2022, East African countries witnessed dry and erratic conditions, resulting in abnormal dryness in central and eastern Kenya, southern Ethiopia, and eastern Tanzania. In southern Ethiopia, southern Somalia, and northern Kenya, there were reports of drought.
Increased rainfall saw flooding in South Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and rising water levels from the Kafue River resulted in flooding in Zambia. Drought and famine killed 2,500 people in Uganda and affected eight million in Ethiopia. Southern African countries, including Madagascar and Mozambique, were hit by six storms killing at least 890 people.
In January 2023, South Africa recorded abnormal heat temperatures and between February and mid-March, Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa, and Zimbabwe suffered the devastating effects of Cyclone Freddy, described as the ‘most energetic and long-lasting storm ever recorded’. At least 1,200 people have been killed by Cyclone Freddy and Malawi’s disaster management department says the chances of finding the 538 people missing have become slim.
LOSS AND DAMAGE
In climate terms, loss and damage is the destruction caused by the climate crisis that cannot be or has not been avoided by mitigation and adaptation. This means the effects of the climate crisis despite reducing greenhouse gas emissions or adjusting and planning around current and future climate events.
At COP26, a coalition of 134 developing countries called the Group of 77 and China called for the establishment of a dedicated Loss and Damage finance facility. This did not gain support among developed countries. Instead, they agreed to establish the Glasgow dialogue, which will run until 2024, ‘to discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimize and address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change.’
The Glasgow Dialogue involves three meetings in May/June 2022, 2023 and 2024 respectively, and is to conclude its work at the June 2024 session. However, it is noteworthy that the document does not state that the Dialogue must have agreed or put in place the arrangements by its conclusion in June 2024.
Ahead of last year’s conference, Egypt’s position as a host country was questioned with regards to championing the climate fate of the continent. At the end of the deliberations, loss and damage made it on the agenda for the first time in all 27 climate summits, after debate and disagreement by global powers on the fairness of a compensation fund for climate vulnerable countries.
At the conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the proposal called for a committee to discuss how the fund would work ahead of its approval this year and African nations applauded the decision eventually reached. The transitional committee on the operationalization of the loss and damage fund held its first meeting in late March 2023 in Luxor, Egypt. The meeting concluded with the adoption of a work plan towards COP28. In the deliberations, the 24-member committee examined the existing gaps in the climate finance architecture and how the new funding arrangements and the fund can help close them.
In a 2022 interview with The Republic, Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate noted the lack of progress between climate conferences. Nakate criticized developed countries for agreeing ‘to come back to COP27 with new and improved targets for emissions reductions. Almost no countries have done this.’ She argued that the West, ‘being the largest historical emitters of greenhouse gases, need to lead the world in reduction of emissions, and provide funding to countries with less resources to reduce their emissions.’ Similarly, energy researcher Habiba Daggash urged African countries to divest from international forums—like the climate conference, and prioritize climate adaptation in their national budgets.
Crucially, the urgency of the climate crisis and the loss and damage fund should not be ignored. The disruption of economies and economic activity, water and food systems, and public health could culminate in multiple humanitarian crises across Africa. This is especially since recovering from climate events like drought and flooding largely depends on the availability of funds to facilitate appropriate responses.
In light of the UN’s report, rising temperatures may see African countries, while struggling to recover from ongoing climate crises, brace themselves for the onslaught of new climate events. Already, Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency has issued early warnings, predicting severe flooding in 2023, following seasonal climate predictions and the annual flood outlook released by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency and the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency.
For countries like Madagascar and Malawi, which have been ravaged by Cyclone Freddy and are couched in one of the most globally active areas in terms of tropical cyclone development—the Southwest Indian Ocean—the full extent of the damage caused is yet to be realized. Moreover, at the moment, humanitarian agencies are struggling to adequately respond to the known damages in such countries.
While the details of the loss and damage fund are deliberated upon, Africa continues to be battered by the effects of a rapidly warming planet. The aftermath of these extreme weather events on African lives and property is a real-time instance of loss and damage and deserves necessary attention from the global community⎈
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