Climate Change: The largest CO2 emitters must bear their fair share of the cost

November 1, 2022

Africa is one of the smallest emitters of greenhouse gasses on the planet. Yet our continent continues to bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change. 

Through the use of fossil fuels, the industrialized world has created unimaginable wealth for its citizens. In contrast and in exchange, the people of Africa have received unimaginable suffering: floods, droughts, and other man-made climate disasters, that are destroying the future of millions.

The fact is, Africa accounts for less than 3% of global historical emissions, compared to 23% for China, 19% for the United States, and 13% for the European Union. 

Climate change is the world’s problem and not Africa’s alone to bear. It is only fair therefore that those who emit the most, bear a commensurate share of the costs.

With the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) only weeks away, the clock is ticking and not in the right direction. It is imperative that industrialized countries take the responsibility for closing the climate financing gap seriously … before it is too late.

Let us be clear. There is no shortage of money. What is needed is strong political will. 

The massive global solutions-oriented approach to the Covid-19 pandemic proves that with international solidarity, resources can be made available quickly and at scale. 

Over two years, from January 2020 to September 2021, $17 trillion was injected into the global economy to respond to the economic fallout of the pandemic. G20 countries pulled together almost $15.3 trillion (or 90%) of these fiscal measures. There is therefore no doubt, that the G20 countries can easily mobilize and deliver $100 billion in climate finance per year for developing countries. 

Promise made must be promise kept. 

The greatest single threat to humanity today is climate change. It places a heavy burden on the world’s poorest and its most vulnerable. Climate change distorts landscapes, ruins economies, dislocates whole populations, escalates insecurity, and daily threatens the lives of billions of people.

According to the African Development Bank’s 2022 African Economic Outlook, between 1986 and 2015, climate change eroded 5% to 15% of the continent’s GDP per capita growth a year.

Africa faces an existential crisis. 

Recently I was in Cabo Verde, a small African island State, that had not received rainfall in four years! Each day, the ravages of climate change are evident from Cape Town to Cairo.

The principle of common but differentiated responsibility is at the core of climate justice and just energy transitions. 

As such, I strongly support the Sharm El-Sheikh Guidebook for Just Financing, for several good reasons:

It forges a common path for climate action in Africa and it outlines the key role of each stakeholder in translating financial commitments into implementable projects. It also clearly lays out the climate financing gap on the African continent and proposes an actionable agenda to close that gap. 

Climate finance inflows to Africa are currently not commensurate with the continent’s needs and its marginal contributions to global warming. 

The African Development Bank estimates that climate finance must implement the continent’s nationally determined contributions, which range between $118.2 billion to $145.5 billion per year through to 2030.

Yet, even though it is the least resilient region of the world, and with high vulnerabilities and low readiness to climate shocks, Africa received only $18.3 billion of climate finance on average per year. 

Just transitions must go hand in hand with just financing.

In this regard, the Sharm El-Sheikh Guidebook for Just Financing provides a clearer definition of climate finance and just financing. It ensures better coordination and harmonization of funding requirements, and it highlights the need for greater attention to climate vulnerable countries, without displacing other development financing or increasing debt vulnerabilities.

COP27 has been dubbed “the African COP” for good reason. The event presents a once-in-lifetime opportunity to strongly make Africa’s case for more climate financing support. 

The Sharm El-Sheikh Guidebook for Just Financing is a clear vehicle to achieve this overarching objective. It also clearly advocates for Africa’s right to leverage its enormous resource endowments—including renewable and non-renewable energy—to spur its own economic growth. 

Simultaneously, Africa will continue to harness opportunities in the fast-expanding global green growth technologies and markets, where it has unique competitive advantages – including, renewable energy, materials, components, products, and services. 

To manage short-term energy security concerns, the African Development Bank will continue to support African countries in  creating conducive environments for successful energy transitions,  mobilizing climate finance, and scaling up investments to leverage the continent’s wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal resource potential.

Ultimately, Africa’s energy transition boils down to a just “carbon headroom,” that is growth enhancing and not in opposition to the continent’s development objectives. 

The success of the COP27 will hinge on how the conference addresses Africa’s climate finance gap, the continent’s plans for a just energy transition, and innovative approaches to building capacities for climate-related projects. 

To achieve its goals, COP27 must propose a clear roadmap on how to remodel the current global climate finance architecture and align it with countries’ nationally determined contributions and Sustainable Development Goal financing requirements.

For now, the structure of the global climate finance architecture continues to mirror the current global finance architecture. This makes it extremely difficult for climate finance to be channeled to countries most in need of it.

The Sharm El-Sheikh Guidebook for Just Financing therefore proposes a road map for accessing the quantity and quality of climate financing that leaves no one behind. 

The African Development Bank Group therefore fully supports the development, launch and implementation of the guidebook, which will be pivotal to translating financial pledges into implementable projects, in line with Egypt’s COP27 Presidential Agenda.

The African Development Bank Group—along with other regional and international partners—is proud to have contributed to the guidebook through our participation in stakeholder consultations led by Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation. We are pleased to have also led the preparation of the Landscape of Climate Finance, and to have provided input on the regional implications for Africa.

The Sharm El-Sheikh Guidebook for Just Financing aligns with the African Development Bank’s own actions on climate finance and just financing. We are addressing bottlenecks to access climate finance by African countries. In 2021, climate finance represented 41% of total loan approvals, a 7% increase since 2020.

Our flagship initiatives, like the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP)—developed with our AAAP partner, the Global Center on Adaptation—and the Adaptation Benefits Mechanism, the African Financial Alliance on Climate Change, or ClimDev Special Fund-Africa, to mention but a few, are all designed to scale up climate finance for Africa by mobilizing resources from both the private and public sectors.

The African Development Bank Group is resolute in its commitment to continue working with the COP27 Presidency and Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation, along with other regional and international partners, to ensure a successful launch of the Sharm-El-Sheikh Guidebook for Just Financing. 

Our collective aim is simple … to avert a climate catastrophe by finally turning political commitments and pledges into concrete actions for just financing in Africa.

– The writer is president of the African Development Bank Group.