States with a high carbon footprint must help Africa
Once upon a time, there lived a peasant farmer who barely eked out a living. He persistently petitioned bountiful mother earth for a breakthrough, and one fateful night, his entreaties were miraculously granted. In a dream, an angel appeared and advised him to visit the local market and buy the first goose he saw. The divine messenger made him swear to delicately tend the goose, and promised that as long as the farmer wasn’t greedy, the goose would lay one golden egg each day to feed his family and descendants forever. The rustic farmer acted as he had been instructed and was utterly amazed to notice that the marvelous goose continued to lay one golden egg daily, which profoundly altered his fortunes in ways he never hitherto imagined. However, after some time, he became envious of a village banker who was far wealthier than him. Ceaselessly fantasising about the prospect of acquiring riches rivalling and even surpassing those of the village tycoon, the farmer disregarded the angel’s firm instructions and successfully forced the goose to lay two golden eggs a day, and some days even three. Unable to cope with the immense pressure and out of sheer exhaustion, the goose one day collapsed and died. Aesop, the ancient Greek sage, with acute foresight in this wonderful fable alludes to environmental sustainability. The goose in the story is the natural environment, and the golden egg is nature’s bounty. One golden egg a day is all the bounty that nature can sustainably provide indefinitely, and it is sufficient to nourish the earth’s population. However, harmful human activities such as pollution, deforestation, rapid economic growth, and overexploitation have resulted in environmental depredation, triggering extinction on an unprecedented and mass scale. Never before has mother universe, like Aesop’s goose, faced such an existential threat, and never before has arose such an urgency for all stakeholders to make a concerted effort in order to pull the planet back from the brink of the precipice. Climate change is real. Although Africa has historically contributed a very small percentage of global greenhouse emissions, it has suffered disproportionately and remains highly vulnerable to anthropogenic climate change. The EM-DAT database, a global, comprehensive, and readily accessible record of natural disasters maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), reveals that from January 2021 to September 5, 2022, more than 54 million people were affected by natural disasters linked to droughts, wildfires, floods, storms, and landslides in Africa. Drought-related disasters affected the most people in Africa over that period. According to a report by Oxfam titled, “A climate in crisis: How climate change is making drought and humanitarian worse in East Africa”, there is a growing scientific analysis suggesting that the impacts of current and recent droughts in East Africa are likely to have been aggravated by climate change. Rich countries with a high carbon footprint need to do more to help Africa overcome the impact of climate change. G7 and G20 leaders, and the international community, must reaffirm the Paris Agreement and commit to raising the ambition of current commitments in order to keep the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C and well below 2C within reach. As many African countries are experiencing severe fiscal challenges, leaving little scope to invest in climate crisis mitigation, rich countries must recommit to fulfilling their pledge of providing climate adaptation finance amounting to $100 billion (Sh14.3 trillion) a year. It is unacceptable that Africa as a whole received barely a quarter of climate finance from richer countries between 2016 and 2020 despite bearing the brunt of severe climate impacts. It is also important to develop legislative frameworks that facilitate effective design and implementation of adaptation responses in Africa, while emphasising good governance for climate-resilient development. A holistic global policy framework can bring countries together to enable international flow of finance, capacity and technologies, which will accelerate the transition to green energy.