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Revolutionary change is needed

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Picture: REUTERS – Kenya’s President William Ruto, flanked by African leaders, addresses the media after the close of the Africa Climate Summit (ACS) 2023 at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi, this week.

By Kershni Ramreddi

Climate change remains the world’s most serious existential threat. Climate related disasters have killed and displaced thousands of people and left millions affected by food insecurity. Resource-driven warfare and environmental disasters continue unabated in South Africa and across the world, affecting hundreds of thousands of households this year alone.

Pollution has no borders. An increase in pollution in one country has an impact on us all. We need to make the switch to renewable energy. Decentralised renewable and free energy solutions led by communities are less expensive and safer, with added environmental and social benefits. The constant promotion of “green” hydrogen is a dangerous and damaging diversion, especially when it is derived from natural gas and other fossil fuels.

Climate change is moving much faster than we are, pushing ecosystems and communities to their limits. If people do not reverse direction and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and develop low-carbon, climate-resilient economies, we will miss the opportunity to limit temperature to 1.5°C this century, with minimal overshoot.

This week, African heads of state and major climate change activists gathered in Kenya for the inaugural African Climate Summit. The event addressed the growing threat of climate change across the continent. The government of Kenya and the AU hosted this historic three-day event, which brought together the heads of state and government, international organisations, nongovernmental organisations, civil society, and hundreds of African youth to discuss innovative green growth and climate finance solutions.

The event aims to promote a good, climate-friendly vision for Africa. Sessions were held on topics such as resilience, renewable energy, and sustainable development. Much of the discussion centred on climate adaptation, which is largely seen as a critical concern for Africa. Speakers at the conference hoped to make a strong statement on the issue and bring more financial help to Africa. Kenyan President William Ruto talked about the multibillion-dollar economic opportunities, new financial structures, Africa’s vast mineral resources, and the ideal of shared prosperity. African politicians and climate campaigners are demanding that the world’s richest countries be held accountable for their impact on the environment and for supplying funding that has yet to materialise.

Mithika Mwenda, the director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, said the continent presently receives a tenth or less of what is needed and a “fraction” of the budget of some polluting firms. In 2020, poorer countries received more than $83 billion (R1.5 trillion) in climate financing, a 4 percent increase over the previous year but short of the $100bn (R1.9 trillion) objective set in 2009. “We have an abundance of clean, renewable energy, and it’s critical that we use it to power our future prosperity,” Power Shift Africa founder Mohamed Adow said before the event. “However, in order to unlock it, Africa requires funding from countries that have profited from our suffering.”

Panel discussions took place on financing climate action, increasing international climate financing for the continent, investing in nature and biodiversity, and developing integrated, liveable African cities. Africa accounts for less than 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. yet suffers disproportionately from climate change. This is threatening food security, ecosystems, and economies, as well as generating displacement and migration and exacerbating the potential of conflict for scarce resources.

According to the State of the Climate in Africa 2022 report, the rate of temperature increases on the continent has accelerated in recent decades, with weather and climate related dangers becoming increasingly severe. Despite this, funding for climate adaptation is a drop in the ocean compared to what is required. Last year, more than 110 million people on the continent were directly affected by weather, climate and water-related disasters, resulting in economic losses of more than $8.5bn (R163bn).

According to the Emergency Event Database, there were 5,000 documented fatalities, with drought accounting for 48 percent and flooding accounting for 43 percent. However, due to under-reporting, the true toll is likely to be substantially higher. The continent is the least prepared to deal with the harmful effects of climate change. Heatwaves, severe rains, floods, tropical cyclones and extensive droughts are wreaking havoc on communities and the economy, putting a growing number of people in danger.

Massive investments and infrastructure, mainly funded by our governments, are directed at serving the Global North and West, with little to no gain from increased energy access on our own soil. In Africa, there are significant gaps in weather monitoring, and early warning services are severely inadequate. There is a determined effort to close such gaps and ensure that everyone receives life-saving early warnings. There must be a revolutionary change in Africa; voices must be heard; suffering must cease; someone must pay the price for global greenhouse gas emissions, but it will not be Africa!

Kershni Ramreddi is Just and Energy Project Officer at the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance