Youth leadership at COP26: A personal reflection

Ms. Rose Kobusinge1

1Graduate Student, University of Coventry, UK

Summary

  • COP26 produced mixed feelings/vibes; average, failure and a few wins
  • Youth engagement in COP26 was tokenistic and this MUST stop, rather transformative inclusion is needed.
  • “We hear you”, “you have every right to be angry”, “we are doing our best” these words do not take the youth to decision-making tables. There should be a minimum requirement for youth in the official national delegation that all parties must follow for accreditation
  • We need climate leaders who will push boundaries to deliver on climate, social and sustainable development targets and not greedy politicians
  • Young people from African countries and other developing nations need both local and global community support to engage in decision-making and climate action
  • As young Africans, we need to be proactive, united and strategic, otherwise the systems do not favour. Also, we must push for the systems to change for the best
  • Climate, Social, Biodiversity and Gender justice will not come easily, we have got to be united, and we will not be defeated.
  • Hence, as young people, scientists and civil society, it’s our role to hold our leaders accountable or else they will be no significant PostCOP26 deliverables and required ambitions.
  • The youth need to understand that climate action neither starts nor stops at COP. So, attending COP is a tiny, teeny bit of the journey. Grassroot, local, national and global ambitions, leadership and actions are what is needed.
  • I call upon all youth in Africa with the privilege of accessing information or read this to use the opportunity to learn more about climate action and raise awareness in their communities
  • For the African youth that want to attend COP27, we must start proactively engaging and creating impact now.

An uneasy journey to my first COP ever!

Before COP26, I struggled to find a badge and funding just like many other young people, especially from the global south. Luckily, I received a badge from Global Climate Action (GCA), two weeks before COP26. Thanks to EJF and partners for funding me and 5 other young people from the global south to attend COP26. After receiving the funding, I was finally ready to go to Glasgow for my first COP ever, how exciting! My journey to Glasgow was not easy with train breakdown delays of about 4 hours but nevertheless, the hope and momentum for COP26 was still alive. I arrived quite late on the 31st and I was ready for the blue zone on the next day. On the 1st, I found my way to the blue venue with over an hour of standing in the queue, all excited about in-person learning and contributing to the negotiation process having participated in a few negotiations’ simulations during my study at the University of Oxford. Little did I know that I won’t have any chances to see how the process is held because I had a non-party badge, a challenge many young people faced. I contacted my country’s delegation and the other organizers to give me an opportunity to go in negotiation rooms at least for one session to learn but I was not successful. Moreover, there were no screens to watch the negotiations, only the COP26 platform, which was very complex and not user friendly.

My days at the blue zone

Realizing that it was not possible to directly contribute or participate in negotiations, I needed to find indirect pathways to voice the positions of many young women and Ugandan youth. I also took advantage of the side events in the pavilions, interviews, outside the COP venue and networked with various youth and participants. I also had the opportunity to meet Prince Charles, Sir. David King, UN Envoy on climate&migration, Ms Caroline Dumas, the sustainability managers of Twitter and Facebook among others.

On the 5th / 11/2021, I also participated in my first climate strike ever, moreover as a frontline lead where I managed to meet other enthusiastic climate activists like Destin Sempijja, Vanessa Nakate, Elizabeth Wathuti among others.  There were two matches that took place on 12 and 13th which indeed energized and gave me hope; looking at thousands of multi-cultural young people joined by children, their parents, the elderly and campaigners from different backgrounds calling for climate action and climate justice. I believe global and local leaders can do better if they come together and learn from the young people! This is possible as seen from the approaches towards ending COVID-19. Even though there are still inequalities in global COVID and vaccine management, it’s clear that COVID was handled as an emergency.

If climate change is prioritized just like the COVID-19 pandemic, where various vaccines were developed within a few months after the outbreak and the global north willing to donate vaccines to the global south to reduce vaccine inequality, I believe a clean and just energy transition is possible, grants for adaptation, loss and damage and mitigation is possible too. Plus, the success of the Montreal protocol should also be revisited for lessons and strategies. I believe there are many examples showing global action is possible, it just depends on if the rich countries think the issue is urgent enough and affects them too. Otherwise, we can do this; I mean if our leaders do not continue letting us down and if we all come together as one to act on climate change (global, private, civil, public, youth, international, local and indigenous communities).

My thoughts about COP26

COP26 produced mixed feelings; many young people think it was a failure, other people think it was a mediocre COP whereas some politicians say it was a success. I completely agree with all the three categories depending on the context, the most important bit is we shall judge by what happens PostCOP26.

Were my COP26 expectations met? The answer is NO to a larger extent. In my experience and from talking to negotiators and other young people at COP26, there were mixed feelings about COP26, all the young people were not impressed by how less inclusive the summit was but also about the drudgery on key issues such as Loss and Damage and climate finance. I also felt that the urgent need to cut emissions was not prioritized as it should have been. “We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive”, said Alok Sharma the COP26 president. The fact is this dream cannot be achieved if rich countries continue to treat the atmosphere as a dumpster for GHGs.   Moreover, there was a discrepancy between what that the leaders promised during the world leaders’ summit and the actual negotiations. During the leaders’ summit and PreCOP26, it felt like negotiations were going to be much simpler given the verbal promises.

As far as youth engagement is concerned, COP26 further affirmed the existence of tokenism in youth engagement. The leaders continue to praise themselves on how much they have engaged youth in COP26 and in many other climate action ventures based on only a few cherry-picked youth. Many leaders are using the phrase “youth engagement” to make themselves look good and convince the youth that they are working on it. You hear responses like “we hear you”, “you have every right to be angry”, “we are doing our best” and then you know it’s time for tokenism. Regarding negotiations, we are still far from transformative youth engagement as many of the governments did not accredit youth (there were no official party youth delegates) and those that accredited them were not given an opportunity to directly contribute to negotiations.

Following this, I managed to talk to a few leaders at COP26 to advocate for the states to ensure that there is a condition on a minimum number of youths in the official delegation as young negotiators and also MUST involve the youth in decision-making. Otherwise, the old generation is deciding a future for the young people without their contributions/considerations. This is also an opportunity for states to train a new generation of negotiators, 21st century leaders. It’s a shame if they think the same old negotiators will continue to negotiate our future.

Anyway,  looking back at the Glasgow Climate Pact, the word “youth’ is mentioned 10 times, all only under the “collaboration” section. One could say that this is incremental progress as compared to the previous summits, but this is not what we the young people want. We want positions and opportunities that we deserve to shape our own future, we want to directly contribute to negotiations, contribute to policies and be involved in climate finance, have considerably easy access to climate finance for our innovations and ideas etc. Moreover, the pact generalizes youth as one, to be clear, we need increased engagement and inclusion of young people, women, displaced people and marginalized groups from the global south and vulnerable communities.

Looking back at the events PreCOP26, social media and world leaders’ summit, it seems to me that the global leaders seemed more interested in COP26 than the road after COP26. The momentum PreCOP26 showed as if COP26 was going to be the most seamless and inclusive COP ever, but this was not true.  As young people, activists and civil society, we must keep pushing and keep our eyes on the leaders demanding for action post COP26, it’s what matters the most. Every young and old person out there with the privilege of knowing about climate change, the Paris Agreement and COP26 should make it their key responsibility to hold their local leaders and the global leaders accountable to fulfil the pledges made. I call it a privilege because I know that the biggest number of young people for example in Uganda (due to low levels of education and outdated school curricula) do not know what climate change is but are facing the harsh impacts from droughts, floods, landslides affecting lives and livelihoods. This means that Action for Climate Empowerment should be prioritized at both global and local levels as the most vulnerable communities and young people need to know how to adapt, mitigate and act on the existential threat of climate change. Sadly, the most vulnerable have had very little to contribute to climate change and at the same time struggling with social-economic injustices, unemployment, poverty among others while the culprits of climate change continue to enjoy dirty profits from fossil fuels as they make empty promises and drag themselves, yet climate change is not waiting in any way.

I also think states should think beyond COP26, let them not limit themselves to decisions made at COP26, we need much more ambitions as the climate is not taking time off. I believe there is an opportunity to have climate leaders and climate action states to show the rest of the world that a just and fair system and climate is possible. i.e., If we could have a model African country deciding to lead the way for clean and sustainable development using low carbon pathways, that would be a gamechanger for the continent.

It was not all bad but could have been better. I can’t forget the hospitality of people in Glasgow and the wonderful opportunity I had to network with COP26 participants. I made friends and met amazing people from all over the world during COP26 and I will work with some of them post COP26. I attended and contributed to a number of side events on renewable energy, Nature-based solutions, youth and women engagement, climate finance etc.

Affirming the 1.5oC limit was a success and the finalization of the long-overdue Paris rulebook was a debt finally paid and I hope it will be able to guide action. In addition, I hope the progress on loss and damage, phasing ‘out’, rather ‘down’ fossil fuels will continue to progress at a needed rate as climate change is not waiting neither is it still negotiating any terms!

As regards the Glasgow Climate Pact, I am surprised that they called it a pact without pointing out the consequences to those that break it.

Also, some negotiators from the global south felt that there was an improvement as compared to the previous negotiations. This makes me scratch my head regarding what past negotiations were like knowing a bit of how COP26 went. Nevertheless, we need to see states take bold actions post COP26. And importantly, climate action should aim to address the root causes of vulnerability and inequalities. Otherwise, COP will seem to look like one of those annual political and ministerial shows where leaders meet to talk the talk.

I hope the COP27 will go deeper to address issues of youth and indigenous community inclusion, the loss and damage, more ambitions of phasing out coal, fair carbon markets, finance for adaptation, nature-based solutions and loss&damage and climate justice. I also think the discussions on carbon removal from the atmosphere should be brought on board.

What next for me Post-COP26

I will be collaborating with the sustainability team working with Twitter to speak about how youth in Africa could use Twitter for climate advocacy.

I have hosted Twitter spaces exploring what they think about COP26 and their actions up next.

I will also strengthen the youth group under YOUNGO on migration and climate change

I will be collaborating with some other Ugandan and Nigerian young people I met at COP26 to bring African stories to life.

I will also be speaking at 3 different panel discussions on climate change and inclusion in December

I will also be preparing to actively engage in COP27, it’s coming home in Africa.

What COP27 could look like; Leadership with a focus on Youth engagement

COP27 is an African COP, Africa is the youngest continent and it’s time to leverage on the young innovative, enthusiastic and revolutionary young population. Over 70% of Africa’s population is below 30 years old. Can we have a youth-led COP27? Egypt and its partners should aim to put young people in leadership positions and build their (our) capacity in delivering COP27. From initial meetings and preparatory phases, young people should be involved and tasked to ensure the critical youth, women and children voices are included throughout the whole process. I would also like to see other countries join the Italian government in their decisions to annually convene young people PreCOP.

Also, I would like to task all the young people who know about climate change and have access to information to spread awareness and share opportunities with other young people and local communities they do not have the information and opportunities. As young Africans, we can leverage COP27 to be an inclusive and innovative COP and united with each other to make it worthwhile. Let’s be proactive and not wait for leaders to include us as they may or may never, we must keep pushing.

Interviews and events:

I contributed to a number of interviews with Ugandan local media; NBS television, new vision and other international media outlets like RE TV, Tortoise media, OPEN media. I was also hosted by Isabella-EJF on a live event:

 

Some of the links include:

Migration&climate change https://www.open.online/2021/10/30/cop-26-rose-kobusinge-rifugiati-climatici-intervista-video/
EJF live event: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CWBuEVxr07s/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Gender day: https://ejfoundation.org/news-media/gender-equality-is-essential-for-true-climate-solutions

RE TV; https://www.instagram.com/p/CV6Hb-MoZs4/?utm_medium=share_sheet

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6859536226622427136?updateEntityUrn=urn%3Ali%3Afs_feedUpdate%3A%28V2%2Curn%3Ali%3Aactivity%3A6859536226622427136%29

ONE Africa: https://twitter.com/KobusingeRose1/status/1463820032870424578?s=20

COP26 Reflections on Climate Finance Matters

Karishma Ansaram a, b

a,PhD Student
IESEG School of Management, Univ. Lille, CNRS, UMR 9221 – LEM – Lille Economie Management, F-59000 Lille, France

b Contact Point,
Finance & Market Working Group, YOUNGO                                                                                                   

INTRODUCTION

‘Climate Finance is known as the elephant in the room’- Chatham House. The latter has dominated the negotiation agenda in COP26 more than in any other COP. Negotiators agreed in Paris, in 2015, to align financial flows with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development, but they left numerous tricky elements for successors to hammer out.

The success of COP26 rested on Climate Finance matters from diverse streams; the delivery of the $100 billion goal, long term finance program and Article 6 of the Paris Agreement which is largely related to emission trading. Despite the long preparation and discussion, Parties were hanging on the negotiations until the last minute about the deliverables on Climate Finance. In this piece of reflection, we bring forward the key matters that were reigning the negotiations, present the related outcomes and discussion on the way forward or ongoing work programmes.                                                                           

$100 billion Climate finance goal

The two-week negotiations have been outcried over the missed target of $100 billion a year promise that was made more than a decade ago in 2009 Copenhagen Accord and formalised in Cancun, 2010. Climate Finance need is increasing every year with the uprising climate risk and especially the conditionality of developing countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are relying on external financing.

However, amongst the unfulfilled promise, we saw the introduction of news promises to sooth the paining negotiations. OECD[1] forecasts released on the eve of COP26 was a hope of light that the target will be met by 2023. Unsurprisingly, the ambiguity over this projection was the centre of critics i.e key matters such as country-by-country figures are not set out. This two-year hope was least of an assurance to developing countries.

The most recent estimates included in the fourth Biennial Assessment[2] (launched during COP26) by the Standing Committee of Finance provides overview of climate finance flows show that global climate finance flows reached an annual average of $775 billion in the period 2017-2018, an increase of 16% from the period 2015-2016. However, total public finance support from developed to developing countries only grew 2.7% in the same timeframe. Most developed countries have not yet mobilized climate finance in accordance with their fair share.

What comes after the $100 billion is the second-highest priority on the climate finance agenda. Parties have several options for launching a process to establish a new, collective, quantified goal for climate finance for the post-2025 period, from a floor of $100 billion per year, to be agreed by 2024. In doing so, countries can consider the first-ever Needs Determination report of developing countries, published by the Standing Committee on Finance in October 2021.                                                                                                     

LONG TERM FINANCE

As mentioned before, the $100 billion is only a drop in the ocean for need of Climate Finance. Developing countries need in between $ 5.8-5.9 trillion by 2030 (UN, 2021). Matters of concern on long term finance goes beyond mere billion or trillion. Parties especially least developing countries put forward urgent matters that needs to be addressed.

First of all, the disproportionate allocation of climate finance between adaptation, mitigation and loss and damage was flagged. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres has said that 50 per cent of overall climate finance must be committed to adaptation, but only around 25 per cent of this US $80 billion was allotted as such. No formal decision was taken on adaptation finance, except through Article 6, but Parties are requested to submit their adaptations communication before COP27 (only 35 have done so to date).

Loss and damage talks were left at bay in previous COPs. After much lobbying and advocacy for loss and damage, for the first time, the latter has garnered global attention in COP and an entire section was dedicated to this matter in the Glasgow Climate Pact[3]. Countries are increasingly including loss and damage in their NDCs. The G77 plus China urged COP26 to introduce a ‘Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility’ to offer financial assistance to vulnerable countries. Accessing the funding was one of the obstacles that least developing countries mentioned. They are pushing for a harmonized approach for the grant application process.

Parties also commit to a process to agree on long-term climate finance beyond 2025. A consortium of investors has pledged to align $130 trillion of private finance assets – 40 per cent of the total to net zero. Although the group is still substantially invested in fossil fuels companies, the agreement is a further part of the overall finance jigsaw, but much will depend on its implementation.

Developing countries are also pushing for more transparency on what is “counted” on climate finance and requiring rich countries to disclose more details about what type of climate finance they are contributing.

But that process must tackle two main major challenges. First, on the level of ambition, balancing assessments of need with political realism. Second, on learning lessons from the current goal – in particular ensuring clarity on additionality of funds as well as on measurement of progress as the lack of these has undermined trust in the current target.                                                                                                   

Article 6 of Paris agreement

Six years after the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the rulebook of Article 6 has finally been completed. The intense and overnight negotiations were rewarding at the end. Critics are not in a celebration mode over this but rather highlights that the language of the rulebook fell short of fully realizing the rules and procedures that needed to bring market forces to bear as strongly as possible on emission reduction.

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement[4] recognizes that some Parties choose to pursue voluntary cooperation in the implementation of their nationally determined contributions to allow for higher ambition in their mitigation and adaptation actions and to promote sustainable development and environmental integrity. Article 6.2, 6.4 and 6.8 were related to the carbon pricing mechanisms and were largely negotiated.

Under Article 6.2, countries can transfer their mitigation outcomes against another country’s NDC, it is known as the internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs). Environmental integrity and accountability of those transfers is key if we wish to meet the global climate goals. As such double counting should be avoided and the rules of corresponding adjustments were introduced such that the offset credits cannot be claimed twice. A second crunch issue was on adaptation finance through the Share of Proceeds which the article would not address but in the end concluded with encouragement to make adaptation finance available commensurate with what is collected under Article 6.4.

Article 6.4 was paradoxical of wanting to move forward by dragging the past along i.e the how to incorporate the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that was part of the Kyoto Protocol. The CDM, launched when the Kyoto Protocol was ratified by 192 countries in 1997, allowed the creation of emissions trading to let countries invest abroad to earn credit towards their Paris Agreement emissions targets. After much lobbying by climate activists on the ‘zombie credits’ of the CDM, the outcome gave room to a limited number of certified emission reductions (CERs) produced between 2013 and 2020 under the Kyoto CDM to be offset against countries’ NDC commitments for 2030. Environmental groups were wary that if CERs were allowed to be brought forward, the supply will increase thereby driving the price down and providing an easy way for countries to meet their NDCs, rather than directly reducing their emissions. Thus, the Article 6.4 catered for discounting (reducing) the CERs by 2% when they are being transferred as ITMOs.

There was debate among countries over a carbon trading tax intended to fund adaptation in developing nations. While bilateral trading in carbon offsets will not be subject to the levy, there will be a separate international system for issuing offsets, on which a 5 per cent tax will go to adaptation.

Standards are vital for environmental integrity and will enable tracking and transparency of the use of emission reductions and internationally transferred mitigation outcomes. The development of comparable and measurable standards and baselines for emission reduction activities under the Article 6 mechanism and for voluntary cooperation should be transparent and take into account sectoral expert consultations, as well as existing experience with MRV principles under the UNFCCC.

Article 6.8 provides a non-market mechanism. At the very beginning of the discussions, this section was undefined and could be about cooperation on development aid or on climate policy through fiscal measures, such as taxes on carbon usage or emissions. A Glasgow Committee on non-market approaches was also established to implement the work programme of Article 6.8. It will meet bi-annually along with the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), starting in June 2022.                                                                                                         

DIVESTMENT AND JUST TRANSITION

In order to deliver on these promises, COP26 also agreed for the first time to accelerate efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, and recognised the need for support towards a just transition.

COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma has vocally supported a ban on coal finance or even all fossil fuel investments. Political signals in the right direction have emerged from the G7 Summit and the 76th UN General Assembly, in September, including the announcement by Xi Jinping on the Chinese decision to stop building new coal power projects abroad. Further outcomes are also expected at the G20 Rome Summit.

Conclusion

Glasgow has been a critical crossroad on Climate Finance negotiation matters. Finance has the power to reframe what is possible: more urgent action on adaptation and mitigation. Looking forward to the work programme on long term finance, accessibility and equity for the most vulnerable is key. Additionally, it is of utmost importance to look into the definition and standardization of climate finance based on an evidence-based assessment of needs.

A matter of life or death: At COP26, vulnerable countries tell developed nations it’s time to keep their promise on climate finance

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/11/1105222

Has COP26 delivered enough on climate finance to drive the ambition that vulnerable communities need?

https://www.eurodad.org/cop_26_analysis

Cop26: African nations seek talks on $700bn climate finance deal

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/08/cop26-african-nations-seek-talks-climate-finance-deal

COP26: Article 6 rulebook updated, but remains work in progress

https://ihsmarkit.com/research-analysis/cop26-article-6-rulebook-update-but-remains-work-in-progress.html

COP26: Five reasons why carbon markets (Article 6) matter

https://carbonmarketwatch.org/2021/10/28/cop26-five-reasons-why-carbon-markets-article-6-matter/

Carbonmarketinstitute.org : COP26-Glasgow Article-6 Explainer

https://carbonmarketinstitute.org/app/uploads/2021/11/COP26-Glasgow-Article-6-Explainer.pdf

Business views on Article 6—for Parties – ICC – International Chamber of Commerce

https://iccwbo.org/publication/business-views-on-article-6-for-parties/

Ercst.org : Post COP26 Assessment on Article 6

https://ercst.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/20211122-COP26-Art6-final.pdf

[1] https://www.oecd.org/environment/forward-looking-scenarios-of-climate-finance-provided-and-mobilised-by-developed-countries-in-2021-2025-a53aac3b-en.htm

[2] https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/Fourth_BA_2020_technical_report-V21.pdf

[3] https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cop26_auv_2f_cover_decision.pdf

[4] https://unfccc.int/process/the-paris-agreement/cooperative-implementation

Africa at COP26 : Looking beyond the rhetoric to climate action

Date: 28th October 2021 (2:00- 3:30pm ) SAT

Platform: ZOOM

REGISTRATION

Background

In a few days global leaders, scientists and climate activists will gather in Glasgow for COP26 climate change negotiations. This meeting comes at a time when the world is just starting to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic, in addition to numerous extreme weather events. Climate negotiators at COP must therefore come prepared with ambitious goals to dramatically reduce global CO2 emissions, to curtain the devastating impact of climate change.

This COP also needs to ensure that the Paris Climate Agreement signed in 2015, can be effectively implemented, by ensuring that countries set ambitious targets in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This is important because, as it stands now, the world is off track to limit global warming to below 1.5 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

In Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries pledged to raise $100 billion annually for developing countries to undertake climate action by 2020. Unfortunately, that target has not been met. This is extremely worrying as developing countries require the resources to adapt to the impact of climate change, as they will be disproportionately impacted.

What are Africa’s expectations at COP26?

There is no doubt that Africa is already being negatively impacted by climate change, with increasing incidences of extreme events such as flooding, droughts and wildfires. Africa is already warming faster than the global average, a clear indication that the worst impacts of climate change are yet to be felt.

As leaders converge in Glasgow, what are Africa’s expectations? As a youthful continent, what are young people’s expectations? Can this COP unlock opportunities for young people to address the systemic challenges of unemployment on the continent?

Invitation to dialogue

The African Centre for a Green Economy invites you to a webinar entitled ” Beyond rhetoric: How can COP26 deliver real climate action on the ground for young people in Africa?”

Expected Outcomes

  • Unpack Africa’s expectations and and specifically youth at COP26
  • Outline key the opportunities for Africa to unclock climate finance to support youth engagement
  • Identify key policy measures required for African countries to accelerate climate action
Moderator: Dr. Mao Amis– Executive Director, African Centre for a Green Economy
Opening Remarks: Dr Martha Melesse – Senior Program Specialist, Inclusive Economies Program, `IDRC
Panelists:
  • Ms Karishma Ansaram – YOUNGO Finance & Market Working Group Contact Point
  • Ms Natalie Mangondo, Researcher, Climate Activist & COP26 youth delegate
  • Ms Rose Kobusinge – Climate Activist, PhD candidate (Coventry University)
  • Ms Elizabeth Gulugulu – Programs Manager · African Youth Initiative on Climate Change Zimbabwe

Drivers of inclusive energy access in Africa

Sub- Saharan Africa has the lowest access to electricity globally, with more than 592 million people without electricity. Debates around improving energy access in sub-Saharan Africa advocate for investments in off-grid renewable energy, to close the large energy gap. Despite these assertions, financial constraints, gender inequality and the exclusion of local communities remain major challenges in ensuring sustainable and inclusive energy access for all.

Secure  financing  from the private sector 

Despite the fact that African governments have put in place policies aimed at increasing public revenue to boost renewable energy funding, public funds are still inadequate to cover all necessary investments for achieving the sustainable energy access capacities for all. This therefore calls for more private investment and the adoption of models that can be used to ensure sufficient access to energy for all. Noting with praise the enormous work carried out by Green Climate Fund in unlocking private funding and supporting countries to realize their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) towards low-emissions and climate-resilient pathways, it is still critical that governments and other key actors (such as financial institutions like banks) work jointly to create a conducive environment free from political instabilities and stringent regulations which act as barriers to private investments. This in turn will extensively enhance financing from the private sector to support energy access projects that in the long run safeguard inclusive  benefits across populations. Adopt more innovative ways to unlock financing for promoting energy access. 

Promote local participation in all energy access efforts

There is a need to involve indigenous and local communities as well as poor households in designing and implementing energy access response mechanisms intended to solve energy related challenges on ground. For example, there are emerging efforts centered around enhancing and promoting local community participation in South Africa’s renewable energy sector. Initiatives such as Life After Coal have attracted other actors  using an open agenda benchmark to promote and advocate for environmental justice , a transformed, sustainable and just energy system that benefits everyone.This has been used as a pathway to guarantee that if local people are given an opportunity to voice their experiences, interests and priorities related to issues around energy accessibility , inclusivity can be achieved ultimately. 

Mainstreaming gender in energy access program design  

Lack of access to energy affects everyone irrespective of gender even though women are disproportionately affected since they are more dependent on energy to fulfil their domestic roles. There is a need to understand the impacts of energy poverty across genders so as to aid in tabling sustainable energy access solutions that benefit both men and women in equitable ways across communal and household levels. Most importantly, acknowledging women’s needs and their role in designing efficient and just renewable energy systems aids  in preventing dysfunctional policies and measures that would rather be gender insensitive and exclusionary.

Consequently, effective, and sustainable energy accessibility policies and initiatives call for inclusive and collaborative efforts among key stakeholders but most considerably bring on board the private sector that has the ability to boost funding for renewable energy projects. However, for these efforts to be just and equitable, it calls for prioritizing the needs and interests of indigenous and local communities as well as recognizing the active role that women play in energy accessibility discourses and processes. 

Author : Damalie Tebajjukira

Marketing & Communications Intern

African Centre for a Green Economy

Greening urban spaces is critical for climate change adaptation

Globally, urbanization is advancing at unprecedented pace, with an estimated half of the global population dwelling in urban areas, this trend is projected to increase by over 60% by 2050. The trends are typified by stark contrast between Northern and Southern Urbanisation, with most of the contemporary and projected growth occurring in the Global South. These dynamics, accompanied by massive socio-technical and ecological transitions — consumer and production practices, culture, green and grey infrastructure, policies, business models, air and water quality — present both significant opportunities and challenges for sustainable urban present and futures.

In the context of Africa, emerging pressures that occasion the need to purposively harness the socio-technical and ecological transitions include: 1) the high rates of production to meet the ever increasing consumption; 2) the pervasive environmental imprint of urban production and consumption in the ‘urban’ and its hinterlands; 3) growing population and its need for healthy and amenable environment; 4) the rapid proliferation of informal urban settlements presenting new governance challenges — maintaining the status quo, an estimated 3.5 billion people will live in slums in the global south by 2050; 5) climate change and urban heat island effect. 

The urban pressures are already causing shifts in the socioeconomic and environmental fabric, further entrenching the deep inequalities that exist within the ‘urban’. Southern urbanism should not only harness its own consumption and production systems, but also recognise the pluralistic nature of its development — presupposing flexible solutions that are sustainable and generate socioeconomic and environmental co-benefits for the multifaceted development trajectory — the imperative of urban forestry.

For a long time, urban forestry has been somewhat a ‘step-child’ of urban development — more so in the global south where urbanization is dominated by built infrastructure. However, with the emergence of policy responses such as the New Urban Agenda, the SDG on cities and initiatives such as Tree Cities of the World, the mainstreaming of urban forestry is gaining momentum.  

During the 1st African Forum on Urban Forestry, participants highlighted the value of urban forests in shaping socio-technical and environmental transitions. Some benefits of urban forests include the following: –

  1. Urban household livelihoods: Urban forests — integrated with fruit trees among others — open up opportunities for boosting food security, biomass energy supply among other consumables. This has  the potential benefits of enhancing household income by reducing expenses on energy and food, that  normally underpin urban household expenditure. This is particularly relevant for southern urbanism where a significant fraction of urban development is associated  with the entrenchment of household income inequalities and poverty.
  2. New business opportunities without threatening existing ones: Complementing the exigency for green jobs and employment under the just transitions discourse, urban forestry and green spaces open up opportunities for new sustainable consumptive and non-consumptive business modalities — especially in green urban parks that are accompanied by a pay-per-entry approach. This not only generates revenues for the urban governments but also for private owners of such parks. To boot, It also adds value to existing commercial amenities dominated by built infrastructure — a potential opportunity to attract private sector investment.
  3. Climate change, health and wellbeing: With cities emitting over 70% of greenhouse gases and responsible for the highly polluted environment — urban forestry creates an opportunity to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration and offsetting the environmental imprints of the ‘urban’ such as air pollution. Green infrastructure also presents an opportunity to mitigate the risk and threats of urban heat islands occasioned by climate change and the engineered infrastructure. Thus, urban forestry effectively creates a healthy environment for the urbanites — there is a lot of research demonstrating the value of urban forests to human health and wellbeing, physically, mentally and culturally. Contrary to many grey and built infrastructure options, Green infrastructure significantly precludes the risk and possibility of maladaptation. 

Despite the immense contributions of urban forestry to urban transitions, there  are still significant challenges that hinders the realization of the full potential of urban forestry in shaping transition to sustainable urban futures. Addressing some of these challenges requires tailored approaches that recognise the contextual disparities in urbanization between the south and north, and the plurality of urbanization in the south — both informal and formal dimensions — without which inequalities in planning, design, benefit sharing and power dynamics will be exacerbated.

Harnessing urban forestry to ensure a transition to sustainable urban futures requires a number of solution-oriented policy and non-policy based instruments woven through planning, design and implementation for any successful urban forestry ventures. First, there is a need to demonstrate the imperative and benefits of green infrastructure in urban spaces and the tragedy of an urban space dominated by grey infrastructure to both investors and urban dwellers. Secondly, an inclusive multi-stakeholder approach is needed in the planning, design, implementation, maintenance and evaluation of urban forest ventures. This owes to the central status of urban spaces as contested landscapes with multiple conflicting priorities and rationalities. Such an inclusivity should capture the influence of the pluralistic nature of the ‘urban’. The multi-stakeholder approach creates a platform to build trust among stakeholders and co-produce knowledge on the needs, possibilities and barriers to mainstreaming urban forestry in urban development plans.

Author: Amanubo Amos

Research Associate — African Centre for Green Economy+

Disclaimer: Some of the views expressed here are those of the author, and are not in any way meant to represent the views of African Centre for Green Economy.

 

Energy access is still a dream for majority of women in Africa!

Improving access to energy is on the frontline of the global development agenda geared towards achieving SDG 7 that envisages a future where everyone is able to access affordable, reliable, sustainable  and modern energy. The global 2019 statistics reveal that the total number of people without access to energy dropped to 770 million from 860 million, a record lower when compared to previous figures. Despite the recorded progress, the sad reality is that access to energy remains uneven between and within regions particularly for sub-Saharan Africa. 75% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is without access to energy, a percentage projected to increase exponentially with time. While the lack of access to energy affects everyone, women have continued to be more disadvantaged than their male counterparts. This has raised the need for policy frameworks and alternative energy choices to be more inclusive and focus on addressing the challenges faced by women in the quest for energy access.

The development and adoption of off grid energy solutions across Africa is suggested as a way to effectively address the challenges of energy poverty faced specifically by women. Studies indicate that women in rural communities spend at least 3 hours per day  looking for firewood for home consumption. The concept of biomass cooking crisis, a labor-intensive activity where women rely on the use of firewood and charcoal for cooking, illustrates how women are at a greater risk of inhaling toxic gases. Also, the  human energy crisis affects women in rural areas as they spend most of their time on more manual unpaid household labor such as grain grinding and firewood collection. Such experiences that women have to put up with, affect their health, education attainment, life skills development and their ability to start up small businesses to generate their own income, thus the need for off grid energy solutions such as the use of solar energy.

The promotion of  gender sensitive  renewable energy projects in Africa’s remote areas will contribute to improved standards of living for  women as they will encourage them to take up green jobs in solar energy engineering, energy risk assessment and management. This  will also catalyse economic empowerment that will immensely reduce the gender inequality gap that exists  in most African countries. With an objective of spiraling green jobs and boosting the inclusion and participation of women through Just Transition pathways,  the African Centre for a Green Economy has embarked on a renewable energy access project in South Africa and Uganda’s most vulnerable communities.  This project has been designed with an aim that 60% of the target population will be women in the quest to ensure that women are the primary beneficiaries. It is also envisioned that the project will enable energy access for all as well as act as a case study to guide local leaders in setting up and implementing structures that tackle  energy poverty issues.

The immediate improvement in accessibility to energy among women will further aid in curbing cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in rural communities. Based  on  research findings, women with a sustainable source of energy are less prone to GBV compared to  women with no access to energy. This theory is based on the understanding that electricity  increases women’s access to information through televisions and radios, which exposes them to various global views on issues around GBV. This thinking is also supported by the view that with more information, women are enlightened and empowered to defend their rights and guard themselves against any form of violence. This also quickens and makes GBV response measures more feasible especially to women in rural areas. For example, with Africa’s general increase in GBV cases, it is projected that the extension and adoption of off grid energy solutions in rural communities will help in responding to the present energy crisis that has deterred the majority from information and response mechanisms.

Manufacturers of renewable energy solutions that fail to consider the needs of women can be assured that they will massively miss out on a large potential market for their products. Energy policymakers and analysts who ignore women’s needs will be failing to make use of an influential pool for renewable energy development. Energy researchers who side-line women in their  energy research and analysis will be intentionally failing to understand a large section of energy consumption and production. Ultimately, funding entities or investors who do not support gender-sensitive energy projects will be under looking one of their key target groups. As such, the inclusion of women in renewable energy strides in Africa cuts across all stakeholders starting from manufacturers of renewable energy solutions, policy makers, analysts, researchers to investors.

Let’s strive for renewable energy efforts that are gender inclusive to drive Africa to a sustainable development trajectory!

 Author – Damalie Tebajjukira

Communications and Marketing Associate Intern – African Centre for a Green Economy

Africa day: A call to achieving Africa’s post Covid-19 Green recovery.

While we celebrate Africa day in light  of our continental unity, solidarity, diversity, successes and economic potential, this year’s Africa day comes at a time when the world is still battling with a pandemic that has affected livelihoods, especially in Africa. It has affected Africa’s food systems, energy access and further worsen the impacts of climate change.

As African countries scramble to recover from the debilitating impact of the pandemic, the solutions being put forward need to be more strategic to address the systemic challenges the continent faces. For Africa to achieve a meaningful and inclusive economic development, a green post Covid-19 recovery is required. This would enable recovery efforts to be more equitable and sustainable in the long term.

Through the adaptation of these 4 steps, a  green post covid-19 recovery can act as  a clear pathway to attaining Africa’s sustainable green recovery:

  • Prioritise natural capital; Since African economies predominantly rely on biodiversity, it is imperative that key economic actors  take up immediate action against biodiversity loss. Through steering biodiversity conservation and protection campaigns across the continent, a communal mission to restore and protect biodiversity will be achieved.
  • Accelerate energy access for the most vulnerable; Energy access has significant impacts on social economic outputs. Accelerating  renewable energy access in rural economies is critical since it will improve on rural economies and therefore hasten recovery efforts.
  • Implement market-based incentives to reduce deforestation; Africa has lost 45% of its forest cover due to deforestation and forest degradation that have also endangered the continent’s biodiversity. The application of REDD+ in which people are rallied and paid to reduce forest loss and degradation through planting more  trees will help boost and protect Africa’s forest cover.
  • Improve access to sanitation and safe drinking water; Having access to safe drinking water is paramount for public health and sustaining healthy livelihoods. Boosting Africa’s water accessibility will  require channelling funds into directly  supporting vulnerable communities  through implementing household water treatment and storage initiatives and promoting safely- managed rainwater harvesting.

These  steps not only reduce the vulnerability of communities to pandemics but also have the potential to create more green jobs, ensure environmental sustainability, reduce  inequalities  and catalyse economic growth across the continent. On the other hand, a sustained green Covid recovery,  will require collective effort from citizens, private organizations, and all stakeholders in order to achieve effectiveness.

Enhancing access to renewable energy

There is no doubt that COVID19 has caused a devasting impact on people’s lives, businesses and the economy as a whole. As countries grapple with recovery efforts, all the fundamentals need to be in place for an accelerated transition. However, lack of reliable electricity supplies to drive economic activity, remains a major challenge, as exemplified by the recent blackouts in South Africa. Elsewhere on the continent, more than 600 million people have no access to reliable energy to meet their needs.

Off-grid energy solutions such as Photovoltaic (PV) solar, provide an excellent opportunity to build a resilient energy supply system, that can transform people’s lives and build a more equitable society. However, despite significant investments in off-grid energy solutions, their wide uptake is still relatively limited.

The African Centre for a Green Economy, convenors of the NEA are delighted to announce a new partnership with the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), to undertake a comprehensive 3 years research aimed at building the ecosystem to scale up investments in off-grid energy solutions.

Among other things, the project will assess the effectiveness of different renewable energy technologies in accelerating green jobs creation and a low-carbon trajectory in Uganda and South Africa; analyze the equity and distribution implications of energy transition in vulnerable communities across gender, age, and income groups; develop potential financial and business models to deliver a just transition.

Here is what the IDRC’s project manager Dr Bhim Adhikari had to say “we are delighted about this opportunity to partner with the African Centre for a Green Economy, on building the evidence base for low carbon development trajectory in Africa. Off-grid energy solutions remains the most important solution to addressing Africa’s development challenges”

The Founder of African Centre for a Green Economy Dr Mao Amis says “For the last 6 years the NEA has been supporting green entrepreneurs in South Africa, we are thankful to the IDRC for enabling us continue doing this important work. We are even more excited about creating the platform for South
African green entrepreneurs to collaborate with their colleagues in the rest of the continent, especially Uganda that is regarded as one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the World”.

Repost: Exploring opportunities for investing in water and sanitation

South Africa is a water scarce country, with very high variability and unpredictability in water availability. The rainfall is highly variable and is characterised by incidences of extreme weather conditions leading to droughts and flooding. As a result, the water management context of this is driven by these prevailing conditions, which has led to a demand for water exceeding demand by a large margin.

The availability of water resources is also not equitably distributed, with most economic hubs of the country located in geographic locations with very limited water resources, leading to high dependence on physical infrastructure to move water from very far locations.

The country has very old infrastructure, posing a major challenge to basic service delivery. The average age of water infrastructure in 39 years, with poor maintenance records, frequent disruptions in service delivery have become commonplace, leading to drastic measures such as water rationing, especially during drought.

Water management in South Africa has also been characterized by significant lack of capacity among water professionals. Many water professionals have been lost to the private sector, as a result of better working conditions, and South Africa generally suffers from inadequate engineering skills, which is key for infrastructure development.

We conducted a study aimed at develoing understanding on the perceived challenges and constraints faced by the private sector, which prevents them from harnessing the opportunities of investing in the water and sanitation sector in South Africa. The key headline messages from this study are summarised below: –

  • There are significant investment opportunities: Various studies have estimated that the total cost of
    funding requirement for the water sector in South Africa is around R700 billion.
  • Too much focus on new water infrastructure. Financiers are biased towards projects that focus on delivering new infrastructure projects. Such projects are perceived to be more profitable and less risky, as they are often ringfenced or guaranteed by the public sector;
  • Inadequate capacity leading to under spending of allocated funds: Even though the sector is experiencing significant funding challenges, under spending has been reported in some cases, partly attributable to the lack of capacity both at local and national level
  • Private sector is too risk averse to effectively invest in the water sector: The high level of private sector risk aversion in relation to the water sector has hindered their effective participation;
  • More innovative funding mechanisms urgently needed to unlock investments: The traditional mechanism of private sector participation in water management under the private-public-partnerships (PPP), have not yielded any effective outcomes;
  • Insufficient evolution in the political landscape in South Africa poses a challenge. The political landscape in South Africa has not evolved sufficiently enough to allow the private sector to confidently partner with Government in delivering water infrastructure;
  • The absence of an Independent Regulator is a barrier to unlocking private sector investments: The potential establishment of an independent regulator would be an extremely useful mechanism to bolster private sector confidence in investing in water infrastructure

You can download the full report here: Exploring opportunities for investing in water (0 downloads)

 

Building resilience of rural communities against climate change

Not a drop of water to drink

The Orange- Senque river basin is one of the most important river basins in southern Africa, powering the economies of at least 4 countries. With its origins in Lesotho, it encompasses half of South Africa, a quarter of Namibia and a significant portion of southern Botswana. The Orange river is crucial for the region. The upper reaches of the river is a major water supplier to the industrial hubs of South Africa, namely Johannesburg.

The middle reaches of the river is key for agricultural production especially grains, a staple crop in South Africa. The significance of this river is even much more pronounced in the semi-arid Northern Cape Province of South Africa, where most agricultural activities take place along the river bank.

Reliance on the river as a primary source of irrigation has been seriously threatened as a result of a changing climate, with a resultant significant reduction in water levels. This has, in turn, intensified the competition for scarce water between different water users. For example, the region is currently experiencing extreme drought conditions that have hampered rainfed agriculture, prompting the government to declare the region a disaster zone.

The stories emanating from the ground as a result of the drought are extremely sad. Many farms are closing down because the cost of operation has become prohibitive. Livestock are succumbing to the extreme heat, lack of water and inadequate pasture.

Impact of drought on vulnerable communities

The toll of the drought is not only impacting commercial farmers, but also the livelihoods of many rural folks and smallholder farmers in particular. In rural communities, the skills base is very low, so many members of the local communities are employed as labourers on farms while others manage their own small scale farming activities. However, due to the harsh conditions many of these local community members have been forced to abandon their livelihood activities, resulting in significant vulnerability in poor households.

Harnessing local capital

There is an urgent need to build the adaptive capacity of the most vulnerable communities, because extreme events such as droughts, will be exacerbated by climate change. The main question is, how do you build the resilience of highly vulnerable and under-resourced communities, with a poor skills base and often very isolated?

Based on our experience, the key opportunities for building resilience are based on developing a good understanding of the local context and using the principles of co-creation and co-learning to harness local resources. A key component of this process is understanding indigenous knowledge systems. For example, most vulnerable communities, have been exposed to some of these challenges before and have developed coping strategies to manage their situations. Such coping strategies may include post-harvest management and livelihood diversification.

 

Catalytic interventions

To ensure that vulnerable communities develop the adaptive capacity to respond to climate change, its often critical to implement catalytic interventions, such as awareness-raising, training on new farming and livelihood practices and to invest in the local economy.

This is what we will be doing over the next couple of months in selected communities in the Northern Cape Province (pictured left). Our interventions will focus on creating an enabling environment to unlock investments but at the local and landscape level. We will also build the capacity of local communities members on climate-smart practices so that they can adopt farming practices that improve productivity, supply nutritious food and bolster household incomes.