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COP27: Inflation, energy security frustrate commitments to climate change

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam (Lagos) and Kingsley Jeremiah (Abuja) 
07 November 2022   |   4:28 am
As global leaders commence discussions on climate change-related issues at this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, African leaders and stakeholders are championing a cause for the continuous

Nigeria, others push for more oil exploration
• UN: We’ll hold world leaders accountable
• African countries most affected by climate change, says COP27 president
• World’s green agenda undermines Africa’s priorities says Ayuk

As global leaders commence discussions on climate change-related issues at this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, African leaders and stakeholders are championing a cause for the continuous exploration of fossil fuels to enable countries like Nigeria to finance development projects.

Unlike COP26, where global leaders were mostly unanimous in their decision on carbon emission goals, the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine has tilted the precarious balance of the energy ‘trilemma’ — sustainability, affordability and security, towards the latter.

Sameh Shoukry President COP 27 speaks during the Opening Ceremony on the first day of the COP27 UN Climate Change Conference, held by UNFCCC in Sharm El-Sheikh International Convention Center, Egypt on November 6, 2022. Alok Sharma COP26 President hands over the presidency to Sameh Shoukry of Egypt. COP27, running from November 6 to November 18 in Sharm El Sheikh focuses on the implementation of measures already agreed upon during previous COPs. The Conference in Sharm El Sheikh focuses also on the most vulnerable communities as the climate crisis hardens the life conditions of those already most disadvantaged. (Photo by Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto) (Photo by Dominika Zarzycka / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP)

For many countries globally, tackling inflation remains the greatest concern, considering that high energy prices form a major trigger of spiking prices, leaving many leaders restless. The main sources of global energy are still fossil fuels: oil, natural gas and coal.

With Europe scrambling to line up enough oil, gas and coal for the winter while looking to Africa for supplies, the argument for African stakeholders remains the justification for the continent not to give up its fossil fuels, even when such fuels represent solutions to some of its most pressing needs and even that of Europe.

Indeed, stakeholders are insisting that Africa will not embrace the world’s timetable for transitioning to renewable fuels at the expense of the continent’s own energy security and economic well-being.

Already, United Nations Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, has said the global body will be holding world leaders and people to account, to make their policies align with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Convention.

Sameh Shoukry President COP 27 speaks during the Opening Ceremony on the first day of the COP27 UN Climate Change Conference, held by UNFCCC in Sharm El-Sheikh International Convention Center, Egypt on November 6, 2022. Alok Sharma COP26 President hands over the presidency to Sameh Shoukry of Egypt. COP27, running from November 6 to November 18 in Sharm El Sheikh focuses on the implementation of measures already agreed upon during previous COPs. The Conference in Sharm El Sheikh focuses also on the most vulnerable communities as the climate crisis hardens the life conditions of those already most disadvantaged. (Photo by Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto) (Photo by Dominika Zarzycka / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP)

The UNFCCC official disclosed this while delivering his remarks at the opening plenary of COP 27 in Egypt, yesterday.

Stiell said: “We will be holding people to account, be they presidents, prime ministers or CEOs; accountability is chief to make our policies work, our businesses and actions, either personal or the public must be aligned with the Paris agreements and with the Convention.”

He emphasised that the heart of the implementation of climate pledges lies with everybody everywhere in the world, doing everything they possibly can to address the climate crisis.

“With the Paris Rulebook essentially concluded, thanks to COP26 in Glasgow last year, the litmus test of this and every future COP is how far deliberations are accompanied by action. Everybody, every single day, everywhere in the world, needs to do everything they possibly can to avert the climate crisis,” Stiell said.

He added: “COP27 sets out the direction for a new era of implementation: where outcomes from the formal and informal process truly begin to come together to drive greater climate progress — and accountability for that progress.”

Stiell asked governments to focus on three critical areas at COP27. He explained that the first is a transformational shift to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions.

“The second is cementing progress on the critical workstreams of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage while stepping up finance notably to tackle the impacts of climate change.”

Stiell said the third focus of governments across the world is to enhance the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.

On his part, the Egyptian COP27 President, who doubles as the country’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, said the presidency intends to focus the world’s attention on key elements that address the most fundamental needs of people everywhere, including water security, food security, health and energy security.

He said: “We’re gathering this year at a time when global climate action is at a watershed moment. Multilateralism is being challenged by geopolitics, spiralling prices, and growing financial crises, while several countries battered by the pandemic have barely recovered, and severe and depleting climate change-induced disasters are becoming more frequent.”

The Egyptian minister asserted that the host country made sure that COP27 would provide the optimum setting to align and converge multiple views, as well as facilitate transparent, inclusive and fruitful discussion, to ensure the most positive outcome achievable.

He acknowledged the challenging economic and geopolitical factors, but noted, however, that external circumstances should not be allowed to negatively affect the negotiating process.

The President added that as a COP hosted in Africa, it must consider the needs of the developing countries and ensure climate justice by availing the appropriate finance and other means of implementation. This, he said, was necessary as African countries were the most affected by climate change.

COP27 is also holding against the backdrop of inadequate ambition to curb greenhouse gas emissions. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CO2 emissions need to be cut 45 per cent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels to meet the central Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. This is crucial to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall.

Essentially, in COP26, countries agreed to deliver stronger commitments this year, including updated national plans with more ambitious targets. However, only 29 out of the 193 countries have submitted their plans against a backdrop of extreme weather events worldwide, an energy crisis propelled by the war in Ukraine and scientific data released by UN agencies that shows emissions are still growing at a record pace, as well as temperatures are on course to rise to dangerous levels by the end of the century.

For instance, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) warned African leaders to push for the continuous exploration of crude oil instead of joining the West on the need to ban fossil fuels.

Chairman of AEC, N.J. Ayuk, said Africa must oppose measures that prevent Africa from making full use of its fossil fuels.

“The world’s wealthy nations’ green agenda ignores Africa – or at least, it dismisses our unique needs, priorities and challenges.

“The green agenda of wealthy nations ignores those of us who point out that natural gas has the potential to bring life-changing prosperity to the continent in the form of jobs, business opportunities, capacity building and monetisation.

“It ignores the sustainable, logical path we’re proposing, which is using our resources, natural gas in particular, to help us meet current needs and to generate revenue that can help pay for our transition to renewables.

“The wealthy nations’ green agenda does not consider how much Africa needs natural gas to bring electricity to the growing number of Africans living without it. They do not understand that we, as Africans, are focused on growing Africa’s energy mix to include fossil fuels and renewables, instead of insisting on an all-or-nothing approach to our energy transition,” he said.

Chief Operating Officer of Aiteo Eastern E&P Co. Ltd, Ewariezi Use, in a chat with The Guardian, in Abuja, said Nigeria and other African countries must intensify efforts in harnessing their hydrocarbon resources.

“Renewable is good but let’s take it to step by step. We need to enjoy the benefits of our hydrocarbons. We will get there. I believe in going green but at what cost to us as a country? We need development, we need infrastructure and the oil sector as one of the major ways we can earn money,” Use said.

He noted that the country must harness its oil reserves and focus on building capacity that would gradually translate into a greener economy.

Speaking shortly after being conferred a fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Use said the rate at which international oil companies are leaving Nigeria should not create concerns, as ingenious companies as well as Nigerian experts are capable of achieving projected goals in the nation’s oil and gas sector.

He disclosed that the local content laws in the oil sector as well as the Petroleum Industry Act are game changers, which have enabled Nigeria to have a human capacity footprint in all oil-producing countries in the world.

Use, who noted that he has been committed to serving across the different segments of the oil sector, noted that his company believes in the Nigerian dream and the capacity the country has to independently handle its oil sector.

According to him, most of his contemporaries operating, who were trained in Nigeria now operate across different continents even as over 99 per cent of the engineers operating under him are Nigerians.

Useh noted that meeting 70 per cent local content in the oil and gas sector as set by the Federal Government remained a realistic goal.

He disclosed that most of the assets taken over by indigenous companies and operated by Nigerian engineers are performing far better than they were acquired.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, warned in a message at the launch of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), titled  ‘Provisional State of the Global Climate Report 2022’ at the weekend that: “The last eight years have been the warmest on record, making every heatwave more intense and life-threatening, especially for vulnerable populations. Sea levels are rising at twice the speed of the 1990s – posing an existential threat to low-lying island states and threatening billions of people in coastal regions.

“People and communities everywhere must be protected from the immediate and ever-growing risks of the climate emergency. That is why we are pushing so hard for universal early warning systems within five years. We must answer the planet’s distress signal with action — ambitious, credible climate action,” Guterres said.

Another report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, said: “Nations must dramatically increase funding and implementation of actions designed to help vulnerable nations and communities adapt to the climate storm.”

The Adaptation Gap Report 2022: Too, Too slow- Climate adaptation failures puts the world at risk, finds that global efforts in adaptation planning, financing and implementation are not keeping pace with the growing risks.

“Adaptation needs in the developing world are set to skyrocket to as much as $340 billion a year by 2030. Yet adaptation support today stands at less than one-tenth of that amount. The most vulnerable people and communities are paying the price. This is unacceptable,” UN Secretary-General said in a statement on the release of the report.

Programme Manager at Power Shift Africa and Lead Negotiator, Fatuma Hussein, said the common draft position, which focuses on the importance of implementation at COP27, called for the delivery and implementation of pledges and initiatives on finance and adaptation, mitigation, technology and capacity building.

Specifically, the Chair of the AGN, Ephraim Shitima, said: “COP27 should be about implementation, delivering on financial pledges and commitments by developed countries and the advancing of the implementation of nationally determined contributions.”