PRE COP27 ANALYSIS: Why the ‘African COP’ could mean better solutions for the Global South
How can we design more adaptive societies for a climate-conscious future?
by Megan Corsano
Solutions are about envisioning the future we want to build for ourselves and future generations through climate action. In our complex modern world committing to emissions reduction is simply not enough to deal with the climate crisis: We need to redesign our systems in a way that allows countries to meet their climate and development goals and that makes life better for all communities around the globe.
Rather than discussing the social aspects and impacts of the climate crisis, solutions are about concrete technologies and strategies for adaptation and mitigation . This offers a chance to pursue proactive rather than reactive responses to the climate crisis to better prepare societies for the future. The conversation around solutions includes aspects such as how to green national budgets, designing sustainable cities and transport systems, and alternatives to waste management. It’s about the specifics of how we reimagine our societies in a climate-conscious way.
The ‘African COP’ gives solutions a new sense of urgency
COP27 will close with a thematic day dedicated to solutions, to envision the technology and systems that are available in order to achieve the goals outlined during the rest of the conference. Solutions Day, which will take place on 17 November, will be a chance for government leaders and entrepreneurs to come together for a discussion on best practices and emerging technologies that can be taken back home to inspire direct action . The specific topics announced by the Egyptian presidency for Solutions day include greening national budgets, sustainable transport and mobility, green entrepreneurship and reinventing waste solutions. This year’s conference, dubbed ‘the African COP,’ will see an increased focus on solutions specifically targeted to the Global South thanks to it being hosted by the Egyptian government . In particular, the conference is focused on immediate adaptation and finance solutions that benefit the most vulnerable populations in the Global South .
One example for which we need to reimagine a new system are cities. In urban settings, infrastructure plays a large role in the considerations around climate solutions. More efficient urban planning has the potential to reduce the future energy use of cities by nearly 25%; most of this reduction would happen in the smaller cities of Asia and Africa where cities are growing the most rapidly but are often overlooked by development finance . This opportunity makes the discussion on infrastructure even more pressing of a topic at this year’s COP.
Building on Glasgow
At COP26 in Glasgow, leaders focused individually on the topics of finance, adaptation, transport, and cities, but there was no specific day dedicated to bringing them all together for a conversation on cross cutting solutions .
At COP26, the world’s wealthier countries came to terms with the reality that they had not lived up to their previous commitment of delivering 100 billion USD a year of climate finance for developing countries. Instead, they reaffirmed this commitment with the intention to reach this goal by 2023 . This year, we expect finance to be expanded on as a key focus at COP27, particularly in the context of sustainable development and finance to countries in the Global South.
Furthermore, COP26 saw pledges around coal, cars, methane, forests and private finance by different subsets of actors including countries, companies and civil society . One example is the promise made by more than 30 countries, six major automobile companies, and other entities to fully transition to zero-emission vehicles by 2040 globally .
However, this year’s particular focus on cross-cutting solutions can encompass much more and will provide a forum for new ideas and technology to be presented.
Will the Global North rise to the challenge?
The final day of COP27 will focus on solutions that offer a new way of designing our societies in all the areas discussed during the previous days. These discussions will include not only politicians but also entrepreneurs, urban planners, activists and representatives of many other parts of civil society and the private sector. Apart from concrete solutions such as low-carbon sustainable transport products or the 50by2050 recycling initiative of the Egyptian presidency, solutions day will also serve to set the stage for other high level fora such as the UN World Urban Forum in 2024 .
Building on discussions last year around delivering the promised 100 billion USD in climate-related funds to the Global South, we might see increased work around this topic. While wealthier countries have made strides in improving their commitment to climate financing (such as Italy’s adoption of the Italian Climate Fund or Japan’s earmarking of an additional US$10 billion for climate financing), work will now begin on the execution of these commitments. Beyond the 100 billion goal more work is needed to achieve a doubling of adaptation finance and to remove bureaucratic roadblocks in order to speed up disbursement . Additionally, the work program established in Glasgow promised to define a goal on adaptation that can guide future solutions for cities in Africa and Asia; this year we expect to see progress on coming to this definition .
A global response to the climate crisis will only be possible if countries of the Global North offer appropriate financial and technical support to the rest of the world. We know such cooperation is promising as seen in the Just Energy Transition Partnerships. First launched between France, Germany, UK, US, the EU and South Africa in 2021 to support South Africa’s coal phase out, more countries are expected to announce their partnership at COP27.
The stakes are high at COP27. The Paris rulebook was finalised last year; now it is past time that we start implementing all the innovative solutions needed to realise its goals. Countries of the Global North have a great opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to global adaptation and mitigation measures by following through on their financial commitments and by openly sharing knowledge and technology.
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