Africa has been put in a tight spot with the emergence of the novel coronavirus that has not only turned every economy in the world upside down, but also halted almost every aspect of it.
A webinar hosted by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance on Africa’s status and position with the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted Africa’s predicaments, having already been the worst hit by the effects of the climate crisis.
The webinar themed #AfricaAtCrossroads did not end without the mention of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP26, that was to be hosted by Scotland towards the end of 2020, but which has since been pushed to 2021. It emerged that the African Group of Negotiators (AGN), who PACJA works closely with, alive to the fact that the COP25 did not achieve much for the continent, had begun talks in preparation for the next such UNFCCC meeting, only for this Covid-19 crisis to emerge.
Speaker after speaker emphasised the need for experts in Africa to examine the real effect of the pandemic in Africa and guide on the inclusion of such information in consideration of the talking points at the COP26, through the AGN.
“Most African countries have to deal with triple stressors – Covid-19 crisis, the challenge of climate and environmental changes, and other factors of fragility – all at the same time. The synergy of these stressors will amplify the impact and thus need to be addressed in synergy,” said Shimelis Fekadu, a participant in the online meeting that hosted more than 200 people from around the world.
In their welcoming speeches, PACJA’s Executive Director Mithika Mwenda, ACSEA Coordinator Augustine Njamnshi and Head of Programmes Salina Sanou had called for the adjustment of the strategy that was to be used in this year’s negotiations, especially on matters of climate change, to include the effects of the coronavirus on the continent.
Mr Njamnshi reminded the webinar’s participants of how developed nations had used a lot of money on the Covid-19 crisis alone, adding that the problem with the countries that also happen to be the highest emitters of the Green House Gas (GHG) has never been lack of funds but unwillingness to prioritise climate change as a crisis that cannot wait.
“Clearly there is no limit to public finance if you are from a G7 country. We have never seen such a scale of finance availability before, trillions. Central banks of US, EU, UK, Japan all act. This must strengthen our demands and ambition for finance and for mitigation,” said Mr Njamnshi.
He urged Heads of State, including the current African Union Chair and South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, to be more involved in the push for the Western countries to fund efforts towards climate change mitigation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The South African president was commended for appointing a special envoy to focus on climate change.
“Covid-19 responses will trigger socio-economic stimulus at the expense of environmental and climate change considerations. Now is the time for Climate change practitioners to raise our antenna that it is a catch 22 situation that requires synergy. COVID-19 responses should be holistic,” said Innocent Onah, another participant in the webinar.
Mr Njamnshi took cognisance of the fact that it had become difficult for nations to delay release of funds to mitigate Covid-19, as the disease was quite contagious and a fast mass killer with the ability to destabilise world economies.
With the push for debt relief for poor developing countries becoming more intense, Njamnshi reiterated that what African nations needed was complete cancellation of debts and not mere interest payment moratorium.
“Climate must be at the core of the rebuilding efforts as part of the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement in a post Covid-19 world,” said Dr Mithika, adding: “It will be interesting to see what happens next year, when COP26 is due. Next year UK will chair the G7. Italy will chair G20 and pre-COP. We will see that climate change is at the core of every rebuilding effort.”
There was consensus that it would be crucial for nations to “integrate climate considerations into Covid-19 response measures across the board”.
But there also arose the need for China to be pushed to cease funding of projects that might be risky to the biodiversity, including coal powered projects. Dr Dale Jiajun Wen, a scholar and author on matters of agriculture and sustainable development, said in the webinar: “We invite colleagues to sign on to an international statement calling on Chinese government and actors to support high quality infrastructure by not providing any Covid-19 related financial relief to projects with pre-existing environmental, social, biodiversity, climate, or financial risks.”
Others said recovery from Covid-19 would be the best channel for implementation of the climate strategies and technologies.
Below are some of the comments from participants in the webinar:
Jimmy Adegoke: Excellent comments from the featured speakers... We have robust scientific evidence linking climate extremes with adverse public health outcomes from disease outbreaks such as dengue and West Nile virus. Anyamba, a Kenyan-American at NASA, published an excellent paper on this a few years ago: Recent Weather Extremes and Impacts on Agricultural Production and Vector-Borne Disease Outbreak Patterns
Fraenx: I hope that Covid-19 will be a wake-up call towards a more sustainable economy and action against climate change and environmental destruction. What can we do as citizens in Europe to transform to a sustainable economy and push for global cooperation against climate change and for more climate justice?
Anonymous: Climate change and pandemics such as Covid-19 are embedded in each other. To bridge the gap between the two would (be) the concept of one health… What are some of the individual strategies that countries have laid down for carbon neutrality… could we as continent encourage frameworks to share and copy strategies from other countries on how best they developed resilience and adaptions?
Fade Adeniyi: Thanks, Dr Linus Mofor. You mentioned that the ECA is working on supporting private sector participation in NDC implementation. What is the scope of your activities under this initiative? And which countries are you currently supporting?
Shehu Bankole-Hameed: As a strategist in financial markets and services, special attention to intermediation, my concern is the absence of resilience and lack of investment in primary industries.
Mark Damen: Thank you very much for the clarification of the current processes… what's the specific call for action for various actors, governments, institutions, as well as civil society?
Shehu Bankole-Hameed: Should efficiency be built on the back of Africa's response to Covid-19, and how do we investigate continuity in Agro based services in spite of climate change?
Justice: Very important points Samantha. Thank you
Shehu Bankole-Hameed: I really think we need to scale up our farms from subsistence to efficient systems with large privately owned enterprises (African owned and dominated). The resilience can be provided by smaller deliberately organised farms.
Justice: Small-scale producers currently produce 70% of food for the world. ETC report 2017 (https://www.etcgroup.org/content/who-will-feed-us-industrial-food-chain-vs-peasant-food-web). We need to support small-scale farmers.
Samantha: I agree justice. It is rural small-scale food producers that need to be supported, not agribusiness. Their forms of production need to be supported to protect the environment and feed people! This needs to lie at the heart of a just and equitable alternative.
Inge Vianen: Thank you so much for all the interesting presentations and reflections.
Chinenye Anekwe: The Covid-19 has revealed a lot of things, especially in the area of weakened health infrastructure. It is so unfortunate that it is coming with devastating effects. I hope that some weak approaches to strengthening access to clean and affordable energy will not empower the impact of climate change to overburden and overwhelm the whole world. In all these, Africa will be the most vulnerable.
Shehu Bankole-Hameed: Small-scale food producers may not be efficient enough nor are they able to build resilience. We need to move forward. AI is the next generation for the developed countries, how do we build resilience from largely very small-scale farmers? It would interest me to know that we in Africa can continue to do business as usual and expect change. Please listen to this: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000h1ms
Henrykazula: How can we keep “Climate Action” in this time of Covid-19 pandemic? Do we have any strategies to raise more voice on climate issues as it is for Covid-19?
Chinenye Anekwe: …in the face of all these, women, especially the ones in rural communities, are always at the receiving end. Recently, we have witnessed increased intimate partner violence. Thus the need to include in depth and deliberate gender-based responses in our resilient structures to rethinking the Africa adapted development plan.
AED106097: There is a "climate debt" - can it be used to offset the financial debts instead of debt relief?
Monique Munting: About food production, resilience, etc., have a look at the documents produced by IPES-FOOD http://www.ipes-food.org/
Nicholas: Africa needs to embrace our preparedness to emergency situations such as Covid-19 and climate change.