Climate change is moving much faster than we are, pushing ecosystems and communities to their limits, according to new research. We will miss the opportunity to limit warming to 1.5ºC this century with minimum overshoot if people fail to change course by speeding the transition away from fossil fuels and establishing low carbon, climate resilient economies.
Already, 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and this number will rapidly rise as temperatures rise. We urgently need to ramp up efforts to assist people and nature in adapting to a warming world and implementing climate solutions. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) main decision-making body is the COP (Conference of the Parties). It includes delegates from all countries that have signed up to the UNFCCC (or “parties”). The COP evaluates the effectiveness of measures implemented by parties to prevent climate change against the overall goal of the UNFCCC and is held once a year. COP28 must be the time when the world comes together to address the climate crisis and deliver for people and nature.
Climate change continues to be the world’s most serious “existential challenge”. We are already seeing the effects of the climate crisis, as proven by the “Durban rain bomb” of April 2022 in KwaZulu-Natal. Climate change has killed dozens, displaced thousands, and left millions of people food insecure. Climate change, resource-induced wars, and environmental disasters continue unabated throughout South Africa and around the world, affecting hundreds of thousands of families in 2023 alone. Evidence is growing that gas extraction in South Africa will not provide long-term economic benefits to the country. In fact, the current intentions are directly aligned with long-term plans of huge energy corporations to remove Russian energy giants as main European energy suppliers. These corporations are proposing 195 massive oil and gas projects known as “carbon bombs”, including several in Africa, that will push the planet beyond internationally agreed-upon temperature boundaries. Pollution knows no borders; increases in one country affect us all. We must make the transition to renewable energy. Renewable and free energy solutions that are decentralised and led by communities are less expensive and safer, with additional environmental and social benefits. The relentless promotion of “green” hydrogen is a risky and polluting distraction, especially when it is sourced from natural gas and other fossil fuels. Massive investments and infrastructure, partially sponsored by our own governments, are aimed at serving the Global North, with little to no benefit from greater energy access in our own territory.
As COP28 brings focus to South Africa and its vulnerabilities, governments are finally acknowledging the “just transition” narrative (after years of community struggles and articulations). Nonetheless, we are witnessing a stronger drive by industry to further cement filthy energy colonialism. The growing interest in filthy energy resources throughout the region contradicts the agreements made at COP27. Expansion of fossil fuel operations in South Africa, exploration of oil and gas in Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast, exploitation of offshore oil and gas reserves in Nigeria, gas operations in Mozambique and interests in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and resuscitation of coal use in Europe to fill the void left by the war in Ukraine are just a few examples of the lip service paid to reducing reliance on dirty fossil fuel. False solutions such as chemical recycling, plastic/waste incineration, carbon markets, carbon offsetting, geo-engineering, net zero, and so on in various African countries funded by the Global North are pushing us deeper into the climate emergency and vulnerable communities on the front lines with no means of defence to the devastating effects of climate change.
COP28 is being held in the United Arab Emirates. The summit will be held at Expo City Dubai from November 30 until December 12. People all over the world are failing to have any expectation from COP, as it seems there are little to no changes in the current global warming and climate change struggle. At this year’s COP28, we should expect the following:
– Climate financing should be raised to fulfil the aim, but only as grants, with no debt-creating or repressive restrictions.
– Clear commitments: there is a need to ensure that the historical “polluter-pays” duties for the “climate debt” owed by huge polluters are respected and paid, as well as the rest of the Global South based on how the climate issue affects them. The Global North must properly and justly compensate for the loss and harm suffered by those who are most vulnerable and often least accountable for environmental destruction.
– Build just food systems for food sovereignty: recognise, appreciate, and promote peasant agro-ecology and other genuine sustainable food production and distribution models based on food sovereignty as viable alternatives to the industrialised food system. Local level initiatives by women and peasants should develop food systems and food sovereignty, and they must be backed unconditionally by national and international resources. Governments should improve agricultural budget allocations and protect indigenous seeds and seed systems.
– Stop financing false solutions: abandon all false solutions (including net zero, failed emissions-trading and offsetting mechanisms such as clean development mechanisms (CDMs), so-called nature-based and other techno-fix solutions such as geo-engineering, monoculture sequestration, and dangerous genetic modification and manipulation.
– Leave fossil fuels underground: all new exploration must be halted by governments of the Global North and Global South, as well as financiers of the global oil, gas, and coal companies. Our governments must devote existing reserves to a sovereignty agenda of fossil fuel phase-out and commit to a just energy transition.
– Transforming our energy system: energy sufficiency for all, energy sovereignty, energy democracy, free energy technologies, energy as a common good, 100% renewable energy for all, community-owned renewable energy, and low-impact renewable energy are all ideas that can help us urgently transition as a society to a more just and environmentally friendly way of life.
– Build peace and bring an end to climate hypocrisy: war is profitable (for a few). The current surge in global desire for African energy reserves is embedded in a worldwide war for power over energy supplies to Europe, with oil and gas multinational firms wanting to further devastate our habitats while reaping massive profits from the industry.
– Stop waste colonialism: the Global North must stop dumping waste in the Global South, and all parties must agree to excluding waste-to-energy incineration from national and other climate initiatives.
– Respect and uphold the rights of people: revise national legal frameworks to better account for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and especially to increase women’s rights and protection from violence.
Kershni Ramreddi is a Just and Energy Project Officer at the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL.