COP27 – A BIZARRE
Written by Collins Odhiambo, Youth Engagement Advisor at ActionAid Global Platforms
I have to say from the onset that I am not such an activist. In fact, I don’t have the grace, power and consistency to be one, but I am a social noisemaker. Social evils that affect the masses really bother me.
I am in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt to attend this year’s COP 27 climate conference. As we are in the second week, there is no clear breakthrough in sight despite the summit starting off promising with an important agenda item on matters relating to funding arrangements for addressing loss and damage. This is the first time such an item has made it onto the formal COP agenda. This was a key development, and what it showed was a commitment to discussing real action towards supporting countries who are most impacted by climate change, to cover the costs of the losses and damages that it causes. But where is the united voice on this? There has been no consolidated front from the developed and the developing countries, a lot of mistrust and very limited involvement space for the civil society during this COP summit.
HOW MANY OF THESE COPS DO WE NEED TO MAKE A DECISION?
A loss and damage finance facility would be a huge COP 27 gift to the developing world. However, there is so much despondency hitting people that the majority of the ones I speak with are already pouring cold water on any possibility of a positive outcome in such a critical moment in international negotiations about the future of our earth.
I am left with no other option but to wonder if these conferences have become a travelling circus. I wonder what’s the problem. Are the national governments, or even the prominent international bodies, captive to corporate interests that are heavy on oil and gas greenwashing? Why are rich countries keen in offering hodge-podge of initiatives like insurance and early warning systems? Is this what’s making negotiations difficult? Is there a battle of supremacy between a few countries?
The conversations about climate change have been the same every day, the same words we have heard, repeatedly during the past decade. My mind wants to scream out loud so that I am able to cut through the repetitive jargon and indifference.
It’s no longer about the 1.5- or 2-degree changes, it’s no longer about the percent of emissions cuts and trade carbons, it’s also no longer just about the different protocols and whether we have another period or not.
I think it’s about time we got angry about what this bloated negotiation is all about. COP27 has had the biggest number of fossil fuel lobbyists, a rise of more than 25% from last year and outnumbering any one frontline community affected by the climate crisis. There are 636 lobbyists from the oil and gas industries attending with dozens of examples of how they are influencing the climate summit. There is only one state delegation that has outnumbered the fossil fuel lobby delegation - the United Arab Emirates, the host of next COP 28 with 1078 delegates. I feel as if despite it being an African COP and even before these climate change talks began here in Sharm el-Sheikh, their epitaph was already written.
As standoffs, mistrusts and differences in opinion continue to mar the climate summit, I am wondering if anyone of these officials is able to imagine the vivid images of people starving in my country Kenya and the Horn of Africa, their ears glued to perhaps the only radio in the village, tying their hopes for a breakthrough.
Here in Egypt all that I have heard are false hope with no clear breakthroughs but some nations holding people to ransom by threatening to pull out of the only hope for them: the negotiations. They speak for the 1% without sparing a thought for the 99% of us in developing world.
Even with the vivid images before my eyes, I am not able to comprehend the grief the starving ones must be struck with. A sharp pain engulfs me every day, and especially as a young African, I feel insulted, ridiculed and forgotten. And with my brothers, sisters, and mothers - I weep.
The people responsible for slowing down the negotiations, the elite sit at this international conference center are completely removed from climate change realities and utterly removed from the grassroots people who face the realities of climate change each and every day. I wish the negotiators would listen to these people. I wish they were able to witness for themselves, for what I have witnessed across Africa.
I wish they were able to witness the plight of the 45-year-old Dorice Kamogo, from Masulana village in Kenya. She wakes up at 5am every morning, to walk 15 kilometers to work on her farm and keep it fertile. The farm and her work on it is the only source of food for her four children.
Perhaps, Dorice’s struggle would soften their hearts. Out of the three rivers that used to surround her land, two of them – Kagugu and Ntakisha have dried up. With four mouths to feed, hardly any food and no resources that she can sell, Dorice stares into uncertainty. With the climate so erratic, she is unsure if and when she will have her next meal. She has no option but to depend on begging for her survival.
Dorice left me with those words, binding her trust in me to portray the bitter realities of climate change to the decision makers, the living stories of devastation and the unheard voices of the victims of our collective responsibility.
There is need for an expression of solidarity by the delegations of the countries that are most affected by climate change, rather than going from one meeting to the next without getting responses on the issues that need to be dealt with especially on a financing facility on Loss and Damage.
It’s a ridiculous fallacy to continue as we are. We have to push and fight for a serious alternative. The only way forward is a complete change of the norms. Otherwise, it’s just business as usual.