The COP26: People Planet Partnerships
This previous weekend over 20,000 people from around the world including world leaders descended onto Glasgow in Scotland to attend a two-week conference called COP26. The Conference of the Parties (COP) since its adoption in 1992, and the signing of the treaty in 1994 has been a supreme decision-making body made up of representatives from about 196 parties. It recognizes the dangers and urgency of climate change and provides a framework for climate change negotiations. This first week of the conference is centered on discussing mitigation and adaptation actions required to build resilience against the adverse effects of climate change on communities, ecosystems, and economies; narrowing it down to Nature-based solutions for climate resilience, Trends and opportunities in regional climate planning and implementation, and The Paris Agreement we want: exploring how the climate planning can work for Africa, among others.
The COP has been a platform for setting and tracking global and national targets and actions on climate change. At COP21 held in 2015 in Paris, France, a landmark legally binding international treaty which Zambia is a part of called the Paris Agreement was signed by 196 countries. It was entered into force on the 4th of November 2016, where Parties committed to working together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the pre-industrial level. This agreement informed by evidence of changing climate requires social and economic transformation to reduce greenhouse emissions. Countries by 2020 were required to submit action plan known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Technical, financial, and capacity building all have a role in delivering these plans.
This 26th UN Conference of the Parties (COP26) being held in Glasgow in the next two weeks comes five years after the Paris Agreement, and is another opportunity for global leaders to agree on bold measures to combat climate change to ensure the earth remains a productive and safe space for all. This conference will essentially address how to meet climate-related threats to sustainable food, fuel, and finance needed to address climate change for current and future generations.
Today, climate change has continued to affect communities and economies worldwide, with more devastating effects on developing nations. Recent research shows that it would cost the world 10 percent of its GDP by 2050 if action is not taken to bring climate change under control. Despite industrial nations having contributed in the range of 80% of historical carbon emissions leading to our unstable climate, developing countries have borne the brunt of climate change, with economic impacts of up to 4.7 percent of their GDP.
The COP26 framework will focus on four main goals which are: to secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5C degrees within reach; adapt to protect communities and natural habitats; mobilize finance and; work together to deliver the finance needed to support action.
The goals for the conference imply transforming food systems, switching and investing in cleaner renewable energy by phasing out fossil fuels such as coal and charcoal, and encouraging a switch to green technologies for agriculture, transport, and energy. The conference will encourage the protection and restoration of ecosystems for countries most affected by climate change and deforestation. It shall follow up on past commitments of developed countries in meeting their climate finance yearly target of at least $100 billion. In addition, it will also articulate the role of International Financial Institutions and the private sector in stimulating finance and taking action to secure a global net-zero target. Lastly, it shall anchor one of the most important aspects for the achievement of SDGs, which is increased results-driven strategic collaborations between governments, businesses, and civil society organizations to deliver smart and sustainable climate action.
Zambia’s economic activity and social sustainability is heavily reliant on agriculture, mining, riparian livelihoods and wildlife tourism. Given this and in line with the set goals, Zambia has urgent challenges to fulfil its adaptation and mitigation needs as well as to finance such transformation.
Over decades, the Country has already spent billions of very scarce dollars in responding to climate change. Nearly 70 percent of its population is still dependent on wood fuel as a source of energy. Zambia is ranked as having the 5th highest rate of deforestation in the world and the highest in Africa. These activities have not only been driven by energy needs but have been unsustainable sources of income for local communities that lack alternatives. To bring climate change and deforestation under control, the government must prioritize spurring the availability of affordable and low carbon energy options for the population while building sustainable livelihoods for all. Private sector and NGOs must collaborate with the public sector to deliver these transformations. Realizing a successful switch to renewable energy would require an intentional policy framework and deliberate investments for a complete overhaul of the energy sector, towards meeting the business and domestic needs of the communities first before export of excess energy.
Zambia has shown its commitment to global collaboration in combating climate change through the adoption of national policies and the signing of international treaties to hold it accountable for the achievement of environmental sustainability targets. The Country has also expressed commitment towards mitigation against the impacts of climate change especially in the agriculture sector. However, a huge funding deficit constrains its ability to scale up transition. The need for sustainable livestock management, smart farming, clean energy, and low carbon emissions go beyond the country’s current financial and human capacity. Making Zambia and other developing countries clean and green, needs a global public private partnership investment approach in order to actualize the necessary adaptation and transition actions. This implies a bigger role for climate and green finance instruments, which includes commercial and blended finance options.
Zambia’s presence and voice at COP26 therefore presents an important opportunity. Zambia shall be at the table when major global rules and targets for international carbon emissions shall be set. The platform will provide Zambia an opportunity to highlight the climate change impacts it faces as well as profile Zambian-led initiatives that require international finance and partnerships.
The summit will fail to claim success if the despairs of the communities most affected by climate change in Zambia and elsewhere are not heard and, if no concrete commitment and specific funding is made available urgently.
#COP26 is thus a once-in-a-lifetime and the last opportunity for this generation of global leaders to commit to ambitious mitigation and adaptation targets and allocate large-scale resources required to address our shared climate emergency.
For WWF, placing nature restoration efforts at the heart of the #COP26 agreement will be a win for the most vulnerable, and insurance for future generations.
For women and youth, #COP26 must not only acknowledge that humankind has taken unforgivable advantage of the unselfconscious giving of nature, but must also assure meaningful reparation.
For ABSA Bank, #COP26 must also address climate change and play an active role in minimizing pressure on nature’s resources by encouraging financial institutions to provide innovative, sustainable financial products and advisory services to support a just transition to a low carbon economy.
Authors: WWF Zambia Country Director – Nachilala Nkombo, ABSA Bank CEO – Mizinga Melu, Independent Consultant, Impact and Development – Dolika Banda