By Kershni Ramreddi
For the COP27 climate meeting, thousands of world leaders have descended on Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.
It was anticipated that many natural gas lobbyists and advocates would attend the conference given Egypt’s ambition to become a significant natural gas exporter. This demonstrates that the likelihood of change is rather limited.
The objective of COP27 is to include initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, adapt to climate change, and provide funding for their execution.
According to reports, the COP27 will highlight gas as a transition fuel that has been recognised by the fossil fuel sector. Due to fossil fuel projects, some of the poorest and most climate-affected nations will lose their land, water, and cultural heritage.
Without taking into account the effects that result from the production, African countries are prepared to increase the production of fossil fuels. The rush for gas will ruin the climate, local communities, and the environment. The majority of these investments in fossil fuels are made for export rather than to provide energy to African nations.
This goes against the Paris Agreement as climate change requires financial institutions to stop funding fossil fuels and to fund just transition to renewable energy.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and its Conference of Parties (COP) have failed in their main aim to, “prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system”. It also aims to strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change and support them in their efforts.
By reducing global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to restrict it to 1.5°C, the Paris Agreement lays out a worldwide framework to avoid severe climate change.
Natural gas producers are taking advantage of the COP27 to promote it as a transition fuel. Gas burning has the potential to raise temperatures much above the threshold restriction of 1.5°C needed to avoid significant environmental impact. None of the largest providers of renewable energy have any guidelines for upholding land rights or acknowledging the rights of indigenous people.
“As we push for a rapid transition, we need to think more critically about investment, regulation, and ownership, so that energy is less extractive, companies are held accountable, and communities benefit through co-ownership or community ownership,” said Thea Riofrancos, associate professor of political science at Providence College and an expert on resource extraction, renewable energy, climate change, and social movement.
We must move quickly from setting targets to enacting the necessary laws and policies to meet the current targets in order to help and create the momentum needed to raise them.
People who are impacted by our changing world must be supported and included in decision-making processes. Wealthy nations must also take into account the losses suffered by the poorest and most vulnerable countries, who have made the smallest contributions to climate change.
By swiftly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and aiding residents in coping with its repercussions, governments must confront climate change in order to uphold their legal obligation to preserve human rights.
At the COP this year, governments should make a specific recommendation to quickly phase out all fossil fuel usage and production. At COP27, governments ought to promise to refrain from authorising any new fossil fuel projects. Governments should make a commitment to protect those who are most at risk as well as to ensure their participation and representation in climate change decision-making. The COP27 is an opportunity to show solidarity in the face of a threat to existence that can only be eliminated through well-co-ordinated action and efficient implementation.
The success of COP27 depends on commitments to take action in the future, which run the risk of failing. We have observed over time how these commitments do not result in action.
African political figures have also backed the quest for gas production. African leaders have demanded that natural gas be accepted as an acceptable transition fuel for African countries, including Macky Sall of Senegal. President Cyril Ramaphosa backed Africa’s “right” to further oil and gas exploitation. An African Common Position on Energy Access and Transition was put up by an African Union committee for adoption at COP27. Despite the harm that fossil fuels pose to development, health, biodiversity, and our climate, the position paper called for the expansion of gas and other fossil fuel production and positioned these fuels as having “crucial roles” in the future.
In response, African civil society issued a pressing request to the African Union to stop promoting fossil fuel extraction prior to COP27 and moving forward. The civil society organisations in Africa asked the continent’s leaders to switch to sustainable energy in their open letter. The activists have cautioned that if natural gas and nuclear power are prioritised over cleaner, less expensive renewable energy sources, Africa runs the risk of becoming permanently dependent on fossil fuels. Campaigners exposed a scheme by the fossil fuel sector to expand oil and gas in Africa during the Africa Energy Week. They referred to it as a declaration of war against the climate and the sustainability of Africa.
If global warming persists, even more catastrophic disasters and long-term weather pattern disruptions will occur, destroying lives and livelihoods and upending nations. Mass migration might come next. Additionally, failing to stabilise emissions by 2030 might result in global warming exceeding 2ºC and dangerous tipping points where climate change becomes self-perpetuating. By taking immediate action, we can not only avert the worst but also decide on a better future.
If the green transformation is successful, it will result in a cleaner planet, less pollution, more robust economies, and healthier populations. To get there, we must take action on three fronts: steadfast policies to reach net zero by 2050; robust adaptation measures; and steadfast financial support to assist vulnerable countries in funding these efforts. The time is now to act!
* Kershni Ramreddi is Energy and Just Transition Project Officer at the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)