Rich nations should not shirk responsibilities

The summit was also a battle of voices between the Global North and Global South, says the writer.

The summit was also a battle of voices between the Global North and Global South, says the writer.

Published Nov 23, 2022


Willie Chinyamurindi

Cape Town - The recently ended COP 27 summit was a defining moment weighted with glaring ironies.

Hosted in the green Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh, delegates mulled over the quick strides made since adopting the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 30 years ago.

Yet one could also bemoan the slow pace in combating the devastation created by climate change. The summit was also a battle of voices between the Global North and Global South.

There was also irony regarding the politics at stake. One could sense that at one end was a deliberate effort to keep the old guard in place.

This included a measure of wanting a focused discussion purely on climate change. Any other debate was unwarranted.

An analyst described this as the protection tendencies of privilege that espouses rich countries. The same rich nations with a high industrial activity base, and whose issues have dominated COP summits.

A voice of dissent emerged from the COP 27 summit in Egypt. This was the turn of the loud voices in the room to have prominence.

Flying the so-called developing nations flag were poor countries mostly from the Global South that are tired of the lack of political will to address climate change. This includes fatigue over the many commitments made summit after summit of assistance for developing nations.

The COP 27 summit also revealed how we should stop speaking of the climate challenge as a generalised global challenge, and magnify localised attention on it. Climate change has a localised face. This is the point developing nations were making at the COP 27 summit.

Yet the fulcrum here is the balance needed in the climate change debate.

On one hand, we need urgent discussions around the issue of climate change. The focus is on how we can create resilience to the devastation created locally and globally.

However, such a discussion needs also to consider the growing calls, especially from poorer nations, for social justice in the climate change challenge.

Dare I add that this matter should be a standing item on the agenda of future summits. In our collective effort to address the challenge of climate change, there is no abrogation of responsibility to the other alone, and accountability must get the same attention as the challenge.

The two go hand in hand. According to the State of the Climate in Africa 2021 report, the continent is undergoing changes that have serious ramifications.

These include variations in temperature, and inclement weather. This is attributed to climate change. Importantly, the activities of rich nations produce 80% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Ultimately, aspects related to food security and sustainable livelihoods are threatened in poor nations through the actions of the rich.

Further, there is also noted displacement, especially among communities in developing nations, and an increase in conflict over grazing land and potable water.

Developing nations have displayed reserves of patience with their cries gone unheard about the devastation experienced by climate change. At the COP 27 summit, acknowledging the loss and damages from climate change, especially for developing nations, was the first win.

Next, the commitment to set up a fund that assists developing countries is necessary for helping those affected by climate change’s devastation. It can only be viewed as arrogant when rich nations choose not to prioritise developing countries that bear the brunt of the devastation of climate change.

We cannot continually sweep the issue of funding loss and damage under the carpet. This is not a peripheral issue or a side talk. The matter deserves high priority, just like the ominous challenge before us.

Rich nations should not cop out of their responsibility in addressing climate change challenges.

The clarion call for this accountability was the winning issue from COP 27.

Willie Chinyamurindi is a Professor and Head of the Department of Business Management at the University of Fort Hare. He writes in his personal capacity.

Cape Town