COP27 Climate Summit: Breaking News & Watch Live

Recognition…Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt — Africa is both the setting for and the main focus of the agenda at this year’s United Nations climate summit, with debates centered around what the rich countries, which have caused the most historic greenhouse gas emissions, owe the least to the poorer ones prepared for the effects of climate change.

The African Union has urged that what it calls the continent’s “special needs and special circumstances” be a core consideration of the conference’s resolutions. And in speeches on Tuesday, African leaders stressed that their countries could not afford the cost of adapting to climate change or mitigating the natural disasters it causes.

The language they used was often harsh and accusatory.

Repeatedly citing a “clear difference in guilt and capacity” between developed and developing countries, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi said the summit was a test for the leaders of more powerful nations to “build climate justice for the most vulnerable nations”.

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi said his country’s Okavango Delta was drying up, threatening the world’s largest elephant population and a tourism industry vital to the country’s economy. Botswana, like many African nations, faces drought and flood cycles that are contributing to a growing food crisis and threatening millions of lives and livelihoods.

Others reminded leaders of wealthier nations that their pledges of $100 billion in annual assistance — promised in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which would go mostly to countries in Africa — lag far behind.

Most African countries’ pledges to reduce emissions are contingent on receiving those funds. The continent’s largest emitter, South Africa, agreed $8.5 billion in grants and loans with European countries and the United States at last year’s climate summit to support the transition from coal to renewable energy.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday called the funding agreement a “groundbreaking approach” that could serve as a blueprint for others. But he also said his government estimated the total cost of meeting its emissions pledges would be $90 trillion, which would require huge private sector investment.

Most of that funding came in the form of loans, which would add to South Africa’s already significant debt burden, Ramaphosa said. “When we looked more closely, we found that only 2.7 percent was grant money,” he said.

600 million people in Africa have no access to electricity. Many African countries hope to develop their energy infrastructure, including through the use of fossil fuels, but see the Western climate agenda as unnecessarily biased towards preventing that possibility by withholding funding and funding.

Some hope that efforts by European leaders to boost gas production in Africa amid an energy crisis sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine will prompt a new wave of gas investments, despite pressure to switch to renewable energy .

Senegalese President Macky Sall tried to secure gas production deals with Germany this year, although no deal was signed. In his speech on Tuesday, he alluded to a desire to achieve economic development, even if it meant using fossil fuels.

Independent analysis estimates that even if Africa were to burn all known gas reserves, its share of historical emissions would increase to just 3.5 percent from the current 3 percent.

“We cannot accept that our vital interests are ignored,” Mr Sall said.

Scientists and African leaders agree that the continent is crucial to meeting global ambitions to reduce carbon emissions, in part because of its vast forests that absorb planet-warming gas and its decisions to develop its economies, home to the World fastest growing populations.

“Africa, with its huge country, has the greatest potential to regenerate the world climate,” said President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana on Tuesday. “Without Africa, nothing works.”

Max Barak reports from Sharm el Sheikh, and Lynsey Chutel from Johannesburg.

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