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Cop28 failing on climate adaptation finance so far, African group warns

<span>Photograph: AP</span>
Photograph: AP

Fair and equitable finance for climate adaptation is a matter of life and death for the African continent, but talks at Cop28 so far have failed to deliver, the chief negotiator for the African group has warned.

Adaptation is being discussed as part of the global stocktake (GST), the assessment of where the world is on delivering the commitments made in the 2015 Paris agreement. The long-awaited global goal on adaptation (GGA) – a collective commitment proposed by the African group in 2013 and established under the Paris agreement – to drive political action and finance for adaptation on the same scale as mitigation, is also due to be completed in Dubai.

But progress has been slow, and countries have yet to agree on measurable targets and guidelines, let alone come up with a workable framework and finance agreements that fairly reflect the burden on developing countries especially in Africa. It is unclear whether the promised outcome will be delivered, as countries have so far failed to agree on the draft text.

“We are in an adaptation emergency and our vulnerable populations are suffering. The world must act and take steps to close the adaptation gap with quality financing so that Africans do not get left behind. This must be at the centre of the Cop28 outcome,” said Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, a Zambian who is head of the African group of negotiators.

“Adaptation is a matter of survival for us in Africa, it is a life and death issue. We need action and finance to help us adapt with this changing climate, otherwise how will we cope with the severe droughts, the devastating storms, and the rising seas which threaten our very lives … so far we are disappointed by the lack of progress but with a few days remaining, we can still deliver.”

World leaders have acknowledged the “significant” gap in funding for countrywide adaptations to climate breakdown. A recent UN report said finance for adaptation needed to reach $194-366bn (£155-290bn) a year. Yet the most recent evidence shows funding fell 15% in 2021 from the previous year, to $24.6bn. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development claims the $100bn adaptation pledge by developed countries made in 2009 was finally met this year, well over a decade later, but developing countries are calling for an independent assessment of the data.

In the final few days of negotiations, African countries are pushing to ensure the final decisions on mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and implementation – which all require climate finance – are fair and equitable.

Samuel Abu Jinapor, Ghana’s minister of lands and natural resources, said: “The heart of the whole conversation about finance is the historical context of the climate catastrophe, which was largely the creation of the Industrial Revolution. The economies which developed are the same countries which continue to be major contributors to emissions. Now as we try to organise our economies to unleash the prosperity that the global north enjoys, we have been called upon to scale down, to adapt and put in place measures to contribute to the global effort mitigation.”

The entire continent of Africa accounts for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and only 2% of investment in renewable energies.

There are many countries with large quantities of fossil fuels in the ground or under the seabed concentrated in the continent, which is also the region with some of the greatest development needs, debts and difficulties accessing finance. Oil, coal and gas are national assets that affect credit ratings, and therefore access to financing, so asking countries to keep the fossil fuels in the ground without anything in return is unfair and discriminatory, argue African delegates.

In Ghana, some forest communities must no longer make their livelihoods from cacao because it is driving deforestation, said Jinapor. “Fair finance for adaptation, mitigation and loss and damage are absolutely key for us. We cannot transpose the same inequitable global financial architecture into climate financing, we need something different.”

African countries want access to climate funding to be addressed in the GST, as well as wider reform of global finance mechanisms that favour wealthier countries. “The GST has to address the current inequalities and challenges in finance flows. Without money for implementation, any language of fossil fuels phase-out or phase-down will make a good headline but will be meaningless on the ground because countries will not be able to deliver,” said Mohamed Nasr, Egypt’s chief negotiator.

As the US, UK, EU and fossil fuel industry push for any text on fossil fuel phase-out or phase-down in the GST to be qualified as unabated, developing countries including African nations are sounding the alarm. “Allowing ‘abated’ fossil fuels will mean developed countries which can afford expensive carbon capture technologies can keep expanding, while discriminating against developing countries who can’t,” said Nasr.

African nations have also been vocal in the Just Transition programme, which was established at Cop27 in Egypt, pushing for a broader focus that connects climate action and finance with sustainable development. This has met resistance from big economies including the US, EU, UK, Canada and Australia, the Guardian has learned.

“Fossil fuel phase-out is the most important thing in Dubai. The expansion of renewables doesn’t matter if the phase-out isn’t centred on justice and equity. If it is, then there will be no blocking from the African group or least developed countries. But fairness for poorer countries must be in the language,” said Mohamed Adow, the director of the climate and energy thinktank Power Shift Africa.

“There’s no guarantee that just tripling renewables will result in a decrease of fossil fuels. That is why it needs to go hand in hand with a fossil fuel phase-out date.”