By Maina Waruru
A new report shows that despite warm words about the importance of Africa and the Commonwealth by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the leaders of Australia and Canada, their countries’ carbon emissions, and lack of action on a climate-friendly, post-Covid green recovery, threatens the future of other Commonwealth countries – especially those in Africa.
The report, Climate Change Inequality in the Commonwealth produced by the Kenya-based climate and energy think tank Power Shift Africa, among other things finds that per capita, the UK, host of the next global climate summit COP26, burns more carbon dioxide than 18 Commonwealth countries combined.
The figure is even higher for Canada and Australia who burn more than the combined per capita emissions of 27 and 28 Commonwealth countries respectively –which is half of the bloc’s 54 member states combined.
It contends that post Covid-19 stimulus packages, in these countries are currently making the climate crisis worse, rather than accelerating the energy transition. It further reveals that countries most affected by extreme weather over a 12-month period, 6 of the top 10 nations, were in the Commonwealth.
In 2002 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote that “Africa may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience, the problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.”
However, he recently gushed about the deep ties between his country and Africa during last year’s UK-Africa Summit.
There is a big gap between Boris Johnson’s recent rhetoric on the importance of the Commonwealth and the UK’s emissions, and his underwhelming actions on a green recovery suggesting a worrying lack of climate leadership, less than a year until the crucial COP26 climate summit is held in Glasgow.
Climate change is a major threat to Africa and its citizens so it’s vital that the COP26 summit is a success. For that to happen, Mohamed Adow, Power Shift Africa Director, said it was essential that the UK upped its efforts to tackle the climate crisis both at home and abroad.
“It’s remarkable that there is such climate inequality within the Commonwealth. Whether it is droughts and desertification in Sub-Saharan Africa, water shortages in Cape Town, floodwaters in Bangladesh and India or rising sea levels threatening the Pacific Islands, more than ever, it’s now clear that the Commonwealth’s poorest citizens are already bearing the brunt of climate change, ” said Mohammed Adow.
The climate change has been driven by the Commonwealth’s big polluters among them UK, Australia and Canada, he noted.
“With Boris Johnson seeking new post-Brexit trade deals with Commonwealth members one would think he might act more decisively on climate change considering the impact of the UK’s current, and historic, emissions,” he observed.
With Australia burning more carbon dioxide than half of the Commonwealth countries combined showed the country was becoming a “rogue nation” when it comes to climate change. Even more shameful was the fact that the Asian economy’s post-Covid recovery was only entrenching this status.
“It’s vital that these countries stop using their post-Covid stimulus plans to entrench further emissions and instead invest in a green recovery that will accelerate the transition to a zero carbon world, Adow implored,” Adow noted.
According Youba Sokona, a leading African development, energy and climate expert, “Africa has always looked to its Commonwealth, allies but at the moment and with this climate, the bloc did seem a role model to follow.
The vast emissions that the three countries alone produce compared are a direct threat to African lives and livelihoods, he noted.
“If they really cared about the Commonwealth, like they claim, these leaders would be doing far more to curb their emissions. They would be supporting the other members in their efforts towards zero emissions development pathways and help clean up the mess they have contributed to,” Sokona said.
“African countries are doing what they can but investment from richer Commonwealth allies to help accelerate this transition and boost energy access would go a long way in levelling up the climate inequality within the bloc.”
The report also acknowledges the positive efforts that are being made in Africa to recover from the economic downturn in a sustainable way that doesn’t exacerbate the climate crisis.
Africa he projected has the potential to take different, cleaner, pathway with its huge renewable energy potential but it lacks the finances, capacity, and technology to harness it.
It is a view shared by the report’s findings which however acknowledge that while Africa has the potential to become a renewable energy superpower it will require vision from leaders, and “the ability to avoid the mistakes made by the polluting nations and demonstrate a cleaner and better path for development.”
The Commonwealth climate inequality