COP27 outcomes and their implications for Somalia

Commentary

World leaders gathered in Sharm El-Shaikh town in Egypt for the 27th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP27). Dubbed ‘the implementation summit’, the ambition of this year’s climate summit was to turn previous commitments, including those under the 2015 Paris Agreement, into action. The Paris Agreement was adopted at COP21 in Paris and aimed to strengthen the global response to climate change by keeping the global average temperature rise below 2°C whilst aiming to pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C. Major themes of this year’s COP focused on climate finance for adaptation and loss and damage. For the first time, loss and damage were on the agenda at the climate summit. This was a move welcomed by many of the least developed countries and small island states who have been actively campaigning to get this issue on the COP agenda.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud led the Somalia’s COP27 delegation, which included deputy prime minister Salah Jama and the newly appointed Minister of Environment and Climate Change Khadija Mohamed Al-Makhzoumi. During a speech at the conference, president Mohamud stated: ‘there is no equity or fairness in global climate burden sharing because the nations who produce the least greenhouse gas emissions like Somalia, pay the highest price twice.’ Somalia contributes less than 0.003% to global emissions but is the second most climate-vulnerable country in the world after Niger.

The country is grappling with a disproportionate impact of the climate crisis often compounded by the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation. Climate change-related droughts, floods, and desert locust infestations often result in the loss of livestock and agricultural production, which account for more than 70% of Somalia’s GDP. After 4 consecutive failed rainy seasons, Somalia is currently under the grip of its third major drought since 2010, with around 7.8 million people in need of urgent food and humanitarian assistance. Since January 2021, more than 1 million (mostly women and children) people have been internally displaced by the drought into urban areas. Climate change is the main cause of ecological shocks like droughts, floods, and locus infestations in Somalia. Furthermore, climate change and conflicts are interlinked in Somalia and affect the most vulnerable and resource-dependent communities that account for almost 60% of the population.

Cutting emissions and keeping 1.5 °C alive

According to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, global warming of above 1.5°C will lead to increases in mean temperature in most land and ocean regions, hot extremes in most inhabited regions, heavy precipitation in several regions, and probability of drought and precipitation deficits in some areas. With global temperatures currently at 1.1°C above pre-industrialisation levels, the impacts of climate extremes are already being felt across the globe. In June, Pakistan experienced its worst flooding in living memory, killing 1,700 people, displacing 8 million people, and costing the economy $30 billion. As the global temperature edges closer to that 1.5 °C tipping point, the frequency and severity of such climate disasters will become even more widespread.

During the COP27 conference, delegates reaffirmed their commitment to keeping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2030 and global average temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The commitment to keeping to the 1.5°C target is an important step. However, maintaining this pledge will require global emissions to be reduced by 50% within the next 8 years. This target cannot be achieved without a significant and rapid reduction in emissions by some countries including China, India, and the U.S., and the phase-out of fossil fuels. 79% of global emissions are produced by countries that have net-zero targets. Achieving net zero will require collective action and a shift away from watered-down political pledges towards meaningful and swift action to address the emissions gap.

One of the most contentious issues at this year’s COP27 conference was the phase-down of fossil fuels. The most significant step came in last year’s COP26 when countries reached a consensus supporting a ‘phase down of unabated coal power.’ Reaching that point was a painstaking process that led to a compromise in language from ‘phase out’ to ‘phase-down’ after some fierce pushback from China and India. This year’s conference sought to build on this further and adopt a stronger commitment to reduce fossil fuel use across the board. However, the final Sharm El-Shaikh pact failed to include calls to phase out fossil fuel use, which is the primary driver of the climate crisis.

The language on the Sharm El-shaikh pact on fossil fuels largely remained the same as the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact with calls for countries to accelerate “efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” With the lack of agreement on phasing out fossil fuels, the future of keeping 1.5°C alive remains uncertain. The lack of progress on this certainly indicates that major fossil fuel users including Gulf states, China, and Brazil are backsliding on their commitment to keeping 1.5°C alive. The presence of over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists at the COP27 further raises eyebrows about their growing influence at the annual climate conference. Despite being the primary cause of global warming, the elimination of fossil fuels has never been formally agreed upon in any of the COP climate conferences, including the most recent COP27.

Further, fossil fuel exploitation has also been a development strategy for many developing and emerging economies, which some view as a setback for the progress toward net zero. However, there is a point to be made that if developed countries want to tell the developing world that they should not exploit their oil and gas resources, especially after having previously enriched their economies using oil and gas resources, then they must follow through with a long-promised climate finance plan to help pay for clean energy development. Developed countries have not yet fulfilled their 2009 pledge to collectively mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions including investments in renewable energy.

Africa has around 40% of the global potential for renewable energy. The potential for solar and wind energy is 400 times more than the continents’ total fossil fuel reserves. Despite the huge potential, investments in renewable energy systems lag far behind investments in fossil fuels. Between 2019 and 2020, investments in renewable energy systems in Africa were USD 9.4 billion compared to USD 29.3 billion for fossil fuels. Realizing this potential for renewable energy will require unlocking access to private capital, which at the moment is out of reach for many countries in the continent due to high-interest loans, bureaucratic processes, and the risk-averse strategy of global financial institutions. Much of the private sector investment in renewable energy systems are predominantly concentrated in the global north countries like the US, with up to 96% of its climate finance funding coming from the private sector compared to only 14% for Africa.

Somalia remains a marginal contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, contributing less than 0.03% of total global emissions, with the agriculture, forestry, and land-use sectors being the dominant contributors to its emissions. In 2021, the federal government has set a target of reducing 30% of emissions of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 through a low emissions economic development pathway. However, as the country continues a business-as-usual growth trajectory, emissions are expected to be more than double by 2030, particularly if Somalia pursues the exploitation of its fossil fuel subsidies. To implement its mitigation strategy and reduce emissions by 30% by 2030, Somalia will need an estimated USD 6.96 billion. Without support from international partners and the private sector in the form of climate finance, capacity building, and technology transfer, Somalia like many of its neighbors will not be able to meet its mitigation goals.

Closing the gap in adaptation finance

Adaptation initiatives are a lifeline for communities living with the impacts of the climate crisis. For communities with resource-dependent livelihoods such as agriculture, adaptation initiatives, which encourage farmers to grow resilient food crops and herders to use breeding practices that use less water, help these communities to safeguard their livelihoods against extreme climate shocks. Projects such as restoring forests and wetlands, constructing more robust infrastructure, and installing irrigation channels and early warning systems can also save lives when disaster strikes. Adaptation has been a key issue for developing countries and small island states, which are most impacted by the climate crisis.

The COP27 conference reaffirmed the commitment made in the previous year to double adaptation finance for developing countries. Adaptation finance has often lagged behind financing for mitigation. Around 25% of climate finance is invested into adaptation initiatives. The doubling of climate finance for adaptation is crucial for the least developed countries. Middle-income countries received nearly 70% of the climate finance provided by developed countries. These countries have easier access to adaptation finance, particularly if they have strong institutions and the technical capacity to meet the complex funding requirements. Despite having a higher need for adaptation finance, least-developed countries often have difficulty accessing these funding pools due to a lack of resourcing and technical capacity. During the COP27 conference, the deputy prime minister, Salah Jama, stressed that Somalia is not in a position to seek loans, and thus any new climate finance models should focus on grants rather than loans.

Much of the funding on adaptation financing comes from public funding, compared with a higher proportion of private funding for mitigation. The total adaptation finance remains far below the scale necessary to respond to existing and future impacts of climate change. UN Environment Programme’s Adaptation Gap Report (2021) estimates that an annual adaptation cost in developing countries will range from USD 155-330 billion by 2030. Most of these funds are mobilized through the public sector. The private sector remains a marginal contributor to adaptation financing. There are two factors behind the limited private investment in adaptation. Firstly, adaptation initiatives often bring about social benefits but may not yield tangible financial returns for investors. Secondly, many of the climate-vulnerable countries like Somalia are perceived as high risk for investors, as these countries often struggle with conflict and political instability. However, the meager flows of public funds for adaptation will not be enough to meet the ever-expanding adaptation needs in developing countries. To address the adaptation finance gap, private sector investment must be incentivized and scaled up significantly.

To implement its adaptation targets, Somalia needs a staggering total investment of USD 48.5 billion by 2030. Much of the government’s proposed adaptation initiatives focus on enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience, and reducing vulnerability to climate change for the most vulnerable people and sectors. For instance, USD 10 billion is earmarked for improving agriculture and reducing food insecurity through initiatives such as the supply of seeds and seedlings that are drought resistant to farming communities, as well as initiatives to develop irrigation systems including dams, channel & water reticulation systems. Another USD 15 billion is earmarked for improving water resource management and public health, which includes plans such as solar-powered boreholes and public health campaigns in rural areas. During the COP27 conference, there were several pledges made to bolster the adaptation funds. President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would double its contribution to the Adaptation Fund by USD 100 million and announced over USD 150 million in new support to accelerate the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) efforts across Africa. Whilst these pledges are a welcome addition to the adaptation fund, there is significant work that needs to be done to address access barriers that prevent climate-vulnerable countries like Somalia from accessing these much-needed funds.

Landmark deal on loss and damage

The most contentious issue at this year’s COP27 conference was loss and damage. Loss and damage refer to the idea that rich nations, which have historically contributed most to climate change, should compensate the developing countries most affected by the impacts of climate change. After significant negotiations into the early hours of Sunday morning, delegates made a historical agreement to set up a fund for loss and damage, which would be operationalized as early as next year. The loss and damage fund will primarily pay for losses that occur as a result of climate change despite investments in resilience and adaptation.

A group of over 130 African, Asian, and Latin American states and small island nations presented a united front to push through the controversial fund for loss and damage. After sustained pressure, the EU and US who initially had some reservations ultimately agreed to support the fund. The opposition around the fund is rooted in fear of being held financially liable for historically high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Despite the milestone step, the governance aspect of the fund is yet to be agreed and many difficult decisions also remain about the compensation scheme, including how much is paid in, who pays in and who is eligible for the cash, and under what criteria. Nonetheless, once the governance is agreed upon and the fund is operationalized, the fund will help the most vulnerable countries pay their rising costs of climate damage from erratic weather and rising sea levels.

What does the COP27 outcome mean for Somalia?

In some ways, COP27 has some important takeaways for Somalia. The commitments made on adaptation finance and loss and damage fund will allow climate-vulnerable countries like Somalia a small safety net to be able to not only adapt to the impacts of climate change but also afford them the ability to recover when disaster strikes. However, this will only materialize if red tape around accessing climate finance is swiftly addressed.

As a climate-vulnerable country, a multifaceted response to the impacts of climate change will be integral to the ability of people and the economy to bounce back from climate shocks. The social and economic ramifications of climate change in Somalia are evident and felt most by the poorest in society. For a holistic response, further integration of climate change response (including drought prevention and response) into the national planning and development strategy will be integral to supporting those most impacted by climate change.

There is also a need to enhance the institutional and policy frameworks around climate change within the country. Whilst there has been some progress made in the last few years with the adoption of several policy frameworks and institutions including the National Climate Change Policy (2020) and National Drought Plan (2020).  Institutions like the National Climate Change Committee and the Cros-sectoral Committee on Climate Change, which are tasked with coordinating the implementation of climate policy and information sharing respectively, are faced with structural and financial challenges and thus lack the enforcement mechanisms to operationalize adopted policy. Any enforcement of legislation and policy in Somalia faces significant challenges, particularly in a compromised security context where the state does not have the presence and the ability to enforce them. However, in spaces where there is relative stability, any scope to address these climate-related challenges should be explored.

Najma Abukar is a researcher who has extensive experience conducting research on climate change, conflict and migration issues in the Horn of Africa and Asia.

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