By Abayomi Azikiwe
African nations are preparing for the United Nations Climate Conference (COP27) scheduled to take place in the Egyptian resort area of Sharm-el-Sheikh from November 6-20.
This gathering is taking place during a period of rising uncertainty due to burgeoning food deficits along with the crisis of accumulation and distribution related to agricultural products in general.
Energy costs have skyrocketed due to several important factors including the Pentagon-NATO war in Ukraine; the failure of the United States government to curtail inflation through price controls utilizing higher taxation rates against corporations; and the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted production and supply chains internationally. The last quarter of 2022 will be marked by increased military spending and a further decline in investor confidence due to the overall downturn within stock markets around the world.
Although the administration of President Joe Biden has been able to pass a so-called anti-inflation, prescription drug and climate change bill, these measures will not address the inability of working people, the oppressed and impoverished, to pay higher prices for food, rent and transportation in the coming months. In Europe, the president of France stated several weeks ago that it will be a cold winter on the continent.
Consequently, the COP27 Summit in Egypt will be compelled to counter the arguments of Washington on behalf of Wall Street and the Pentagon, by blaming other geo-political regions for the worsening effects of climate change. At present the U.S. capitalist system is preoccupied with maintaining the profitability and stability of multinational corporations.
Yet, the U.S. must at least pay lip service to the realities of climate change. Within its territorial boundaries, there has been drought, fires, floods and other extreme weather events where millions of people have been negatively affected. It was the U.S. which was the most severely impacted during the last two years by the pandemic. In excess of a million people perished as a result of one infectious disease since the early months of 2020. These developments placed extreme pressures on the healthcare system which is privately-owned and operated as well as the overall labor market where illness, death, family and community disruptions have hampered the capacity of the capitalist system to supply goods and services to the public absent an inflationary spiral.
An entry on the UN website for the COP27 event notes that:
“[T]he incoming Egyptian COP27 Presidency has identified a range of topics focused on enhancing implementation and raising ambition on a broad range of issues related to climate change. Egypt has further designated several thematic days for focused discussions, including through side events, panel discussions, round tables and other interactive formats to deliberate on and share with the wider audience…. The Glasgow outcomes also highlighted the centrality of urgently scaling up support, including appropriate finance, capacity building and technology transfer, to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change in line with the best available science, considering the priorities and needs of developing country Parties.”
These principles which the Egyptian government wants to guide the COP27 proceedings cannot be viewed independently of the national and class interests of the U.S. and its allies within the European Union (EU). The war in Ukraine has shifted the focus in the EU to energy sufficiency in light of the actions taken by Moscow to restrict natural gas supplies to those states which have imposed sanctions against the government of President Vladimir Putin.
Africa and the Crisis of Climate Change
A pre-conference meeting occurred during early September in Cairo, Egypt where many leaders and officials within the African Union (AU) member-states debated and discussed their positions related to the upcoming COP27. During this gathering, several leaders criticized the western imperialist governments for their failure to reduce CO2 emissions while simultaneously reneging on commitments to provide assistance to lesser developed states which have the least ability to counter the effects of climate change.
These disagreements over apportioning blame for severe weather events and other environmental problems have been going on for decades. At the last UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, the COP26, due to the influence of the imperialist states, was hampered in mandating the necessary reforms to improve the environmental quality of the earth.
In various states and regions in Africa severe weather events and drought have imperiled large population groups. In Mozambique and other Southern African countries, cyclones during 2021 turned hundreds of thousands of people into internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The Republic of South Africa in the KwaZulu-Natal province was hit by major flooding around the port city of Durban earlier this year resulting in the homelessness of thousands. Ethiopia, Somalia and areas within Kenya in the Horn of Africa have not experienced normal rain patterns in several years. These events in Somalia and Ethiopia are compounded by intersectional conflicts which have been fueled by Washington and its NATO allies.
A report on the September conference in Egypt attended by AU leaders stated:
“The leaders of two dozen African countries have urged wealthier nations to uphold their aid pledges so the continent can tackle climate change effects for which it shares little blame. African ministers made their call in a communique at the close of a three-day forum in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Friday (Sept. 9) and two months before Egypt hosts the crucial COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in November…. We urge ‘developed countries to fulfill their pledges in relation to climate and development finance, and deliver on their commitments to double adaptation finance, in particular to Africa,’ the 24 leaders said in a closing statement. The African continent emits only some three percent of global CO2 emissions, former UN chief Ban Ki-moon noted this week. And yet African nations are among those most exposed to the effects of climate change, notably worsening droughts and floods. The African leaders said the financial aid was needed in view of ‘the disproportionate impact of climate change and nature loss on the African continent’.”
Prior to the meeting in Egypt, there was the convening of Africa Climate Week 2022 in Libreville, Gabon. This conference also put forward proposals for the reduction of environmental pollutants and the need for the industrial states to take responsibility for the damage done throughout the globe.
The Africa Climate Week began on August 29 and was attended by 1200 delegates from around the continent and other geo-political regions. African leaders were provided a platform to voice their concerns and to discuss various projects which have been implemented in recent years.
This event was held within the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The meeting was opened by the President Ali Bongo Ondimba who emphasized:
“For more than ten years, we have intensified our efforts to protect our remarkable forestry heritage and build a low-carbon economy. Consequently, Gabon, which has already achieved the objectives set by the Paris Agreement, is considered the most carbon-positive country in the world.”
These steps by AU member-states will inevitably clash with the objectives of the Biden administration. The initiatives put forward by the U.S. president are designed to curtail any mass movement demanding radical environmental policy changes. Moreover, the latest legislation signed during September is designed to win electoral support in the upcoming November midterms.
Before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., a growing movement led by youth was emerging to demand climate action. A debate surfaced even within the Democratic Party where the progressive wing attempted to advance a program for a “Green New Deal.”
The 2020 pandemic coupled with the presidential elections of the same year obliterated the hopes of environmentalists in regard to the Biden administration. A leading Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, along with others blocked any legislative attempts to pass green energy policies.
Any debate involving policy matters related to climate change must take into strong consideration the role of the Pentagon in causing environmental damage around the world. The refusal by some elements within the environmental movement in the U.S. to link the question of climate change to the imperialist war machine has undermined the effectiveness of their campaigns. There can be no denying that Pentagon-instigated wars of regime-change and conquest are the major source of carbon dioxide emissions internationally.
These conferences held in Egypt and Gabon provide a glimpse into the debates now underway among peoples represented by their governments and non-governmental organizations. The environmental movement in the U.S. should express their solidarity with governments and non-governmental groupings which are challenging the status-quo imposed by their own ruling class and state entities upon the majority of humanity.