The 27th meeting of the Conference of Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change takes place over the next two weeks until November 18 in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.
The website of the conference states that this year’s conference is aimed at demonstrating through the heads of state and government that countries have entered a new era of implementation, moving from commitments to action.
The backdrop for this year’s conference could not have been starker. The world is just slowly recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted economies and life fundamentally.
In addition, it has drawn attention to the inextricable link between the environment and development, an issue that although popularised through the adoption of the concept of sustainable development has not received universal adherence. Most human beings treat the environment as a source of their economic and livelihood needs only with scant attention to the need for its regeneration and conservation.
Watching the news just a few hours before filing this column, two events caught my attention. First is the demonstrations in Ghana over the worsening economic situation, with increased food prices in the country. Back home, Kenya’s new Cabinet was sworn into office a week ago.
Their first weekend engagement across the country this past weekend was distribution of food to Kenyans who are under threat of starvation because of the drought in the country.
These two events are a demonstration of the dire situation not just in these two countries but many countries in the world. The discussions in Egypt cannot afford the lofty words and statements at the end of the COP27 which are long on promises and short on action.
The debate about climate financing, which has been on the table for many previous meetings, must be closed. It is either developed countries are prepared to turn their pledges into tangible action or discussions must move to the consequence of promises without delivery.
The responsibility to ensure that climate action is taken is shared by all countries. The Paris Agreement moved towards increasing national-level plans and implementation of strategies with a view to ensuring that global temperatures are limited to below 1.5 degrees centigrade and limiting their CO2 emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050. In addition to national action, it is important to reflect on why COP meetings are held annually.
For the millions of Kenyans facing starvation, the trip to Egypt can only make sense when there are tangible outcomes that go to the root cause of the drought. The call to make commitments real must therefore be followed through by the heads of state and government and other stakeholders who are gathered for COP27. It cannot be business as usual where expectations are turned into disappointment after such fora.
The writer is a law professor at the University of Nairobi's School of Law.