Addressing climate change and a just energy transition are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin. We need an energy transition to resolve the climate crisis. Climate change is a manmade disaster that requires a human solution. In the absence of technology that can reduce CO2 emissions to zero, the solution to climate change is the full reduction of emissions by making the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources (solar, wind, and batteries for electrical vehicles). Under the Paris Agreement the world has agreed that coal-burning needs to reach zero by 2050, and gas and oil extraction need to be abandoned if we are to reach the goal of limiting average global warming to 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit). In November 2022, 11 years after COP17 in Durban, the UN Conference of Parties on climate change (COP27) returns to Africa. COP 27 will be in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. This happens against the backdrop of multiple global crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia war, and growing tension between the USA and China. These global crises are taking pre-eminence on the global stage, overshadowing the climate emergency. Geo-political confrontations for world supremacy do not favour a united front against the common challenge and do not help the implementation of the historic Glasgow Climate Pact, which contains significant commitments on climate mitigation, on adaptation, and on finance, and which sets out a way forward on the crucial issue of loss and damage.
All the evidence, including the latest findings from various UN reports, makes it clear that the threat of catastrophic climate change is the single most important danger facing humanity. In Egypt, Africa has an opportunity to bring back climate change as the most urgent and pressing global crisis of our time. COP27 will be an opportunity for Africa to regroup and enter the negotiations as a united front; not unity for the sake of it, but unity of purpose, putting African positions at the centre of the discussion. While working with other countries at COP27 on the global goal of adaptation and mitigation to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change, Africans must work together to defend and protect the continent’s interests, just as other continents are doing. African delegates at COP27 should aim to achieve three things. First, demonstrate why Africa’s readiness to make the transition to green energy is dependent on developed countries fulfilling their commitment to finance Africa’s energy transition; second, clarify what a just energy transition means in the context of the African continent; and third, communicate Africa’s position on fossil fuels, critical minerals, and forests in the context of the energy transition. This policy paper discusses these issues and related concerns.