Sunday 20th of November marked the end of the COP27, the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. With an African presidency, this COP saw as its protagonists the countries that usually played a marginal role in international tables on climate.
There are two main results (or no-results) on which it is worth to reflect. The first one is the failure of the central negotiation of the meeting, the implementation of the decarbonisation and adaptation plans: although the objective of keeping average temperatures within 1.5°C has been maintained, plans and strategies to achieve it are lacking, with no mention of phasing out or limiting fossil fuels. The second is the closing of the agreement which - against all odds - will give life to a Loss&Damage fund, aiming to compensate the most vulnerable countries, including many states in Sub-Saharan Africa, for the consequences related to climate change disasters.
Still under development, the approval of this fund (the only real novelty of these negotiations) certainly represents a revolutionary change of mentality, which finally recognizes the serious damage caused by climate change. However, the Loss&Damage fund must not make international political agendas lose sight of the primary mitigation objectives, which has to focus on renewable energy sources. Green energy gains a place in the sun for the first time at the Sharm el-Sheikh negotiations, finding ample space in the final text, which underlines the urgent need for immediate reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors, including through the scaling up of renewable and low-emissions energy, partnerships for a just energy transition and other cooperative actions.
In a continent like Africa, there is only one solution: more investment. Despite Africa's exceptional natural resources, a rapidly growing electricity demand and the improvement of policy and regulatory frameworks, only $2.6 billion was spent on new wind, solar, or geothermal power generation projects in 2021, the lowest number in 11 years. The continent has seen the implementation of only 0.6% of the $434 billion invested in renewables worldwide. Changing this situation requires new levels of collaboration to attract more private finance, in order to make Africa become the global green energy leader it can potentially be, always taking into account the continent's need and right to development and use their own energy resources.
There can be no doubt about the role renewable energy can (and must) play in the energy and climate future, and the Sharm El-Sheik negotiations have finally solidified this position. Under current market conditions, renewables can provide multiple responses to Africa's energy and development goals, meeting the increasing energy demand of an exponentially growing population; they can electrify urban, peri-urban and remote areas based on various technologies, ensuring access to universal energy; they can foster industrialisation; they can have a multiplier effect on broader socio-economic development, creating new jobs, ensuring food and water security, improving education and health services, and guaranteeing stronger social justice.
With two collateral events dedicated to the Water-Energy-Food Nexus and the empowerment of young African entrepreneurs, RES4Africa raised the attention on key issues at COP27, clearly reiterating the actions needed to achieve these goals, which, today, are more necessary than ever. Achieving Africa's energy and climate ambitions first requires doubling energy investments, which need to reach US$190 billion annually from 2026 to 2030. Generation, transmission and storage expansion need to be planned and developed in parallel to increase RE, as well as regulatory and policy improvements. Financing for the energy transition needs to become more easily accessible and financing risks need to be overcome through dedicated mitigation tools. All of this must be implemented by building bonds of trust and partnerships between the private and public sectors, contributing to the formation of a qualified local workforce and with the support of young people, equally protagonists in this COP.
The road is clear. Now, it is now crucial to turn words into action.