Why Africa Should Not Bank On West & East Countries To Fight Climate Change

According to the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate report, the world's leading emitters of toxic greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming are China, the USA, the European Union, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Iran, and Canada. Though Africa does not make an appearance on that list, it still suffers the most from the impacts of climate change mainly because of disaster unpreparedness.

The IPCC report makes it clear that the onus is on leading emitting countries to basically save the planet and civilization as we know it, but can they be trusted to do that? Looking at their track record, it's going to be a very hard task for them. With this in mind, the best course of action for Africa, I believe, is to invest more in disaster preparedness instead of waiting for the planet killers to get their act right.

To demonstrate the terrible track record of the continent's leading polluters and the futility of trying to get them to act right, so far, only 58% of the 191 signatories of the 2015 Paris Accord have updated their nationally determined contributions(NDCs) which are mitigation plans required under the Paris agreement obliging signatories to update their emission ambitions every 5 years. The deadline was the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, almost a whole year ago. It seems like no one is in a hurry to save a dying planet.

Another problem is that even the NDCs themselves still allow for leading polluters to increase their emissions substantially for the next decade because of the different NDC benchmarks assigned to the individual countries. Take China for example, which is responsible for about a quarter of all carbon dioxide(CO2) emissions in the world. As its NDC, the country has pledged to cut the CO2 intensity of its GDP by over 65% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. On the surface, this seems like a noble pledge, but there is a catch. According to The Economist, as economies grow, they automatically tend to be more energy-efficient and hence use less fossil fuel per unit of GDP. This means that carbon intensity will drop even if the country continues to pollute more overall. So in essence, China's "noble" pledge actually allows the country to emit more CO2 gases by 2030 than it does today.

And that there is but one example of the paradox of trying to get leading polluters to cut their emissions but in the process actually giving them leeway to pollute more than they currently are. There are many other examples of this paradox. This is why it is going to be futile for Africa to trust not only the polluting countries themselves but multilateral agreements like the Paris Accord to do anything substantial to curb climate change and global warming.

Without meaning to sound pessimistic and defeated, the fact of the matter is that the fight against climate change has been lost already. According to the IPCC report, there is no preventing the planet from heating up by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. That ship has long sailed. That battle has been lost. All as a result of leading polluters dragging their feet to change their ways. Our only chance is preventing the planet from heating up by 2,3 or even 4 degrees Celsius and to achieve that requires the same preventative measures that leading emitters have been ignoring and multilateral agreements are failing to enforce.

The obsession with trying to make it seem like individual actions like using paper straws and taking short showers are what is going to win us our planet back from climate change is what will make the fight an uphill struggle. The fact of the matter is that the careless actions of fossil fuel corporations, as well as industrialized nations, are what needs to be addressed to have any chance of winning this battle because after all, they contribute to an astounding 89% of global CO2 emissions. But this is the elephant in the room that even multilateral organizations like the UN are failing to effectively point out and address.

I have just finished reading "The Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein. In the very thoroughly researched book, she explores how neoliberal and imperial governments, as well as multilateral organizations, have often used and continue to use disaster events to implement sweeping policies that benefit not the disaster-struck people but those who come in under the guise of helping the disaster struck people, imposing in the process a state of what can be labeled as neocolonialism. The examples of this phenomenon she explores include in post-Katrina New Orleans, post-Soviet Union Russia, post-apartheid South Africa,post-Saddam Iraq, and post-tsunami Sri Lanka. Should African countries not ready themselves for the inevitable climate change disasters that will sweep through the continent in the very near future, they look set to fall victim to the same "disaster-capitalism complex", as Naomi terms it.

It's not like all these planet-killing West and East nations do not know the eventual consequences of their actions, hence their much-advanced levels of disaster preparedness. What they also understand is that the world is going to be inherited by those nations who will somehow manage to survive the looming climate crisis. This is why I believe it is best for African nations to invest most of their efforts not into the futile task of lobbying these nations to be considerate to the planet but in preparing themselves to deal with the worst when it comes so that they don't fall victim to imperialistic neocolonialism.