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African Leaders Call for Climate Action

FILE - Family members take their belongings after their home was flooded during a week of heavy rain, in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Taken 1.24.2022

More than a decade ago, developed nations pledged to galvanize $100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries, and extended the deadline to 2025 at COP21 in Paris. It is not clear if that goal would be met as COP27 scheduled for November in Egypt approaches.

Analysts have backed calls by African leaders attending the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York for world leaders and donor partners to honor commitments made towards helping the continent tackle the climate crises.

On Wednesday September 21, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told the UNGA that ''climate change fuels conflicts and complicates food security,'' and demanded what he called ''Climate Justice'' - as the continent bears the brunt of the climate emergency even as it produces a small proportion of greenhouse emissions - about 3% of the world's CO2 emissions annually.

Buhari told the UNGA that the conflict in Ukraine ''will have adverse consequences for us all hindering our capacity to work together to resolve conflicts elsewhere, especially in Africa, Middle East and Asia.''

In the face of Russia's invasion in Ukraine, which has impacted food and oil prices, factors like droughts and the lack of rainfall in the Horn of Africa has compounded an already dire food insecurity in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Andrew Harper, special advisor on climate action to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told VOA from Geneva that the climate crisis is ''real and impacting the most vulnerable people the hardest,'' noting that countries like Nigeria and Pakistan playing host to displaced persons impacted by the climate crises are trying to ''deal with an existential threat with very little resources.''

''We cannot even imagine what a world with a hotter climate would look like, but we're witnessing fifth failed rainy season in the Horn of Africa, cyclonic conditions that have never been experienced before in Mozambique and Zimbabwe,'' he said.

''As we see the impact of weather event fueled by climate change ratchet-up almost like a monthly basis, the ability and resilience of these communities are continually being eroded. There's a war with the climate, and we're not going to win this war, because this will impact people's livelihoods, food security, governance, education and healthcare.''

But Harper said there's hope if stakeholders get serious and take immediate action.

''It's not that there's lack of money, we're seeing it with the massive profits that many companies are accruing at the moment," he said. "There's a lack of will and humanity in terms of supporting those countries who are not only on the frontlines of the climate emergency, but are also generally some of the most generous humanitarian-minded countries in the world.''

Harper added that ''hope lies in seeing the commitments made by states to come true - the commitment to provide $100 billion per year to support climate adaptation and preparedness.''

Hennie Strydom, a professor of international law at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa told VOA that although most African nations have acknowledged that the Ukraine conflict is contributing in part to high energy bills, ''a good number of them have failed to denounce Russia's aggression.''

''It seems to me that African countries are divided on this serious violation of the United Nations charter and principles by Russia. And so, if they do not denounce that collectively, what will they do in the General Assembly in order to get the sort of support needed to solve this issue? (climate emergency),'' he queried.

''The climate justice is a long standing issue being discussed at almost every COP that has taken place over the last decade and more. I don't think that climate justice would come from the General Assembly, might be through a bit of concerted diplomatic pressure - yes, but the objective of getting climate justice should be pursued through the Paris Agreement - that's a legally binding treaty and part of that treaty aims at bringing about climate justice,'' Strydom noted.

For him, leaders on the continent have done very little in helping end the war in eastern Europe.

''(African leaders) have contributed nothing significantly because of their own divisions. Even a country like South Africa where at a point announced that it was going to mediate in the conflict, nothing came out of that.''