Do what you can to avoid COP28 fatigue

Businesses must act now on climate change, prioritising aid for poor communities and renewable energy in Africa despite COP28 fatigue.


The COP28 Summit in Dubai – which ends tomorrow – might seem far from the daily struggles and concerns of ordinary people. Even for those invested in halting climate change, there’s a level of COP fatigue, a trend acknowledged by environmental NGOs. There have, after all, been nearly three decades of global effort with – many might argue – relatively little to show. It certainly hasn’t been for lack of effort. What should business do, then? ALSO READ: COP28 Leaks: UAE sought to use climate summit to strike oil and gas deals – report First, we must recognise that any…

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The COP28 Summit in Dubai – which ends tomorrow – might seem far from the daily struggles and concerns of ordinary people.

Even for those invested in halting climate change, there’s a level of COP fatigue, a trend acknowledged by environmental NGOs.

There have, after all, been nearly three decades of global effort with – many might argue – relatively little to show.

It certainly hasn’t been for lack of effort. What should business do, then?

ALSO READ: COP28 Leaks: UAE sought to use climate summit to strike oil and gas deals – report

First, we must recognise that any entity that has the capacity to affect change has a responsibility to do so: Theodore Roosevelt’s ethos of “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”

That includes cross-sectoral cooperation with civil society, business and government.

Second, we must redouble our focus on climate-proofing poor communities where we can.

This becomes crucial as climate change drives extreme weather and increases the likelihood of floods, fire, drought and the emergence of climate refugees.

The tragic irony of climate change is that those who have the smallest carbon footprint – and whose choices impact the least on climate change – are already affected the most.

ALSO READ: Singapore mulls artificial islands for coastal defence

This was brought home in 2021 when the deluge delivered by cyclone Eloise destroyed the bulk of the national tomato crop, leading to shortages and price increases.

Potatoes, carrots and cauliflowers were affected to a lesser extent but any such crisis will harm the poor. The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government estimates that repairs following last year’s floods cost around R17 billion.

It’s unclear for now whether areas affected will be better prepared as extreme weather becomes more frequent.

Third, and lastly, we can’t afford to wait: Action on climate change is too important and urgent for any of us to bide our time for an ideal opportunity – because global warming and the crises it brings are by their nature inconvenient.

This point is important because there are factors and forces that stall impetus on the issue.

Just one aspect is the seemingly intractable tussle between the developing and developed worlds: who should cut emissions and who should pay?

ALSO READ: Carbon tax will cost Africa dearly

This can be frustrating for those who already see the impacts of climate change, and are acting on it. The African Union (AU) is concerned that, despite Africa having an estimated 40% of the world’s renewable energy resources, only $60 billion (about R1 trillion) or two percent of $3 trillion global renewable energy investments in the last decade have come to Africa.

The inaugural African Climate Action Summit in Nairobi in September yielded the NairoA devil’s figure is set ablaze during celebrations in honour of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday in Guatemala City.

The event marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Guatemala. Picture: AFP fiery start bi Declaration, which commits the signatory member states of the AU to raise Africa’s share of renewable energy financing to at least 20% by 2030.

It also calls on the international community to provide funding to increase Africa’s renewable generation capacity from 56GW in 2022 to at least 300GW by 2030, “both to address energy poverty and to bolster the global supply of cost-effective clean energy for industry”.

ALSO READ: UN sounds warning on climate change health threat

But those who follow energy news will note, too, that Africa’s leaders are by no means in agreement with moving away from fossil fuels. And there are powerful lobbies to encourage them.

That much was evident at last month’s African Energy Summit in Cape Town, where various parties voiced vocal support for increasing – not decreasing – Africa’s dependence on fossil-fuels.

What can we do about that? For a start, we must recognise that reigning in greenhouse gas emissions and rolling out renewable energy achieves more than just slowing the warming of the world. It also addresses the obstacles of prosperity, human dignity and health.

ALSO READ: Climate summit needs private sector to succeed: COP28 president

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa, where 400 million people have no access to clean drinking water and 700 million lack proper sanitation.

Just one enticing prospect is the progress in renewable energy, combined with battery storage and micro-grids to power off-grid agro-processing and cold storage.

In SA, this holds promise: “islands” of self-generation can help insulate our food security from load shedding as well as climate change.

Such progress can yield multiple benefits, such as meeting some of the sustainable development goals.

We must fight stasis and lassitude with a sense of urgency. Climate-linked extreme weather disasters are – tragically – likely to become more frequent.

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