While Africa’s climate challenges have been in the spotlight in the run-up to Cop27 in Egypt, the summit’s UN high-level climate action champion says that it “doesn’t exclude the rest of the world”.
“It’s hosted in an African country, so inevitably you’ll be seeing African demands reflected and efforts to make the African voice heard more loudly, but it’s a Cop for the whole world,” Mahmoud Mohieldin told The National on the sidelines of the Egypt International Co-Operation Forum (ICF) in Cairo.
In his role as a catalyst for reaching climate targets, Mr Mohieldin said he will advocate for all disadvantaged parties, such as small island nations, and push to put hot topics like “loss and damage” on the table. Loss and damage refers to compensation for the devastating effects of climate change.
Cop27, the annual UN climate change summit, takes place in Sharm El Sheikh from November 6 to November 18.
Egypt has framed Cop27 as an “African Cop” and one that will move “from pledges to implementation”.
The three-day ICF, which opened on Wednesday 60 days before Cop27, has mainly highlighted Africa’s needs and ambitions in the areas of access to finance — finding investment for green technology, as well as national strategies to save the environment.
It includes a separate meeting of African ministers of finance, economy and environment, alongside global policymakers, development partners and banking officials.
On the first day of the forum, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and other high-profile speakers, such as US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, urged the top carbon-emitting countries to do more to support African nations in their efforts to adjust to climate change.
Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (Gfanz) chairman Mark Carney unveiled the alliance’s Africa Network, whose advisory board will be chaired by Mr Mohieldin.
Mr Carney, who is also UN special envoy on climate action and finance, and the Cop26 presidency launched Gfanz in April 2021.
Gfanz is a global coalition of financial institutions working to accelerate the world’s transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Its members include 500 companies, such as HSBC, Citi, Bank of America, Standard Chartered, Allianz, Axa and BlackRock, representing more than $130 trillion in assets under management.
The Africa Network seeks to “unlock investment and support engagement with African financial institutions to ensure Gfanz work on net zero is inclusive and applicable to all”, the alliance said in a statement.
Only 2 per cent of global investments in renewable energy in the past two decades have been made in Africa, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).
The Gfanz Africa Network follows the June launch of its Asia-Pacific Network and a Latin America Network will soon follow.
Establishing regional networks helps push fulfilments of the Paris Agreement, while taking into account the unique circumstances of developing countries, Mr Mohieldin said.
“Africa is suffering from poverty, unemployment and lack of chances for investment,” he said.
“The job of the advisory board is to make sure that the promises, the commitments and what we are hoping for in terms of impact will be very much on track.”
Mr Mohieldin comes with more than 30 years of experience in international finance and development under his belt.
He is an executive director of the International Monetary Fund and has been the UN Special Envoy on Financing the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda since February 2020. He has also held several roles at the World Bank and served as Egypt’s Minister of Investment from 2004 to 2010.
Mohamed Saleh, chair of the Egyptian Financial Regulatory Authority, will serve as vice chair of the Africa Network, and additional experts in climate and finance will join over the course of the year.
The network’s central office will be in Nairobi, Kenya, at the UN Environment Programme’s headquarters.
“This work is very much to support the function that I’m doing as a climate champion,” Mr Mohieldin said.
Loss and damage
At the same time, he said he will be highlighting the climate risk mitigation agenda, finance-related issues and loss and damage.
“All of these matters are not just African,” he said. “Especially for the vulnerable countries, for the small islands, for the areas suffering from severe weather and coastal conditions, [loss and damage] is a very big issue of concern to them.”
More than 400 organisations from all over the world signed a letter this week, initiated by the Climate Action Network, addressed to UN climate change heads of delegations calling on them to ensure that loss and damage finance is on the formal agenda for Cop27.
The letter comes as negotiators are scheduled to meet for informal consultations on loss and damage in Cairo on Saturday.
“In Bonn and Copenhagen [climate talks] it was raised, but the final say is for the negotiators,” Mr Mohieldin said.
“Our role [as climate champions] is to implement and be catalysts, but we are implementing what the negotiators are agreeing on.”
There are “many attempts to keep it alive”, despite a “pushback by certain countries”, he said.
“I know the reasons behind it and the concerns behind it. But to be fair is to be fair. We cannot just ignore it.”