Tumal Orto’s headgear could be merely a traditional regalia of the Gabra community in Kenya. However, at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, it is a crown of pride for the effort he put in, that has enabled him to share the platform with global leaders and policy makers in matters climate change. He is among the members of a global society that are currently attending the COP 27 in Egypt which is largely expected to be the ‘African COP’ since African countries face some of the worst impacts of climate change such as heat stress, drought and flooding.
“I have been crying since 2015, when I first heard COP. I wondered why the government officials and civil societies that went there never carried the voices of the communities. I tried to attend COP26 in Glasgow but it never happened.” he says.
As a pastoralist, Orto has moved through all stages of grief, mourning the loss of his livestock. The imminent fear of being a refugee in his own country is what keeps him awake at night. The biting drought has choked every living thing; little to no echo of the clatter of hooves can be heard around the desperate landscape of Marsabit, Kenya. For Tumal, counting the carcasses from his livestock has been part of his weekly routine. Two of his daughters are still under his care, their education dependent on the income he makes from selling some of his matured livestock; now more than ever, has he felt the strain in his pockets.
“If it is not going to stop, I will be forced to become a climate refugee. My animals were not raided, neither were they stolen. Livestock is my livelihood, my coffee and my tea.”
The Climate Conference in Sharm El Sheikh Egypt has been looked at as one that will drive implementation of the promises made in Glasgow, during COP26. Top of the agenda being addressing loss and damage finance, which seeks to consider the needs of the developing countries and ensure climate justice through availing the appropriate finance and other means of implementation, as countries that are least responsible for emissions are the most affected by climate change. Will the voices from the African continent be heard?
According to Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, the chair of the African Group of Negotiators, developed countries contribute largely to climate change and therefore it is an obligation for them to provide the support. He says, “Financing for climate change has to be grants and not loans. We can’t afford to burden the future generations by getting loans to address climate change. It is the public coffers of the developed countries that are supposed to provide this financing.”
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in a report examining the Aggregate Trends of Climate Finance Provided and Mobilised by Developed Countries in 2013-2020, public climate finance in 2020 mainly took the form of loans; 71% or USD 48.6 billion, including both concessional and non-concessional loans and, to a lesser extent, grants; 26% or USD 17.9 billion. Between 2016 and 2020 the annual level of grants increased by USD 5.6 billion and the volume of public loans by USD 15.3 billion.
“Our African governments face challenges, the economic situation for most countries is not the best. We are taking a lot of loans to do things, and this is really affecting our development. We ought to divert our resources to address climate change impact, we can’t sit and wait for the money,” states Seth Osafo, the Legal Advisor for the African group of Negotiators.
Across Africa, vulnerable communities and economies are facing climate change impacts. Robert Chimambo a peasant farmer from Zambia, who is also attending the climate conference in Egypt, has seen first-hand the impact of the effects of climate change in his own country. His script reading not far off from that of Kenya’s Tumal Orto, full of loss of livelihoods and the boomerang effect it has for his community. In his own words, Chimambo describes Africa as a village under attack by lions stating that in such a scenario, such a village needs to fight rather than wait for rescue. Chimambo wants African governments to maximise and channel available resources within, to assist its own communities.
“We have heard of the promise of 100 billion, yet nothing. They (developed countries) do not mean well, they have never meant well and will still not mean well. If we, our governments, wait for them to come down, we will die.”
Africa has in 2022 almost drowned from the impact of climate triggered events. Nigeria and Chad are the latest victims as villages in various parts of these countries are submerged in water following the heavy rains experienced in October/November. Countries at the horn of Africa have also been hit hard as the region experienced its worst drought in the last 40 years.
While COP27 has placed loss and damage funding on its agenda, for the Africans who directly bear the brunt of the unfortunate climate change effects, there is no more wait time. For some of the climate activists in Egypt, despite there being financing mechanism available through agencies like Global Environment Facility, Green Climate Fund and Adaption Fund, the availed money never gets to those affected by the impact of climate change like the communities of Tumal Orto and Robert Chimambo.
“In Marsabit where I come from, revenue comes from livestock but the basket is always empty, because of misplaced priorities. But if we really focus, we can sustain ourselves. If that money is well distributed, we can reduce calamity by having contingency plan and have adaptive resilient farming. But poor planning in Kenya and Africa is killing us.” says Tumal.
As negotiations begin at the largest conference of the year under the theme “together for implementation”, Africa is holding to hope that this time round, everyone takes responsibility without taking advantage of those affected.