What do the outcomes of COP26 mean for Africa?

Firsthand observations on the negotiations and how the outcomes of COP26 might affect African civil society and journalists.
Firsthand observations on the negotiations and how the outcomes of COP26 might affect African civil society and journalists.

As COP26 drew to a close, we met to reflect on this global event with journalists from across the African continent. The global summit held a lot of promise for Africa, as there were a lot of discussions around financing for various climate adaptation and mitigation projects.

However, as the summit came to a close, those hopes and discussions were still up in air. Climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building were indeed the priorities that were being put forward to COP26 for Africa.

The finance conversation was a big one because it is, in a sense, the prerequisite for many of the other things to happen, including technology transfer. The mobilisation of finance to tackle climate change, particularly for adaptation, was and still is as urgent as ever.

For our post-COP26 reflections we were privileged to have Dr. Ferrial Adam (Regional CJE Friends of the Earth Africa), Senami Kojah (Nigerian Journalist) and Onke Ngcuka (South African Climate Journalist and Climate Tracker’s COP26 In-person fellow). They shared with us their firsthand observations on the negotiations and how the outcomes of COP might affect African civil society and journalists. They also provided invaluable next steps that would prepare us ahead of COP27 in Egypt.

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COP26 – key observations

According to Dr. Ferrial Adam, COP26 failed to provide answers to a lot of the urgent questions we needed and was the most “exclusionary COP so far”. The fossil fuel lobbyists were welcomed on a red carpet, while many people from the frontlines of climate impacts were shut out by restrictive visas, soaring travel costs and vaccine apartheid. She also cited that “With so little global south representation, it is no surprise that wealthy countries are pushing through false solutions that will allow them to continue climate-trashing, business-as-usual” 

She also explained that the 1.5 C target set by COP26 was undermined by nature based solutions, weak Net Zero targets and a green light to carbon markets, and the text erases historical responsibilities and common but differentiated responsibility of countries.

During COP, there were a slew of announcements outside of the formal negotiations but these were light on substance, not backed up with concrete plans for implementation, and not connected to the actual negotiations, and full of loopholes and caveats. “As civil society we need to be mindful of empty and weak announcements. The outcomes of COP26 leave developed countries free to keep polluting and is essentially a betrayal of global south countries.”

Senami Kojah also shared her concern about the fact that this year’s COP was not on the front pages of newspapers or news websites in Africa. This is especially concerning as Africa is severely affected by climate change and so, one would expect that the discussions or agreements coming out of COP would be on the front pages of various African media organizations.

She however cited that a lot of journalists and newsrooms in Africa struggle with funding for their daily operations and so it wasn’t hard to envision that they would have challenges allocating funds to local reporters to cover COP26 and that translated into how COP was reported in the African media.

She also stated another concerning observation, which was that African newsrooms that reported on COP prioritized global narratives and announcements. And this was in fact caused by the hostility African leaders displayed towards African journalists reporting at the global event. “ We had instances where Nigeria for example was very evasive with journalists and even the itinerary of some African leaders at COP was being treated like some top secret thing”. 

Onke Ngcuka, who was one of our COP26 fellows reporting Live from Glasgow, Scotland shared with us about how Covid 19 impacted this year’s COP and that journalists were not being allowed into some of the meeting rooms where a lot of the important decisions and announcements were being made due to social distancing measures. She also shared her disappointment at COP26.

“ It was touted that this was going to be the most ambitious COP, that being said, I think there was a lot of expectation for the talks to be very progressive and I was so excited to report on all the announcements and discussions. However midway into my first week at COP I was very disappointed to see that these announcements were very empty and missing a lot of detail. They pushed the agenda of it being a successful COP and I realised it was a way to use the media as a mouthpiece for political agendas.”

She also noticed that the global south was under represented at COP and quickly realized that she was one of the very few black women in the newsroom and it raised questions of who was telling African stories and whose voices were being heard when African stories were told.

So, what’s next?

In conclusion, our speakers agreed that there is a lot of work to be done ahead of COP27 to ensure that the voices of marginalized groups within civil society and journalists were heard. Watch the full session here to follow up on all the great tips and suggestions for reporting on COP27 in Egypt. 

Also join our Africa communities to engage with us further on possible solutions to the issues raised during our post COP reflections. ⬇️⬇️

Joyce Chachu-Hilton
A creative storyteller and digital strategy enthusiast based in Ghana. With over 5 years’ experience in marketing, she comes with a wealth of knowledge in the various facets of online and offline marketing.