Comment by Esso Pedessi, GCAP Togo:

The COP26 held from October 31 to November 12, 2021 was marked by the absence of the leaders of some countries responsible for the climate crisis namely: China, Russia, Brazil and the blocking of other countries on several decisions. While Saudi Arabia was singled out as the bad pupil for bearing responsibility for a possible failure of the negotiations, the United States continues to refuse to assume its historical responsibility and France no longer sees the Paris Agreement as anything other than a rent for its image, blocking the negotiations on essential points, in particular on loss and damage. This is an extremely problematic attitude since it is a question of negotiations, and therefore of the blocking of certain key countries pushing other countries to follow suit, which has led to blockages on a major point (financing).

We are now entering the time of resolution, of the denouement. We are debating whether “request” is stronger or weaker than “urge”. But what is at stake now is the dismantling of important elements of the Agreement, from draft to draft. For example, the first draft of the Agreement first mentioned the need to “move away from coal and fossil fuel subsidies”, but the third draft now only talks about “calling on states to accelerate the move away from offset coal and end inefficient subsidies”. Countries that are among the biggest consumers of coal refuse to commit themselves, such as China, Japan, Australia, India and the United States.

In the end, the Agreement no longer calls on parties to move away from coal and oil and gas financing, but simply asks them to try to do so quickly; unless they offset CO2 emissions at source. This is very depressing because behind this casuistry are lives, hundreds of millions of lives.

It was not all bad news: a hundred or so nations, representing more than 40% of global methane emissions, committed themselves to drastically reducing emissions of this powerful greenhouse gas by at least 30% by 2030 compared to 2020. Some countries such as Poland, Canada, Egypt and Ukraine have signed up to a commitment to end coal projects by 2030, but this is not enough and there are still many uncertainties about the dates.

In addition, at least 19 countries have pledged to end foreign financing of fossil fuel projects without carbon capture technologies by the end of 2022, including major investors such as the US and Canada. The G20 nations recently agreed to stop supporting coal-fired power projects abroad. Another memorable commitment comes from a single state. India has set a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2070.

For the West Africa team and the Jeunes Vert Togo, members of GCAP Togo, this is unsatisfactory because we need to move beyond promises and move quickly to action.