“Wealthy nations must step up support for Africa and vulnerable countries in addressing past, present, and future impacts of climate change.”

Beginning November 6, 2022, heads of state, ministers and negotiators, along with climate activists, mayors, civil society representatives and CEOs will meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the largest annual gathering on climate action: the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27).  Faced with a growing energy crisis, record greenhouse gas concentrations, and increasing extreme weather events, COP27 seeks renewed solidarity and commitment among countries to fulfill the Paris Agreement and avoid catastrophic health effects across all regions of our planet.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the importance of COP27, noting that the collective commitments of the G20 leading industrialized nations were coming “far too little and far too late.”  He further warned that “we are in a life-or-death struggle for our own safety today and our survival tomorrow,” emphasizing that there is no time for pointing fingers or “twiddling thumbs,” but instead called for “a quantum level compromise between developed and emerging economies.”

In anticipation of COP27, more than 250 Health Journal Editors from around the world, including all four ASN Journal Editors have published an urgent call for action: COP27 Climate Change Conference: Urgent Action Needed for Africa and the World: Wealthy Nations Must Step Up Support for Africa and Vulnerable Countries in Addressing Past, Present and Future Impacts of Climate Change.

“Africa has suffered disproportionately although it has done little to cause the crisis.”

According to the authors of this call to action, Laurie Laybourn-Langton et al., “Africa has suffered disproportionately although it has done little to cause the crisis.”  More specifically, “North America and Europe have contributed 62% of carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution, whereas Africa has contributed only 3%.”

The results have been devastating for Africa: droughts in sub-Saharan Africa have tripled between 1970-1979 and 2010-2019, according to a 2021 World Bank Report.  At the same time, West and Central Africa have been beset by severe flooding.  These extreme weather events have damaged both Africa’s water supply and food supply, increasing food insecurity and malnutrition, which has led to some 1.7 million deaths annually in Africa.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, malnutrition has increased by almost 50% since 2012 in Africa.  In all, it is estimated that the climate crisis has already destroyed a fifth of the gross domestic product generated by the countries that are most vulnerable to climate shocks.

“Leaving countries to the mercy of environmental shocks creates instability that has severe consequences for all nations.”

The authors argue that “it is imperative that the suffering of frontline nations, including those in Africa, be the core consideration at COP27: in an interconnected world, leaving countries to the mercy of environmental shocks creates instability that has severe consequences for all nations.”  They believe that the “promised target of providing $100 billion of climate finance a year is now globally critical if we are to forestall the systemic risks of leaving societies in crisis.”  Moreover, “these resources should come through grants not loans,” enabling vulnerable nations to build resilience to the climate crisis now and moving forward.

Underlying the climate crisis is global inaction.  The authors are certain that crises caused by climate change in Africa will sooner rather than later spread and engulf all corners of the globe, by which time it may be too late to effectively respond.  If wealthy nations have failed to be persuaded by moral arguments to help Africa, “then hopefully their self-interest will now prevail.”