The Platform

Women harvesting seaweed for soap, cosmetics and medicine in Tanzania. (Shutterstock)

The COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland is set to begin next week. This event will be a make-or-break event for the entire world. It will be an opportunity to save the planet or allow it to continue to spiral down in peril.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that the world is likely to breach the safe 1.5 degree Celsius warming threshold in just two decades. Africa is already heating up twice as fast as the rest of the globe.

Climate change risk is escalating, and the response to build resilience remains below par. Governments must increase their climate ambitions both in financing the implementation of the already existing NDCs and ensure the means of implementation, including finance, technology transfer, and building on what is working, becomes our fierce urgency of now. There is no choice for inaction, and all of us have a role to play. We must use our voices to inspire others to take action. We must hold our governments accountable for inactivity to increase climate action ambition. We must use our spaces, be it our churches, classrooms, universities, and groups of various sorts to inspire each other to take action. It must start happening in our cities, churches, villages, schools, and everywhere.

As individuals, we must realise we have the urgency to do something, and it starts with us. Engage your communities and start using your heart to discuss important things. Food on the table is not just an environmental issue. The health of your children will be affected by climate change. Security, economic aspects, and everything you can think of is in jeopardy if we don’t act now. Be the one who can start moving the needle and become the pressure point to push action from your community. The youth have become the pressure points, and they are doing what they can to use what they have as they leverage the spirit of innovative volunteerism. Getting trapped in despair and anxiety because of inaction will only make us helpless. The most significant antidote to helplessness is action, and that action starts with you and me. We urgently need active and rational action as that is what inspires hope. As we all move to act and hold our governments to take action, the following are some levers to strengthen implementation.

First, prioritise turning NDC commitments into investment tools. While Africa is a leader in NDCs ratification with a 98% rate, over 70% of African countries have not converted their NDCs into investments that demonstrate a clear return on investment. For example, few countries have expressed a costed expectation on finance coming from the private sector. This is just the first natural step to attracting market implementation resources that are more sustainable. Countries should, therefore, clearly elucidate the projected return on investment for individuals or institutions who invests in actions that drive the NDCs priorities of governments.

Second, incentivise youth and the informal sector as critical drivers of NDCs implementation. In Africa, up to 80% of labour is engaged in the informal sector. Over 60% of the population is youthful. The key is how this critical constituency can be tapped to drive NDCs implementation. And for this, targeted fiscal and non-fiscal incentives such as tax holidays for youthful entrepreneurs who engage in actions that implement NDCs will be critical to catalysing a shift of incentives by these critical groups towards NDC areas.

Third, targeted policy incentives, especially fiscal incentives. We have favourable fiscal policies across Africa. For example, we have budgetary policies exempting value-added tax on clean cooking, including sustainable fuel briquettes. Affordable financing for the youth engaged in developing the climate action solutions needed by the informal sector, tax holidays to youth entrepreneurs who establish climate action enterprises to enable them to minimise their tax burden during the formative years of their initiatives.

Fourth is non-policy incentives. Regardless of how timely they may be, policy incentives will accomplish very little if they fall on passionless citizens. This calls for the right mindset- a mindset of discipline, purposeful passion, unborrowed vision, and selflessness. We must never lose sight of the “soft aspects.” We owe ourselves the task of doing so to inspire active and rational hope in others to turn climate change challenges into investment opportunities that work for the many.

“Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it chased it.” This African proverb is a timely reminder of what we must all do to take our chances to drive the implementation of the NDCs.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the authors are associated.

Dr. Richard Munang is a multiple award-winning environment and development policy thought leader and climate change and sustainable development expert. Richard is also author of 'Making Africa Work Through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism' in 2018.

Robert Mgendi works with the Africa Climate Change Programme.