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Time for G7 to make good on climate cash for Africa: Joyce Banda

AS G7 leader, Italy must press member states to deliver on their climate finance promises to African nations bearing the brunt of global warming.

Dr Joyce Banda is a former President of Malawi

I recently joined world leaders in Azerbaijan at the Baku Global Forum. Yet again, western governments were reluctant to make financial commitments to help countries suffering the most from climate change to rebuild and recover.

A decade ago, climate leadership meant building the foundations of global agreements. Today, it means delivering on them. This month’s G7 Summit offers that opportunity for host country Italy but as the FT recently reported, the scale of required support is huge. Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni needs to help others shake off their paralysis and deliver practical answers on climate finance, food security, energy access, and sustainable development.

Rising to this opportunity would mean prestige for Italy, but relief for countries like Malawi, which have been hit by a wave of climate catastrophes and are still waiting for financial promises to be made real. Last year, Cyclone Freddy claimed over 1-thousand lives, displaced more than 650,000 Malawians, destroyed the crops of two million farmers, and killed almost 1.5 million livestock. Total loss and damage topped $1 billion. The East African region has been recently hit by debilitating floods that killed 289 people in Kenya in a span of one month.

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Italy has not been spared from climate impacts and is already grappling with the consequences of rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns. No corner escapes: rising seas in Venice, unstable Alpine glaciers in the north, scorched land in the sunbaked south. Last year, heatwave temperatures neared 50C. The year before, heat-related deaths killed 18,000. It’s why almost 9 in 10 Italians say that the climate crisis is the biggest issue of the century.

Italy has talked up its ability to lead the G7: it says it wants to act as a strategic link between COP climate conferences, making past promises ‘practical, real, concrete’. That requires backing up ambitious pledges by operating transparently, pushing on financing, and building alliances to make them a reality. These are the areas where past commitments have often fallen short, and where current plans are still lacking.

The Paris Agreement cannot be delivered without the finance to back it up – and if the G7 doesn’t move on finance, nobody else will. A G7 deal must begin with the payment of pledges to help countries like Malawi to rebuild from climate disasters. We have done the least to contribute to this crisis, and rebuilding after extreme floods and freak storms requires resources that we do not have. Meloni should push for continuous financing of the Loss and Damage Fund, and more adaptation finance to help countries defend themselves from a hotter, less stable climate.

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A robust G7 deal would deliver on a new global climate finance target, and improve the contribution of development banks, like the World Bank, to climate finance. Meloni should push for progress on changes to capital adequacy frameworks for development banks: rule changes that will give development banks billions of dollars of lending headroom without compromising their stability.

The strength of that deal will be tested at the end of this year when the International Development Association funds will need to be replenished. The size of G7 countries’ contribution, which will help African countries rebuild infrastructure and invest in health and education, will be proof of Italy’s success or failure.

This kind of leadership would be a strategic play for Meloni, enhancing her strengths and proving her sceptics wrong. She is a leader who has shown the courage of her convictions. And she prides herself on no-nonsense solutions, getting to the point, and delivering results. It would be the coup of her career to lead the G7 to deliver concrete results, not just polished promises.

If she can, she won’t just secure her own legacy. A G7 deal that delivers on climate and cash will also give hope to those bearing the brunt of climate change, and prove wrong those who doubt the impact of the right leader at the right time.

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By JOYCE BANDA

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