Monday 21st September 2020
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COP26: The Gambia amply promoting nature, sustainable land use – Melbourne

In the run up to COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, the British High Commission in Banjul hosted a webinar on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 to explore the UK-Gambia partnership on environmental protection.

The session featured, among others Lamin Dibba (Gambian Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources), Joshua Colebourne (Deputy High Commissioner), Zoë Lenkiewicz (Head of Programmes and Engagement, WasteAid UK), Katie Crighton (Country Manager – The Gambia, British Petroleum), and Ida Sarr (Prosperity Sustainable Development Officer).

Sean Melbourne, Head of Climate Change and Energy, West Africa, in a presentation titled COP26: Mobilising Climate Finance“, urged The Gambia to continue to use its influence in international fora and regional bodies to promote nature and sustainable land use

Sean Melbourne
Sean Melbourne, Head of Climate Change & Energy, West Africa, British High Commission Abuja

The first thing to emphasise is that this year and next will be pivotal for addressing the interlinked climate and biodiversity crises.

With temperatures still forecast to rise by around three degrees by the end of the century, we know that we must go further and faster to tackle climate change. If we do not the consequences for hundreds of millions of people will be dire. Nature is also in crisis – with one million animal and plant species now threatened with extinction, more than ever before in human history.

So, as we look forward to COP26 next year November, our aim is to increase ambition towards a climate-resilient, zero carbon economy.

Since the UK secured the COP26 Presidency in September last year, the political and economic context has of course changed drastically. Covid-19 has accelerated decision points that could have substantial impacts on the climate and wider sustainable development agendas: As countries move from containing the virus to economic recovery, choices are being made that will shape trajectories on GHG emissions, resilience and biodiversity for years to come.

Many African economies find themselves in significant debt, perhaps making cheap fossil fuels and resource exploitation more appealing and investment in clean energy and sustainable development difficult to finance.

However, the evidence, including from the last global economic crisis, shows that stimulus in clean and resilient solutions outperforms investments in old technologies. The cost of clean technology has fallen significantly, with two-thirds of the world’s population now living in countries where renewables represent the cheapest source of new power generation.

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Improving resilience to climate change also creates jobs and growth, both of prime importance to the Government of The Gambia and many other African governments.

The UK is building a strong partnership with the African Union on a Continental Roadmap to a Green Recovery. This AU-driven process aims to work with African countries, identify African solutions, influence their strategies, provide expertise and support through advocacy and influence the mobilisation of finance.

The UK has also recently announced £20 million of UK aid funding for the African Union’s new COVID-19 fund to tackle coronavirus in Africa. This funding makes the UK the largest national donor to the fund and will impact all 55 African Union member state countries.

Although COVID-19 has substantially changed much of our world, the UK Cabinet recently agreed that our core objectives for COP26 should not change. This is namely that we must deliver on the Paris ambition of reducing emissions, mobilising finance and adapting to climate change.

This will revolve around three main things:

First, to ensure all countries come forward with stronger emission reduction plans in the form of Nationally Determined Contributions and Long-Term Strategies for net zero.

Second, to agree balanced outcomes at the upcoming negotiations that help set a clear and attainable path to net zero.

Third, to drive international collaboration through our five COP26 campaigns. These focus on nature, adaptation and resilience, energy, transport and, tying everything together, finance. All these themes are relevant to The Gambia.

I list finance last because it really is the key to unlocking all further progress.

The OECD estimates that we will need nearly $7 trillion a year up to 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Last year at the UN, the UK Prime Minister announced a doubling of the UK’s international finance commitment to £11.6 billion over 2021 to 2025.

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This, in turn, will mobilise further finance from public and private sources.

Helping us meet, and indeed move beyond the $100 billion goal.

The UK’s own Development Finance Institution, the CDC, has also recently published an ambitious Climate Strategy.

This Strategy sets out a comprehensive approach to align all of CDC’s activities with the Paris Agreement, based on the core principles of reaching net zero by 2050, enabling a just transition whilst strengthening adaptation and resilience.

Many of the Multilateral Banks are also looking to align their portfolios with the Paris goals. It’s important that we all intensify engagement with them and work together on this important journey.

We are also calling on our international development partners to show similar ambition in their future climate finance, looking ahead to the Finance in Common Summit that our French colleagues are hosting in November.

Of course, public finance alone will not reach the scale needed to drive the transition required.

To move from billions to trillions, we will need all finance to align with the Paris Agreement.

I’m glad to say that this is at last happening: A recent BlackRock report stated that global sustainable funds attracted more than £30 billion in the first three months of 2020 – that is an increase of more than 40 percent year-on-year.

And today, banks, insurers, pension funds and investors with balance sheets of $139 trillion combined are demanding that the sector engages with the Task Force on Climate Finance-Related Financial Disclosures.

This sends a powerful signal that the private sector is ready and willing to support the climate transition, including in Africa.

The postponement of COP26 to November next year caused concern to some. But the new timetable also offers significant opportunities. It will:

  • Give us extra time to build the relationships and political conditions necessary for success with key policymakers;
  • Allow us to leverage more corporate commitments to net zero with meaningful milestones en-route that all help generate momentum for climate action;
  • And it takes us beyond key political events such as the US election and into a year where the UK and our Italian partners will host the G7 and G20 respectively;
  • Whilst we can all do more at a local and national level, countries cannot tackle climate change and biodiversity loss alone. Ultimately, a global problem like climate change requires global solutions.
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A successful COP26 will be an inclusive COP26. In this speech have majored on the importance of finance and business to the climate change agenda but we will also work closely with the youth, including the Resilient40, civil society, the private sector network beyond business and think-tanks.

The UK is committed to bringing African expertise across our climate work, and we will value equality and diversity to foster genuine partnerships ahead of COP26, COP27 which will be hosted in Africa, and for the long-term.

I would like to applaud the Government of the Gambia for the leadership it has already shown on climate change, particularly its work on nature-based solutions.

The Gambia was ahead of the curve on this, fully aware that natural systems are on the front line of the fight against climate change both because they are impacted by climate change, and also because they give us the tools to adapt to rising temperatures by locking up and storing carbon.

I hope that The Gambia will continue to use its influence in international fora and regional bodies such as ECOWAS to promote nature and sustainable land use, leading by example as it transitions towards a sustainable green economy based on climate-resilient livelihoods and rigorous, evidence-based management of natural resources.

Our response to climate change and biodiversity loss must build on the spirit of international collaboration and science-led thinking we have seen with the Coronavirus. We all have a part to play in our planet’s future.

I hope we can use this event to drive the conversation forward, identify innovative solutions, and together to build a fairer, greener economy.

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