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A Trump win would see Africa (and the world) spiral into climate hell

A Trump win would see Africa (and the world) spiral into climate hell

African policymakers are bracing themselves for the return of Donald Trump. Having swept the Republican primaries, polls consistently put the former US leader neck-and-neck with incumbent Joe Biden in a presidential rematch.

Yet, a Trump victory could end up guaranteeing climate disaster for Africa and the world, and Europe must take note.

Of course, at the forefront of most African leaders’ minds is Trump’s undisguised racism, embodied in his expletive-filled rant denigrating African nations back in 2018.

He had also gutted practically all climate funding for dedicated USAID programmes in Africa — programmes initiated under Barack Obama that were crucial to promoting climate resilience by arming African governments with tech, funds and support to fight climate change.

The programme’s departure — although it has shown signs of a recent revival under Biden — marked years lost and contributed directly to the deepening humanitarian and environmental crisis that today impacts more than 110 million Africans.

But what happens in Africa will not stay in Africa. Climate change will intensify, not weaken, migration.

For US patriots who want to see secure borders, they would do well to recognise that the only way to do so is to support African nations in dealing with climate change.

Climate failure will make the exploitation of grievances worse

That’s why Europeans should equally recognise that Trump’s comeback is a warning signal.

He represents a new and dangerous trans-Atlantic far-right movement exploiting mounting grievances due to economic challenges which are, ultimately, linked to our chronic dependence on fossil fuels — which has locked us into an inflationary economic crisis.

If Americans and Europeans are worried about migrants now, climate change will make this an insoluble challenge. That’s why the EU must not make the same mistakes as President Biden on climate action.

Members of the Proud Boys and other right-wing demonstrators march across the Hawthorne Bridge during a rally in Portland, August 2019
Members of the Proud Boys and other right-wing demonstrators march across the Hawthorne Bridge during a rally in Portland, August 2019 - AP Photo/Noah Berger

Trumpist tactics are designed to deflect public attention from this reality, but they are being used across the EU by far-right parties ranging from Germany’s AfD to Geert Wilders Freedom Party in the Netherlands. This requires a concerted fightback, not confused appeasement.

Both US and European progressive parties need to help voters realise that climate failure will set their futures ablaze. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, business-as-usual will create as many as 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050.

If Americans and Europeans are worried about migrants now, climate change will make this an insoluble challenge. That’s why the EU must not make the same mistakes as President Biden on climate action.

Washington is not taking things seriously anyway

Under Biden, we’ve seen a record-breaking explosion in approvals for more oil and gas drilling permits — even more than Trump — coinciding with a new, mammoth ad campaign promoting the expanded use of fossil fuels launched by the American Petroleum Institute.

This approach has come at odds with US statements during last year’s UN COP28 climate summit in the UAE.

Whatever fate we face in Africa will rapidly arrive on the shores of the US and Europe ... So it’s time for European leaders to create a new unifying vision for a shared future of clean prosperity — or reckon with the demise of the EU experiment.

Workers move water jugs as the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit comes to an end in Dubai, December 2023
Workers move water jugs as the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit comes to an end in Dubai, December 2023 - AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

The US publicly flirted with the idea of a phase-out of fossil fuels and signed up to the historic "UAE Consensus" agreement to transition away from fossil fuels and triple renewable energy capacity by 2030.

The US was also asleep at the wheel when COP28 broke new ground in operationalising a long overdue Loss and Damage Fund for rapid, disaster-relief support to the global South — the US pledged just $17.5 million (€16.1m), paling embarrassingly in comparison to other contributions from Norway ($25m), Denmark ($50m) and the UAE ($100m).

And of course, Biden himself was conspicuously absent from COP28.

The EU is in danger of following the same road, however, planning €205 billion in new gas investments, while still offering paltry support for climate investments in the Global South.

We either mobilise trillions or face the same fate

At the International Energy Agency (IEA) ministerial meeting in Paris earlier in February, US and EU policymakers said little about the trillions needed to support clean energy in Africa and elsewhere.

It was only a week later during his first address at the IEA’s Paris headquarters after COP28 that the climate summit’s President Dr Sultan Al Jaber addressed this elephant in the room.

Urging governments and industries to take “unprecedented action” to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels, he pointed to COP28’s launch of Altérra, the world’s largest private investment vehicle for climate action, as a model to be “replicated many times over … The world must raise the bar to address the challenges we face — mobilising trillions rather than billions”.

He also asked industries to “decarbonise at scale” while also calling on governments to invest heavily in expanding national grids so they can absorb new renewable projects at pace.

This is exactly the entrepreneurial mindset that European policymakers must adopt today. And it must prioritise unlocking trillions of climate finance for the Global South.

A failure to do so would not only throw Africa into the flames of climate disaster but create the foundations for an unprecedented global migrant crisis that could be a gift to the far-right.

Whatever fate we face in Africa will rapidly arrive on the shores of the US and Europe.

But the reality is that Africans want to prosper in Africa. So it’s time for Western, and European leaders in particular, to create a new unifying vision for a shared future of clean prosperity — or reckon with the demise of the EU experiment.

Nathaniel Mong’are is Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya. He also helped organise the first-ever Africa Climate Week in Kenya in 2023.

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