What agenda will an African champion bring to COP27?

Wednesday November 10 2021
Climate summit

World Bank president David Malpass (second left), Kenya’s Treasury cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani, UN special envoy for climate action and finance Mark Carney, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva during a panel discussion at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow. Egypt is currently the frontrunner to host the next Conference of the Parties (COP), to be held in Africa in 2022. FILE PHOTO | COURTESY


All eyes are on the UN climate summit which commenced in Glasgow this week. Egypt is currently the frontrunner to host the next Conference of the Parties (COP), to be held in Africa in 2022.

While next year’s COP27 will need to pick up any unfinished business from COP26 in Glasgow, it will also be the first COP to be held entirely in the ‘implementation era’ of the Paris Agreement. Success, therefore, will depend not only on negotiations, but in how effectively the COP27 presidency is able to catalyse concrete climate action.

As the first COP to be held in an African country since COP22 in Morocco in 2016, COP27 also offers a critical opportunity to put the region’s priorities at the top of the global agenda, including access to finance, adaptation, energy access, youth, agriculture, and sustainable post-pandemic recovery.

One way through which the COP27 Presidency can advance this agenda is by choosing a dynamic, dedicated high-level climate champion. Created at COP21 in Paris, the champions are appointed by each presidency to two-year terms, overlapping with both the previous and subsequent Champions.

Working through the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action —which was created at the last African COP in 2016 in Marrakech — the champions’ mandate is to mobilise concrete action from cities, businesses, investors, civil society, and others to work alongside national governments in pushing toward the goals of the Paris Agreement. At COP25 in 2019, governments decided to extend the Champions’ mandate through 2025.

What might an Egyptian Champion bring to this key role?


Under Chile and the UK, the Champions have been running global campaigns like the Race to Zero and the Race to Resilience, galvanising cities, regions, businesses, investors, civil society, and others to converge toward robust net-zero and resilience commitments. They have also published 2030 Breakthroughs and Climate Action Pathways to help set targets for sectoral low carbon transformations.

While building on the strong base Chile and the UK have established, an Egyptian champion might redouble the Marrakech Partnership’s work on access to finance, adaptation, water, agriculture and food security, youth empowerment, and other core concerns of the region.

To be effective in this role, the COP27 champion would benefit from a particular skill set. Most importantly, she or he will need to be able to inspire ambitious action from the private sector, local governments, and civil society domestically, regionally, and globally. That requires a breadth of vision and, ideally, a range of experiences both in and out of government.

She or he will also need to be able to devote full attention to the role. Under the leadership of Chile and the UK, the Marrakech Partnership has been strengthened into a very active and dynamic program of work.

Finally, it is notable that the last woman to hold the Champion role was the previous African Champion, Hakima el Haite of Morocco. There is a real opportunity for the COP27 presidency to establish gender balance.

The return of the COP to Africa and the appointment of a COP27 high-level climate champions marks a critical opportunity for African climate leadership in a decisive decade.

Joanes Atela (African Research and Impact Network), Victoria Chengo (African Research and Impact Network), Thomas Hale (University of Oxford), Kennedy Mbeva (University of Melbourne)