Category: Columns and media

COP 27: Advances on loss and damage but no breakthrough on climate finance despite a strong West African involvement

The fear of ending COP 27 without any significant advances was looming over Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in the dying hours of this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference.

But after a final negotiations marathon between the parties, a deal was eventually struck.

The agreement which concluded two weeks of discussions and negotiations in the Egyptian coastal city offered an important step forward in the contentious question of loss and damage. Parties agreed to establish a loss and damage fund which will help support those countries most impacted by climate change. The fund will provide financial relief to respond to the catastrophic effects of the environmental crisis, like droughts, heatwaves, floods, or cyclones.

Efforts Remain Insufficient

While encouraging as a signal of international solidarity in response to environmental catastrophes, the final agreement fell short of many COP 27 participants’ expectations and hopes. In an interview for TV5 Monde, Hakima El Haite, board member of The Bridge Tank, expressed her disappointment  with the lack of advances at COP 27:

“It is true that we have taken a step forward by agreeing on the creation of a mechanism that will still require time. The more we mitigate CO2 emissions and the more we reduce CO2 concentrations, the less we will need to adapt and the less money we will need to repair the damages caused by natural disasters. And so we have to act and it’s not up to the vulnerable countries to act, it’s the emitting countries that emit 80% of the emissions that have to provide 80% of the solutions in their own countries.”

This opinion was shared by many, particularly in the Global South and West Africa, a region which faces some of the most dire effects of climate change and which had come with strong demands and expectations to COP 27, the African COP.

A Strong and Proactive West African Presence at COP 27

Representatives from West African countries had arrived at COP 27 with the hope of seeing strong decisions being made to relieve the environmental pressure affecting the continent. Before the beginning of COP 27, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had shared some of the points it considered crucial to successful climate change negotiations:

  • Increasing the ambition of greenhouse gas emission reduction, specifically for the biggest emitters
  • Article 6 of the Paris Agreement with regard to generating new financing opportunities in the region and defining the new carbon market mechanisms
  • Adaptation: moving from planning to operationalizing
  • Loss and damage: providing concrete responses to the existing loss and damage in West Africa
  • Climate finance: meeting the 100-billion-dollar target of the Green Climate Fund and establishing a financial facility specifically dedicated to African countries to focus on their needs and priorities in terms of adaptation.

Intent on making the sub-region’s voice heard at COP 27, West African institutions joined forces in Sharm el-Sheikh at the West Africa Pavilion. This pavilion was co-piloted by ECOWAS and the West African Development Bank (WADB), in partnership with the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS).

“The pavilion expresses the willingness of regional institutions to strengthen their cooperation around the common challenge of climate change. The approach aims to improve the coordination and effectiveness of the collective response for the benefit of the region’s populations,” ECOWAS communicated prior to the conference.

For two weeks, the four West African institutions thus contributed to moving public debate on climate action and climate finance forward.

Leading voices on climate governance and climate finance

The ECOWAS Commission made use of its presence at the West Africa Pavilion to organize side events introducing the union’s Regional Climate Strategy. These included a session on November 9th on coordination mechanisms for greater regional climate governance and another one on November 11th on the sectoral opportunities the strategy offers for agriculture and energy.

The West African Development Bank (WADB) was also very active on the Pavilion. On November 9th, Serge Ekué, President of the WADB, gave a press briefing on the WADB’s climate positioning. This was an opportunity to discuss the WADB’s Djoliba 2021-2025 Strategic Development Plan, which allocates 25% of the bank’s total commitments to climate finance in order to support member states in the financing of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Through its president, the WADB expressed its wish to be a catalyser of resilience and adaptation to climate change and a facilitator of sustainable and stable growth.

Capitalizing on the centrality of climate finance at this year’s climate change conference, the WADB organised a number of events on the matter, including a panel on “Challenges and opportunities of climate finance in Africa,” and two sessions on November 14th, “Filling the Gaps in Climate Change Adaptation Policies to Facilitate Access to Climate Finance for WAEMU Countries” and “Carbon finance as a lever of development for WAEMU countries,” with the participation of the West African Alliance On Carbon Market and Climate Finance.

The WADB also took part in side-events organised by other institutions in Sharm el Sheikh, including one by the Green Climate Fund on the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel.

This importance of climate finance on this year’s agenda at COP 27 also mobilised The Bridge Tank, which co-organised a side event with Liberal International on North-South dynamics in climate finance. The panel discussion “Towards a balanced, empowered, North-South blended climate finance for mitigation and adaptation” included prominent figures and institutions from West Africa and provided an additional building bloc to the pursuit of a more effective and balanced climate finance.

Despite these many efforts and calls for bold measures, COP 27’s final agreement comes as a disappointing conclusion to two weeks of active involvement on the ground from West African institutions and countries. The wish to make COP 27, the African COP, an important milestone in the fight against climate change and the establishment of climate finance mechanisms ensuring the continent’s preservation has been left unfulfilled, to the frustration of many.

An eventful first week at COP 27 in Sharm el Sheikh for our board member Hakima El Haite

The first week of the COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh saw the world gather in the Egyptian coastal city to exchange on the many pressing issues of the world’s environmental crisis. One of those leaders taking part in the discussions and the seeking out of concrete solutions to combat climate change in Sharm el Sheikh is The Bridge Tank’s board member, Hakima El Haite, President of Liberal International.

Through her frontline presence at COP 27, Hakima El Haite not only underlined the danger of putting climate action on the back burner in the current times of geopolitical and economic uncertainty, she took a strong stance in favour of climate justice.

During an event organised by The New York Times “On the Verge of Progress: Where Will COP 27 Take Us?” on November 8th, with Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, and Laurence Tubiana, France’s Climate Change Ambassador and Special Representative for COP21 and founder of IDDRI, Hakima El Haite stressed the urgency of climate action and reaching net-zero emissions. She did so while pointing out the increase of global subsidies for fossil fuels and the rebound of CO2 emissions worldwide. The need for increased funding to fulfil the $100 billion pledge by the wealthiest nations, the goal of $40 billion dedicated to adaptation finance, and the importance of greening the financial sector were also addressed during this event.

The transition to cleaner energy sources and the potential offered by green hydrogen were additional topics on the agenda of this first week of COP 27. Hakima El Haite took part in the launch event of the “Africa Extraordinary Green Hydrogen Potential” study with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the International Solar Alliance, United Cities and Local Governments of Africa, and the Government of the Republic of Mauritania. The report “combines an analysis of investment opportunities with a roadmap of technical, economic, environmental and financial solutions to unlock commercial development” of green hydrogen in Africa, so EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle.

Our board member Hakima El Haite’s commitment to climate justice came once again to the fore at COP 27, as she put special emphasis on the necessity of tackling the environmental crisis in those countries and regions which have been disproportionately affected by climate change or which are least prepared to face its effects.

Her continued efforts in favour of the African continent were also at the heart of her interventions at this year’s climate change conference. The continent, home to 17% of the world’s population and responsible for less than 4% of the world’s CO2 emissions, is facing the most dire effects of the unfolding environmental crisis.

Through her participation in the release of the Institute for Economics and Peace’s “Ecological Threat Report 2022,” Dr. El Haite called for concerted international efforts to effectively face the climate crisis and for greater solidarity and concrete actions on the side of developed countries to support developing countries. She especially emphasized the urgency of investing massively in adaptation and mitigation in Africa. According to the “Ecological Threat Report 2022,” two thirds of the hotspot countries facing catastrophic ecological threat, water stress, and food insecurity are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Finally, Hakima El Haite used her presence at COP 27 to defend another key aspect of climate justice, namely the role and voices of women in the efforts to combat climate change. With the climate crisis affecting women to a greater extent than men, working to include and promote women’s voices has been a cause central to Dr. El Haite’s efforts in Sharm el Sheikh.

OpEd: Risky Business: The U.S. Should Rethink Business With Kazakhstan

An article written by our President, Joël Ruet about Kazakhstan’s current and growing challenge to fight corruption that undermines foreign investment and the country’s socio-economic development, was published in the media Entrepreneur.com. He warns that “despite the Kazakh government’s public campaign to attract foreign investors […] it will need to implement fundamental changes, and that starts with taking anti-corruption seriously and honoring agreements with foreign investors. Until then, U.S. investors should rethink the risk of doing business in Kazakhstan.”

“Profiteering & pandemic: WTO, pharma industry must introspect”, tribune by our board member Pranjal Sharma

In the ongoing context of the Covid-19 pandemic, our board member, Pranjal Sharma, wrote the following OpEd, published by The Daily Guardian, on the benefits of waivering the IPR (intellectual property rights) on vaccine production, particularly for low-income countries such as India and those of the African continent.

Read his tribune here: https://thedailyguardian.com/profiteering-pandemic-wto-pharma-industry-must-introspect/

2M TV Morocco – Joël Ruet speaks on how the roll-out of the vaccine pass will facilitate the return to normal life

Joël Ruet, President of The Bridge Tank, spoke on newscast Infosoir on Monday 25 October on the French-Moroccan television channel 2M. Joël Ruet indicated that the world is in a new phase in the treatment of the pandemic, with imperatives and specificities that differ from the period of its advent. “Before,”, Joël Ruet recalled, “the virus had to be prevented from circulating but, in doing so, populations were prevented from circulating, it was containment,” a necessary measure given the absence of a vaccine.

Watch his intervention (in French) here

OpEd: G20 Must Help Low Income Countries Get Out of Debt Crises

On the occasion of the G20 Finance Ministers meeting in Washington DC, our Policy Brief on the modernization of the African Banking sector was mentioned in an OpEd in Diplomatic Courier by Joel Ruet. This paper suggests that, in addition to sovereign aid, commercial banks in Africa get a fairer rating of their (low) risks and (high) profitability and thus ease their refunding costs to deliver levers of growth and employment.

Read our policy brief here

Read the OpEd here

Issue Brief: AUKUS – A storm in the Pacific

On 15 September 2021, Australia terminated a contract with France to supply conventional submarines, in favor  of a nuclear military-technology collaboration with the United States and the United Kingdom. This breach of contract highlighted the nascent AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom and United States) military alliance, which was created in response to China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific. This tripartite alliance has only served to add insult to injury in the current tense international context, as well as to exacerbate diplomatic relations between France and the United States.

In light of the visit to Paris on October 5, 2021, of the Secretary of State of the United States, Anthony Blinken, to try and appease the situation, The Bridge Tank published an analytical note, written by retired French General Eric de La Maisonneuve.

This issue brief is based on the idea that the contract denounced by Australia, a long-term contract and considerable in financial terms, had become a limited contract in technological terms and modest in relation to the strategic stakes in the Indo-Pacific zone. This Australian reversal reveals several key points:

  • The worsening situation in the region, particularly in the South China Sea, the growing antagonism between China and the United States on trade issues, the impressive rise of the Chinese navy and its associated armaments, the multiple Sino-Australian tensions, all lead both the United States and Australia to review their arrangements.
  • If, as is to be expected, events in the area precipitate, urgency will prevail and the USA will be forced to install their bases and nuclear submarines directly in Australia, even if it means renting or loaning some of them to the latter. Here again, it is likely that this future contract under the AUKUS umbrella will have difficulty seeing the light of day.
  • France for its part should draw the consequences of this diplomatic-strategic fiasco in three directions:
    • Revise its “foreign policy/defense policy” complex,
    • Re-evaluate the European security pillar and its concretization through a Franco-German alliance under the French Presidency of the EU,
    • Rethink in this context its systems of analysis of China to better anticipate its strategy and its actions.

Read the issue brief here (in French): 2021-10-04-IB La Maisonneuve

When bad controversies drive out the good ones: rehabilitating scientific controversy

At a time when Covid variants are multiplying, what is known genetically about this virus, from the processes of its emergence, to the role of virology in the analysis of its current evolution, to the genetic origins of its transformation into a pandemic, as well as the hypothesis of the possible role of humans and virological laboratories in its rise? What are the hypotheses supported by facts and debated by scientists, the controversies based on scientific protocols?

From the emergence of a pathogenic virus to the pandemic and variants: virology’s point of view

To shed light on these questions, this dossier presents our exchanges with Sterghios Moschos, researcher, virologist, with Gabriel Gras, former virology researcher and biosafety expert, and with Professor Jacques Cohen, physician and scientist, professor of immunology.

Sterghios Moschos introduces the panorama of the scientifically debated theses, Gabriel Gras tackles the questions linked to the origins of the virus and the functioning of the biological security laboratories and finally Jacques Cohen tackles the questions linked, starting from the virus, to the emergence of the disease and then to its transformation into a pandemic, in order to draw some lessons on a better coordination between disciplines, between science and the public authorities.

Finally, in a current situation where the International Conference for the Conservation of Nature is being held, we open the question of the relationship between humanity and nature.

When bad controversies drive out the good: rehabilitating scientific controversy

When a new epidemic erupts into the world, virology and epidemiology are initially blind to the DNA of the virus, its capacity to spread and contaminate, as well as its origins. Eventually, these scientific fields become more astute, able to see more clearly the DNA of the virus, its family of possible reservoirs and hosts, becoming potentially clairvoyant later on its capability to spread, transform as well as its origins, resulting eventually in the creation of a vaccine.

However, science takes time and a certain protocol, during which hypothesises need to be raised and de-bunked, or confirmed, fully or partially. This is a classic process of science in the making, well established since modern science developed, well understood by the epistemology of sciences including Gaston Bachelard and others; in this context, “scientific controversy” helps unearthing the truth from gathering, accumulation and minute interpretation of facts.

In the post-media age, however, politicised as it is, scientific controversies often escape the preserve of science, leak or get leaked by the media, and can even be intentionally diffused as propaganda by all sides or state/philanthropy/media machines. The current pandemic most likely has not escaped this trap.  

To this, time may still clarify the debate, but an interesting tool is provided through “Mapping” controversies (MC). As defined by Wikipedia: MC is an academic course taught in science studies, stemming from the writings of the French sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour. MC focuses exclusively on the controversies surrounding scientific knowledge rather than the established scientific facts or outcomes. This “mapping” helps sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists get insights not into scientific knowledge per se, but rather into the process of gaining knowledge. MC sheds light on those intermediate stages corresponding to the actual research process whilst pinpointing the connections between scientific work and other types of activities.”

“Mapping of Controversies” goes against political controversy, and controversy in the right sense ought to be re-appropriated by those it belongs to by sheer design of science: the scientists.

To read more on this topic, Joël Ruet, President of The Bridge Tank, has published an article in french on the website La Tribune : Coronavirus _ un analyseur de la complexité des relations hommes-animaux _

The Bridge Tank also wrote a note on scientific controversies and a literature review: The Bridge Tank COVID19 – A note on scientific controversies and a Literature review

Read the transcript of each interview here: Verbatim – Interview Sterghios Moschos_FINAL; Verbatim – Interview Jacques Cohen_FINAL; verbatim – Interview Gabriel Gras_FINAL

EU strategic interests vis-à-vis China: our article published in the National Defence Review and published by China Today

As the strategy of European autonomy in the face of Chinese power gathers traction, The Bridge Tank published an issue brief in both the National Defense Review and China Today. An indication that rigorous discussion for a tight negotiation remains possible?

After two years of work, The Bridge Tank has positioned itself in the calibration of the balance of power between the EU and China, in particular by publishing last March issue briefs (For a balance of power – what is at stake around the pre-agreement of principle on investment, co-signed by several former ministers and French ambassadors; and Sino-Western Conflict, analysis and proposals, the latter written by General Eric de la Maisonneuve)

The analyses developed highlight the fact that the two protagonists in their power relations are out of step both in time and space.

The Bridge Tank, active in both Western and Chinese debates, points out the double error of analysis that these two protagonists are making of each other as well as proposals for firm discussions on strategic resources.

This approach was taken up in March 2021 in the “Revue Défense Nationale”, a French strategic and defense reference magazine, an intervention that we then popularized in a high-circulation Chinese-language media, China Today. This bilingual article explicitly analyses the European interests generated by this new partnership with China in conjunction with political, ecological and economic issues.

A degrading context

On Tuesday 4 May 2021, European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis announced the suspension of a landmark EU-China investment agreement. This agreement, which has been under construction for seven years, was concluded on 30 December 2020, but was finally cancelled due to the deteriorating political and business climate between the parties.

What role can the EU play?

This agreement, although met with contempt by some European leaders and the international press, offers crucial benefits for the EU’s economic development. In the context of a new Cold War between China and the United States and the health crisis, Europe wants “to cooperate with China is also to cooperate with the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), the world’s third largest economic bloc, and thus gain access to the ASEAN countries”.

European sovereignty based on an environmental thread

Since signing the Paris Agreement in 2015, the EU has shown itself to be a pioneer in the fight against global warming and for environmental rights. China, one of the world’s largest emitters of CO2 with 28% of global emissions, has declared its goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 2060.

 

By working with China, this agreement would allow for a more open and direct dialogue on urban innovations, such as smart cities, developed for the benefit of future generations.

In the face of the rise of China and the United States in the digital field, it is clear that Europe needs to catch up to counter the power game in order to guarantee its strategic autonomy.

Read the issue brief (in French) here

Tribune: The Winners and Losers of the Australian-China Trade War

The current trade war between Australia and China has heavily impacted the position and importance of China’s global trading partners, particularly within the beef and wine industry. Whilst Australia has undoubtedly suffered, other countries such as USA and Brazil are taking this opportunity to fill in the market gap.

The Bridge Tank president Joël Ruet explores the current state of trade and potential new Chinese partnerships incurred by this conflict in his latest article published on the Diplomatic Courrier. Read here  

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