It has been a rather eventful week for the Eswatini delegation at the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
After starting off the Summit by attending the high-level segment where speeches were being delivered by the likes of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and 18-year old Ugandan climate youth activist Leah Namugerwa who challenged world leaders to ensure that the ‘African’ COP would be one of action COP, the second day proved to be rather a special one for Eswatini.
Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini presented the country’s national statement on behalf of His Majesty King Mswati III, advocating for a loss and damage financing facility, stating that ‘we have come to a point where the urgency to mitigate and adapt is being overshadowed by the need to deal with the loss and damage we are already facing and experienced.’
“Unfortunately we have already lost a lot of time, with great disappointment, observed some developed countries not only failing to provide the promised funding, but also swing-back to fossil fuels despite the Glasgow Pact,” he said.
The PM said the world can no longer afford to reduce the need for the facility to a dialogue, and made a case in point with how the country’s is at the beginning of its rainfall season, but is still yet to recover from last season’s disaster impacts.
“Those disasters left people dead, others homeless and caused havoc to infrastructure, which also affected the country’s economic activities,” he said, adding that “this called for immediate action, especially with respect to building resilience and support for responding to the different losses and damages.
Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Moses Vilakati was beaming from ear to ear as he received the Best Urban Initiative of the Year Award for the ‘strengthening urban resilience in Eswatini’ project aptly known as SURE at the inaugural Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Investment Awards Ceremony.
The winning project beat others from Tanzania, Mauritius, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo.
When delivering the acceptance speech, minister Vilakati said the nation was humbled by the recognition, and explained briefly that the winning project was developed to address the impacts of the devastating flash floods that the country experienced in the recent past.
“These caused widespread damage to infrastructure in our cities, businesses, properties and lives. This is one project where disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation go hand in hand,” he said, elucidating on how the project directly addresses the adaptation contributions of Eswatini’s NDC, and also explained that the country’s goal was now to prioritise development and ensure an integrated approach to ‘green infrastructure’.
True to the minister’s word, bright and early the next day, he and his delegation comprising of the ministry of tourism and environmental affairs Principal Secretary Khangeziwe Mabuza, Chief Economist Sifiso Mamba, Director of Meteorology Duduzile Nhlengethwa-Masina, Climate Finance Advisor Sam Ogallah, as well as NDC Coordinator Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil started with an early morning meeting with the Secretary General of Commonwealth Secretariat Patricia Scotland.
Scotland offered support to Eswatini through the Commonwealth’s Living Lands Charter and other initiatives where technical assistance for mobilising resources could be provided.
“I extended my congratulations to the minister bon the excellent work of Eswatini, and receiving the Africa Investor award,’ said Scotland briefly in a tweet.
“We also discussed the successes of the Commonwealth advisor in terms of Climate Finance for Eswatini projects, digital trade, connectivity and investing in smart cities,” she continued.
Thereafter, the delegation then moved to the NDC Partnership Pavilion, where a side meeting titled, “Alignment of National Development Plan and Nationally Determined Contribution; Experiences from Eswatini” was being held.
Chief Economist Sifiso Mamba and Director Meteorology Duduzile Nhlengethwa-Masina gave presentations facilitated by NDC Coordinator Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil.
“Eswatini’s NDC process and NDP development were aligned through join programming and coordination by Ministry of Economic Planning and Development and Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs using a “whole of Government and whole of society” approach, which meant engaging stakeholders in both processes,” explained Nhlengethwa-Masina. On the fourth day, NDC Coordinator Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil participated in a panel discussion on “Climate Plans for Energy Resilience in Africa and Small Island States”, facilitated by Simon Benmarazze from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
After the agency’s Deputy Director General Gauri Singh gave the opening remarks, the panel then discussed on ways to boost energy transition and improve the resilience of energy systems in developing countries.
Pullanikkatil shared experiences from the country, where extreme weather events particularly cyclones have damaged energy infrastructure including transmission lines being uprooted.
“I also spoke about the need to provide skills to youth and women for the energy transition and mentioned UNDP’s initiatives such as the Energy Academy and Youth Fellowship which is working towards that goal. This will in turn reduce unemployment and allow for green skilling of young people,” she said.
Other speakers were from Jeff Bezos Earth Fund, EnAccess Foundation and Alliance for Rural Electrification, and Eswatini was invited to get in touch with Jeff Bezos Earth fund to explore catalytic funding to transition to a renewable energy pathway.
“Ours is a philantrophic fund that provides catalytic support to help countries transition into renewable energy, and we have billions of us dollars to do so,” said Nicole Iseppi from the Jeff Bezos Earth Fund.