By: Morgan Riley, Acting Head, British Office Hargeisa
On the 1st and 2nd November, 120 world leaders gathered in Glasgow for the most important international climate negotiations yet. COP26 is the biggest diplomatic event the UK has hosted since the Second World War and the commitments made will be critical to limiting global warming and protecting Somaliland, the region, and the whole world from this existential crisis.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report states that the consequences of the current global warming crisis are largely irreversible, and extreme events like drought and floods will become even more common.
For Somaliland, the devastating impacts of climate change are a daily reality. Over the past year alone, the failed rains, severe floods and locust swarms have destroyed crops and livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of people in Somaliland. The loss of rain-fed pasture is threatening the survival of livestock which is the foundation of many Somalilanders’ livelihoods. Already many people have to travel long distances in search of water and pasture for their animals.
This is happening despite Somaliland and the region bearing almost none of the historic responsibility for global emissions. This is grossly unfair. With UK hosting COP26, we are keeping the region’s climate needs front and centre and we are working to ensure the needs of vulnerable communities in Somaliland are recognised and addressed.
The UK has invested £20m to increase the availability of clean, affordable and renewable energy. Our investments in the construction of hybrid mini-grids in Badhan, Berbera, Borama, Buhodle, Burao, Erigavo, Gabiley and Sheikh have increased Somaliland’s generating capacity by 1.9 MW, and reduced reliance on diesel power generation. This has cut carbon emissions by 2900 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually and enabled electricity service providers (ESPs) to lower their tariffs by an average of 42% across Somaliland.
The access to more affordable energy delivered through this project is helping people to connect, businesses to grow and social institutions to improve their services. For example, a Hargeisa-based baker who was previously paid $400 a month on electricity is now paying half of that. From regularly switching off air conditioning and security lights to reduce overheads and working at night when rates were cheaper, the bakery is now employing more staff and increasing production of higher-margin products during daylight hours.
The potential of renewable energy generation in Somaliland is huge, and there is no better time to switch to renewable energy for not only a better economy but a safer planet. Those ESPs who already started to generate a significant share of their electricity from renewable energy deserve the highest commendation.
Climate change affects people’s access to goods and services. The UK is supporting infrastructure in Somaliland to ensure that ordinary people from across the region benefit from economic development. The UK-funded Hargeisa bypass has been designed to ensure it is resistant to shocks and uses materials that do not damage the environment. Our investments in urban water supplies, critical access routes, ports and agricultural development through the Somaliland Development Fund are all designed to increase Somaliland’s resilience to climate change.
There is also much that can be achieved at a local level. The use of charcoal for cooking encourages the cutting of trees and leads to a grave environmental degradation which in turn impairs the pastoral economy. Alternative sources of cooking energy, like gas, are indispensable. As part of the transition a shift to more sustainable forms of charcoal production, making use of harmful invasive species like garanwaa for example, can also be part of the solution here. Somaliland’ enforcement of a ban on plastic bags will help curb plastic pollution. We have been doing our bit at the British Office Hargeisa by transitioning to the use of renewable water bottles to curb our usage of single use plastic. We also salute the efforts of Somaliland’s newly elected mayor to clean up the urban environment.
COP 26 continues this week, concluding on Friday. Many important commitments have already been made, including:Over 130 countries covering more than 90% of the world’s forests have endorsed the
Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests & Land Use committing to work collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
A 190-strong country coalition agreed to both phase out coal power and end support for new coal power plants.
Over $130 trillion of private finance is now aligned to science-based net zero targets and near-term milestones, through the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero.
Almost 90% of global emissions and over 90% of global GDP are now covered by mid-century net zero or carbon neutrality commitments.
Leaders have made clear their expectation that COP26 should accelerate action by 2030: a successful conclusion to COP 26 negotiations is now needed to support this, with negotiators working together to accelerate climate action in this crucial decade.
Glasgow needs to deliver for Somalilanders, the region and the world. Join us in calling for greater action at COP26 this week to make a difference.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.
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