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COP-26, a golden opportunity for the UK in Africa

By Olivier Caslin
Posted on Tuesday, 23 March 2021 11:44, updated on Wednesday, 24 March 2021 09:12

Alok Sharma Britain's Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy walks through Downing Street to attend a cabinet meeting in London, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. Britain's Parliament resumes Tuesday following the summer break. LKW114/20245336994367//2009011122

London is yet to unveil a clear strategy ahead of the UK-Africa Investment Summit scheduled for November in Glasgow, even though the new environmental technology sector is one a key asset of British companies, particularly in Africa.

London to Glasgow is a short distance. Since the second edition of the summit could not physically take place in London in January this year, the British Cabinet might consider taking advantage of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) scheduled to place from 1 to 12 November in Scotland, to measure the country’s post-Brexit influence.

“It’s a fantastic forum to make its environmental and economic agenda known. But with nine months to go before the event, London has so far provided few details about its priorities,” a regular attendant of such meetings says.

As far as Africa is concerned, the UK is content to announce its commitment to its partners on the continent for the development of renewable energies, using the expertise of its recognised companies in the sector as well as the capital city.

Difficult union

“In this area, the British Cabinet relies heavily on the private sector,” observes an economist specialising in environmental issues.

This is particularly true in the sector of new technologies linked to the environment, identified by the British government as one of the country’s main assets, similar to its financial or energy sectors, especially in Africa.

But London has so far failed to set up an agenda that would allow the Glasgow meeting to fulfil its stated objective of “uniting the world to combat climate change”.

Regulatory resistance

The local press regrets that the Prime Minister “failed to see the political gains to be made by joining forces with Joe Biden, the new US president, to unite the international community around a roadmap to energy transition”.

“The British are too resistant to regulations,” says the environmental expert. “Especially when [those regulations] force companies to pay penalties when they do not meet their environmental targets. ”

COP26 President Alok Sharma (a former minister of Bengali origin who served in the Theresa May and British Johnson governments) who was appointed at the beginning of 2020, will therefore have the difficult task of advancing debates that lead to implementation of resolutions that were agreed to in Paris six years earlier and to chart a way forward to Glasgow, between preserving the world’s ecological heritage and his country’s own interests.

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