UN's 'global stocktake' on climate is offering a sober emissions reckoning − but there are also signs of progress

When this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference begins in late November 2023, it will be a moment for course correction. Seven years ago, nearly every country worldwide signed onto the Paris climate agreement. They agreed to goals of limiting global warming – including key targets to be met by 2030, seven years from now.

A primary aim of this year’s conference, known as COP28, is to evaluate countries’ progress halfway to the 2030 deadlines.

Reports show that the world isn’t on track. At the same time, energy security concerns and disputes over how to compensate countries for loss and damage from climate change are making agreements on cutting emissions tougher to reach.

But as energy and environmental policy researchers, we also see signs of progress.

Global stocktake raises alarms

A cornerstone of COP28 is the conclusion of the global stocktake, a review underway of the world’s efforts to address climate change. It is designed to pinpoint deficiencies and help countries recalibrate their climate strategies.

A report on the stocktake so far stressed that while the Paris Agreement has spurred action on climate change around the globe, current policies and promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions still leave the world on a trajectory that falls far short of the agreement’s aim to limit warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial temperatures.

Governments worldwide plan to produce twice as much fossil fuel in 2030 than would be allowed under a 1.5 C warming pathway, another U.N.-led report released in early November found.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 C rather than 2 C (3.6 F), may appear to be a minor improvement, but the accumulated global benefits of doing so could exceed US trillion.

Escalating greenhouse gas emissions are the primary factor driving the rise in global temperatures. And fossil fuels account for over three-quarters of those emissions.

To avoid overshooting 1.5 C of warming, global greenhouse gas emissions will have to fall by about 45% by 2030, compared with 2010 levels, and reach net zero around 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

But emissions aren’t falling. They rose in 2022, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. The global average temperature briefly breached the 1.5 C warming limit in March and June 2023.

A line chart of daily temperatures since 1940, by month, shows how extreme 2023’s temperatures have been. Years before 2014 are in gray. <a href="https://climate.copernicus.eu/tracking-breaches-150c-global-warming-threshold" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:European Union Earth Observation Program;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">European Union Earth Observation Program</a>

The global stocktake unambiguously states that, to meet the Paris targets, countries must collectively be more ambitious in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. That includes rapidly reducing carbon emissions from all economic sectors. It means accelerating adoption of renewable energy such as solar and wind power, implementing more stringent measures to stop and reverse deforestation, and deploying clean technologies such as heat pumps and electric vehicles on a wide scale.

The significance of phasing out fossil fuels

The report underscores one point repeatedly: the pressing need to “phase out all unabated fossil fuels.”

Fossil fuels currently make up 80% of the world’s total energy consumption. Their use in 2022 resulted in an all-time high of 36.8 gigatons of CO2 from both energy combustion and industrial activities.

Despite the risks of climate change, countries still provide huge subsidies to the oil, coal and gas industries. In all, they provided about US Kora: in search of the origins of west Africa’s famed stringed musical instrument https://theconversation.com/kora-in-search-of-the-origins-of-west-africas-famed-stringed-musical-instrument-216287 Fri, 10 Nov 2023 16:51:50 +0000 tag:theconversation.com,2011:article/216287 The extraordinary documentary Ballaké Sissoko: Kora Tales takes a journey from Mali to The Gambia. Eric Charry, Wesleyan University “How come we’ve never heard of this beautiful instrument until now?” This was posted by a first-year college student to my world music course discussion board recently. He voiced what many of his peers probably felt after watching the extraordinary documentary Ballaké Sissoko, Kora Tales.

The film, available for free online, follows Sissoko, a world class musical artist, from his home in Bamako, Mali to a sacred well and baobab tree in The Gambia on the Atlantic coast. In the film, the award-winning Sissoko revisits his childhood homeland and traces the origins of the instrument that became his destiny.

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Sissoko is a jeli (called a griot by outsiders) – a hereditary oral historian and musician attached to the ruling class. Like generations before him, he plays the kora, a unique kind of harp that’s indigenous to the western African savannah. It has 21 strings and is played with four fingers. And it can create dazzling, dense musical textures as well as thin shimmering veneers that accompany the delivery of deep oral history. It is one of the most sophisticated handmade musical instruments in the world, both in its musical capabilities and the depth of its tradition.

Ballaké Sissoko: Kora Tales is a beautifully made film that should be seen by everyone interested in African culture and history.

Kora’s global spread

If you haven’t heard of the kora, it’s not for lack of exposure. Dozens and dozens of kora albums have been released since Gambian Jali Nyama Suso’s debut solo album in 1972. The kora has won more Grammy Awards in the World/Global Music category than the sitar. An album featuring the kora with the BBC Symphonic Orchestra was released in 2023. The reach of the kora beyond western Africa is expansive. It can be heard on recordings by musicians across the world.

I first heard the kora on a 1973 album by Gambian Alhaji Bai Konte. It was an early formative experience that put me on the path towards becoming an ethnomusicologist. In the 1980s, Senegalese-American kora player Djimo Kouyate inspired me to study regional differences in kora playing in four neighbouring countries. I wound up in Bamako, living three doors down from Ballaké Sissoko, studying with Sidiki Diabaté (father of Toumani), who lived two doors down. That became the basis of my first book in 2000, Mande Music.

The history

Constructed from a large half calabash, cowhide, thick wooden neck and leather tuning loops and strings (now nylon), the kora is several centuries old. Precursors go back much further.

It is intimately intertwined with the history of the Mande homeland along the Niger River, slicing through modern-day Mali and Guinea. This chiefdom rose to power in the 1200s when the legendary Sunjata conquered an oppressive king, Soumaoro Kante, with the help of neighbouring allies. Kante owned the primordial bala (also called balafon), a magical xylophone, which was passed on to the jeli (griot) of Sunjata. His name was Balla Faséké Kouyaté and his ancestors guard that very instrument in a hut in northeastern Guinea.

In 2008 Unesco declared the instrument a site of intangible cultural heritage and today a museum is being constructed on the site. At its height, the Mande empire extended across much of western Africa and its mines supplied most of the gold circulating in Europe. A visit to Mecca by Mande king Mansa Musa in the 1300s secured his reputation as one of the wealthiest people in the history of the world. Migrations westward to the Senegambia region led to the development of a related language and culture, Mandinka.

Just as the bala (Mande xylophone) has origins in Mali in the 1200s, the kora has origins in the Kaabu federation of the Senegambian Mandinka in the 1700s. Traditionally, jelis have the exclusive right to play both of these instruments. Many origin stories of musical instruments in Africa refer to a jinn (genie) first bringing it out. So it is with the kora.

What the film is about

One of my favourite lines in the documentary comes from Sissoko’s aunt Kadiatou Diabaté, herself a jeli:

This person before you, he was born with the kora. The seventh generation of his lineage. Even if you just touch him, out comes the sound of one of the strings.

Travelling by car, Sissoko leaves his capital city Bamako for a voyage of over 1,000km west to the birthplace of the kora on the Gambian coastline. All of this was part of the Mande empire at its height, as far as the northern reaches of the Niger River at Timbuktu. Sissoko stops at Sibi, where Sunjata is said to have united his armies, made pacts and created the governing constitution of what would become the largest empire in Africa.

The cinematography of the countryside, much of it from aerial drones, is magnificent. Passing through southern Senegal, they cross the Casamance River by boat for a visit with kora master Malan Diébaté. This is kora country and a half dozen kora players appear, singing the praises of Sissoko and his lineage.

They are accompanied by the women in their extended family tapping out a diasporic source of the signature Cuban clave pattern.

Diébaté recounts the supernatural origins of the kora, and Sissoko takes off for that very spot, Sanementereng in The Gambia. In one sense all musical instruments are magical, given the impact they may have on our lives. Widespread oral traditions attribute the origins of the kora to this specific place on the Gambian coast. When Sissoko arrives here towards the end of the documentary, at a sacred well and a baobab tree that marks the spot, it is a moving experience.

Inspiring work

The writers and directors of the film, Lucy Durán and Laurent Benhamou, have done inspiring work in conveying the beauty of the landscape, the depth and humanity of the tradition, and the artistic persona of Sissoko.

Professor of music and former radio presenter Durán has an awesome track record in this part of the world over many decades, from producing early albums by Toumani Diabaté and other Malian artists to Growing Into Music, a pioneering documentary film series laying bare the process of children learning the musical arts of jelis in Mali and Guinea.

Narrated by French-Malian rap star Oxmo Puccino, the documentary takes you deep into one of Africa’s great classical traditions through the eyes of one of its great artists. For the eyes, ears and collective cultural memory, this film is a treasure.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization bringing you facts and trustworthy analysis to help you make sense of our complex world.Like this article? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

It was written by: Eric Charry, Wesleyan University.

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Eric Charry does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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