Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

The Road to Paris: What’s at Stake for Africa?

In less than 200 days, the world is expected to agree upon a new climate protocol which will succeed the Kyoto protocol and govern the global climate regime post 2020. In investigating Africa’s stake in this global compact, the continents priorities within the context of available developmental and negotiating mechanisms should be considered given the vulnerability of this region to climate change impacts as attested by the latest scientific reports especially the 2nd Africa Adaptation Gap report.

Aside INDCs, SDGs and Africa’s Agenda 2063

Aside from Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) which would form the basis of negotiating the new climate deal in Paris, the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which hold much promise for Africa, as the global blue print for development post 2015 will constitute another key determinant of Africa’s policy priorities. These postulate that economic, social and environmental development are interlinked and must be addressed together. They also postulate that environmental resources will play a vital role in economic growth in developing countries.

Hence, to be relevant to Africa, the Paris agreement must be aligned with the SDGs, and Africa’s own key developmental blue prints – the common position on the post-2015 development agenda (CAP) and the AU Agenda 2063.

Collectively, these blue prints are synonymous with the increasingly important role that natural capital should play in global and regional development and lay an imperative to protect ecosystems. Consequently, priorities for both adaptation and mitigation for Africa are established.

Parity between Adaptation and Mitigation

The 15th session of the Africa Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) held in Cairo concluded with the Cairo Declaration that included inter alia, the need for parity between adaptation and mitigation in the Paris deal. It also called for the need to keep average global temperature rise within 1.50C relative to pre-industrial levels by 2050, signaling an ambitious mitigation call from the continent. This event also marked the launch of the 2nd Africa Adaptation Gap Report that called for ambitious mitigation action leading to deep global emissions reductions, and the need for an innovative financing model for adaptation that integrates up-scaled international financing with domestic regional and national level financing.

A framework for Defining Africa’s Priorities

Collectively, the INDCs, the COP20 call for climate action, the SDGs & CAP, the outcomes of the Geneva climate talks and the Cairo Declaration and 2015 Africa adaptation gap report should provide a framework defining Africa’s priorities.

Consequently, if the Paris deal is to be relevant to Africa, then including the following policy provisions will be strategic toward safeguarding ecosystems and natural capital that will be central to sustainable economic growth in the region

  1. Ambitious mitigation action that will result in a steep decline in global emissions in line with a 1.50C warming scenario.
  2. Technology transfer and capacity building to operationalize a Low Emissions Development (LED) strategy for the region.
  3. Ambitious international financing toward adaptation actions in line with the Cancun climate finance commitments of USD 100billion disbursement annually by 2020. For the subsequent periods, adequate (large-scale and increasing) and predictable funding must be mobilized.
  4. Commitment by Annex I countries to meet their climate obligations to support non-annex countries in line with the UNFCCC charter.
  5. Agreement should ensure adaptation and mitigation action is considered at a par by global players in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities based on respective capabilities.

Africa’s take – Beyond Paris and into the future

While failure in Paris is not an option for the global community, Africa should not passively wait but act in its best interests to ensure protection of its citizens and its ecosystems that underpin economic sectors and which will be key toward building climate resilient communities and economies now and in the future as well as taking action to actualize low carbon development. Taking steps towards leveraging any international support that will come out of Paris, with internal capacities towards implementing a resilient low carbon economy should be the way forward.

For a start, the 2nd Africa Adaptation Gap report documents that domestic resource mobilization efforts toward resilience building, at both national and regional level has potential to raise up to $3 billion annually to buttress international adaptation financing. The continent should fully exploit this potential by implementing self-financing proposals and recommendations captured in not only the gap report, but also in recent significant continental blue prints – the AU Agenda 2063, the AU/ECA High level panel report on illicit financial flows, as well as the Cairo Declaration, that calls for sustainable management of the continents natural capital to achieve the SDGs and eradicate poverty.

On mitigation, at present, the global low-carbon economy has grown close to $5 trillion this year. Africa should not be left out of this trillion dollar sector. In the energy sector for instance, an area of great potential in building low carbon economies, Africa can make great strides by taking practical steps to harness its vast renewable energy potential. Africa receives 325 days per year of sunlight and its hydro-power potential is estimated at 1,852 TWh annually, but is using less than 7%, and less than 2% of its geothermal capacity. Tapping into this potential should be a priority.

The climate challenges are immense but at the same time present an opportunity. Creating jobs and sustaining growth as well as eradicating poverty in a carbon-constrained world demands a restructuring of energy systems and a deeper appreciation of the boundaries of the ecological systems. It’s therefore imperative for Africa to seize this opportunity now and into the future.