COP26: Africa scores US promises on funding, energy, agriculture and more

By Julian Pecquet
Posted on Wednesday, 17 November 2021 18:11

Climate COP26 Summit
John Kerry, United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate gestures during a press conference at the end of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Home to 15% of the world population but just 4 % of global carbon emissions, Africa is bearing an uneven burden in the fight against global climate change. Redressing that unfair situation was a key theme of the US intervention at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Building on President Joe Biden’s commitment at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September – to quadruple US climate aid to poor countries to $11bn a year – American officials pledged billions of dollars in funding, a slew of new programmes as well as help for African nations to reduce their emissions and cope with climate change.

“We have an obligation to support partner countries across Africa as you strive to develop and deepen and implement your [climate-action plans and pledges],” USAID Administrator Samantha Power told the conference. “This is something you’ve long asked for. We were absent for the last four years … and we are owning up to our obligation here today.”

Power made the remarks at the 8 November launch of the Comprehensive Africa Climate Change Initiative, a signature initiative between USAID and the African Union Commission that seeks to help African nations meet the Nationally Determined Contribution [NDC] climate action pledges they made following the 2015 Paris Agreement. USAID and the AU are working with two African partners – the nonprofit AKADEMIYA2063, based in Rwanda, and the pan-African Regional network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes, based in Zambia.

Josefa Sacko, the AU commissioner for agriculture, rural development, blue economy and sustainable environment, joined Power during the launch. She welcomed the US “back to the family of climate action” in an implicit rebuke of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

Sacko pointed out that Africa was the first bloc of nations to commit to NDCs after the Paris Agreement.

“But until now, due to financial constraints and all the challenges we have been facing, we haven’t been implementing it,” she said. “And it is important [that] our partners [walk] hand-in-hand with us.”

From rainforest conservation to nuclear energy, here’s a review of the Biden administration’s Africa-focused announcements at the conference to help the continent meet the climate change challenge:

Climate finance

On 8 November, USAID announced a mobilisation target of $150bn in public and private climate finance by 2030, through the leveraging of Biden’s UNGA pledge. South Africa is among several developing countries around the world that have agreed to partner with the US to mobilise private finance for renewable energy.

In collaboration with the State Department, USAID also pledged to contribute $21.8m for disaster risk financing in Africa “so that African countries can access and layer disaster risk financing, including insurance coverage, needed to successfully manage increasingly frequent and intense climate-related extreme weather events.”

Agriculture

With agricultural activities and related land-use changes deemed responsible for a third of global greenhouse emissions, changing the way humans produce their food was a key focus of the COP26 summit. On 2 November, President Biden launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate), a collaboration between the US government and the United Arab Emirates that seeks to increase investments in “climate-smart agriculture.”

The effort has garnered $4bn in investment promises over the next five years, with the US government seeking to mobilise $1bn. Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya and Morocco have signed up as partners.

USAID’s commitment to the effort includes an investment of at least $215m over five years to support the France-based Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR), with the aim of helping 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia raise their agricultural productivity by 25% no later than 2030.

Conservation

USAID is taking a lead role in President Biden’s plan to preserve rainforests, which play a key role in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. The Plan to Conserve Global Forests: Critical Carbon Sinks, also unveiled by the president at the COP26 summit on 2 November, calls for the protection of the Congo Basin rainforest and other critical ecosystems. It seeks to incentivise conservation and restoration; catalyse private sector investment and action; build long-term capacity; and increase conservation ambition.

The US also joined the COP26 Congo Basin Joint Donors’ Statement, announcing an initial collective pledge of at least $1.5bn to support preservation of the Congo Basin forests.

Meanwhile, USAID has announced a target to support the protection, restoration, or management of 100m hectares of critical landscapes – an area more than twice the size of California – by 2030.

Other activities announced at COP26 include:

  • A new $15m investment by USAID to support local conservation-friendly enterprises and avert threats to biodiversity, carbon-rich forests, and peatlands as part of the Conservation through Economic Empowerment for the Republic of Congo (CEERC);
  • The Forest Data Partnership between the World Resources Institute, Unilever, Google, NASA, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to create reliable and accessible data on forests and lands in West Africa and other regions;
  • Cocoa for Climate, a new public-private partnership with chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut to combat deforestation and improve native forest restoration in cocoa supply chains in key countries, including the Ivory Coast.

Energy

Last but not least, support for renewable energy was also high on the COP26 agenda:

  • On 3 November, the State Department announced that Kenya had been selected as a partner in its Foundational Infrastructure for the Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program. The new initiative provides capacity-building support to help partner countries establish responsible nuclear power programs using smaller, less costly reactors that require less water to operate. Five sub-Saharan African partners have also been selected for regional FIRST projects, but they have not been publicly identified;
  • On 3 November, the Department of Energy announced that it is partnering with Egypt and Nigeria as part of its new Net Zero World Initiative. The effort allows select countries to work with DOE’s national laboratories and other US government offices to “create and implement highly tailored, actionable technology road maps and investment strategies that put net zero within reach”;
  • The Department of Energy also announced that it is partnering with Kenya and South Africa to scale up the development, financing, and adoption of low to zero emission clean energy innovations via its Global Clean Technology Incubator Network;
  • On 4 November, the State Department launched the Clean Energy Demand Initiative (CEDI) – a collaboration with the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, RE100 and the World Resource Institute – to support countries and companies working together to advance “shared clean energy goals by leveraging corporate clean energy commitments.” Nigeria participated in the launch;
  • On 6 November, the USAID’s Power signed a memorandum of understanding with the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) with the aim of creating clean energy generation and access for sub-Saharan Africa. The program aims to deliver reliable and affordable electricity access to all households, businesses, and institutions in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. That same day, she also signed a renewed MOU with the Government of Norway, committing the two partners to continue supporting energy access in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • Finally, the US and European countries pledged $8.5bn at the summit to help South Africa transition away from coal, in a move that will be closely watched by other countries looking to move to cleaner energy. The country currently gets 80% of its energy needs from coal, making it the world’s 12th biggest carbon dioxide emitter. Another nine African countries – Botswana, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal, Somalia and Zambia – were among the more than 40 nations at the summit that pledged to shift away from coal.

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