Climate talks fail to tackle Africa’s priorities, again

By Théau Monnet
Posted on Wednesday, 18 December 2019 12:51

Seyni Nafo, Africa's spokesperson at COP 25 and Mali's climate ambassador, on 16 September 2015 in Abidjan./Olivier for GJA

African countries were left disappointed at the 25th meeting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 25) in Madrid this year. No agreement was reached on carbon market rules to finance climate change projects in developing countries.

Spokesperson for the African delegation, Seyni Nafo explains the diplomatic stalemate.

Despite a 42-hour extension, the Madrid talks failed to tackle Africa’s biggest agenda item: Redefining Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Article 6 is a rule that regulates the global market for trading carbon credits (ie. the right to pollute). Carbon credits help poorer countries to finance their clean energy projects while offsetting the costs of cutting emissions in developed nations.

The African continent generates only 4% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It has been calling for more robust rules on trading carbon credits to improve financing of climate adaptation projects on the continent. The talks failed to deliver on this crucial agreement. Once again, delegates agreed to postpone the decision for another year.

Spokesperson for the Africa group in charge of climate negotiations, Seyni Nafo spoke to us at the conclusion of COP25.

How would you describe the outcome of COP 25?

The outcome is mixed. The expected landmark agreement on market mechanisms, which was already due to be concluded last year, has still not been reached.

What were the expectations of African countries?

We wanted to reach an agreement with clear and robust rules to limit global warming. This would have required a carbon market that would have agreed on carbon credit accounting for all countries, developed and developing, without any leakage being allowed. But this agreement has once again been postponed until next year.

We also wanted to systematise a levy of 2 to 3% on each sale of these carbon credits, regardless of their direction (North-North, North-South, South-South), in order to finance adaptation measures for the countries most vulnerable to climate change, which particularly concerns Africa.

Finally, we asked that all these measures be supervised by the United Nations, because it is the forum that, in our opinion, guarantees the highest level of safety to operate this system and guarantees environmental integrity.

What do you mean by ‘environmental integrity’?

This is the global objective: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.8% according to experts, to limit global warming to 2°C by 2030.

(READ Scenarios: What will happen in Africa by 2050 if global warming exceeds 2°C?)

Why did the negotiations fail?

Let us be clear, the major powers are not making an effort to promote the climate and there is no real leadership, which prevents ambitious decisions from being taken. And, the geopolitical context does not lend itself to this, particularly with the United States, which has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement.

The country chairing a COP must also make a minimum of diplomatic efforts throughout the year to prepare for the negotiations, which has been very difficult for Chile, given the events faced by the country this year. [Editor’s note: the COP was scheduled to take place in Santiago but was moved to Madrid due massive protests in Chile]

Globally, scientists are constantly warning about the worsening climate situation, and young people are mobilising, despite this, we have clear evidence of a lack of political will.

What are the consequences of global warming in Africa, and which areas are affected?

The risks are as much economic as humanitarian and political. The arid areas of southern Africa are threatened by flooding and drought, which threatens agricultural yields in countries where agriculture employs 70% of the population. The climate shock can lead to humanitarian disasters.

The Congo Basin, which is Africa’s second green lung, is in the midst of deforestation.

Finally, all the continent’s coastal areas, i.e. 35 African countries, are under threat. Infrastructure (particularly ports and tourism) and investments in the area are threatened by coastal erosion.


This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique

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