COP27: UK triples its pledges for Africa’s climate adaptation projects

By Anne-Marie Bissada

Posted on Wednesday, 9 November 2022 11:17
Family photo following the end of the AAAP meeting on 8 November 2022, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. (photo: @EBRDgreen)

Just ahead of COP27, the UK announced that it will triple its commitment to adaptation climate projects across Africa, making it one of the biggest contributors to the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP). However, all the money in the world won't help unless trade policies are fixed.

Just ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had  announced that the UK would triple adaptation its funding from £500 million in 2019 to £1.5 billion by 2025

On Tuesday, James Cleverly, secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs for the UK, said that at last year’s summit in Scotland, the UK announced that it would contribute £20m (22.9m) to the AAAP Upstream Financing Facility.

Cleverly added that the would then up this amount, committing to a package of £200 ($230m).

Other representatives from across Europe, as well as international organisations, also declared their pledges. The promised funds surpassed pledges announced at an initial summit in Rotterdam in September, which was widely seen as a disappointment.

The breakdown of the new commitments to the AAAP include:

  • UK: £200m
  • Netherlands: €110m ($110.8m), with €10m towards the Upstream Financing Facility, and €100m towards the Climate Action Window of the African Development Fund at AfDB

Paradoxical setup

During the high-level meeting on Tuesday, 8 November, Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current chair of the African Union, reminded participants that the current global setup is a paradox.

He said the West cannot ask Africa to pay for its own development projects in addition to adaptation projects to offset the impact of climate change, yet it contributes much less to global warming. “It’s a paradox that makes Africa a victim of the West.”

However, the AAAP is supported by many African leaders who see it as a way to level the playing field. It’s a joint project between the AfDB and the Netherlands-based Global Center on Adaptation, who are working together to mobilise $25bn over five years, to accelerate and scale climate adaptation projects across Africa.

“The AAAP is Africa’s response to the climate crisis to leverage investments in adaptation and resilience, not just to protect ourselves from the threat of climate change, but to drive a green economic growth agenda for prosperity,” Sall said just before Tuesday’s meeting.

Such projects can include improving infrastructure in coastal cities to prevent flooding or introduce agriculture that is less water-heavy in drought-stricken regions.

[…] this meeting today was a sort of a testimony that the adaptation movement is unstoppable

The problem remains the reluctance by some countries in the West to not only open their wallets, but also hand over the funds.

Speaking at the meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that right from the start, it would have been better to have funding and innovation geared towards mitigation, but that train has left the station.

He further insisted that pushing back against funding because of a “lack of money” is just an excuse. “In my opinion, there is plenty of money,” said Guterres.

‘Unstoppable movement’

According to IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva, Africa has enormous potential, but it is being stifled by the major polluting countries. She likened Africa to a “sleeping beauty” that is awaiting a kiss from her “prince” to wake her up from slumber.

“I think this meeting today was […] sort of a testimony that the adaptation movement is unstoppable,” Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, told The Africa Report after the pledges were announced.

The president of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, was equally positive. The bank will be launching another initiative to encourage local funding for projects.

“It’s like you’re in a forest. Everything green is related, is an ecosystem of support […] What you see is the support of the world behind the African Adaptation Acceleration Program […] so if you ask me how I feel today, I feel great,” he told The Africa Report.

Trade rules the world

On the backdrop of this positivity, however, is a warning from WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

“We need to recognise that while financing is very important, trade policy can block effort and this was the lesson we should have learned, or we should learn, from what happened [during] the pandemic.”

[…] leaving out trade policy from what is being done on the climate side is a big missing piece

She was referring to the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), which had enough money to purchase vaccines, but was blocked due to “trade policies, trade restrictions, and prohibitions both on the inputs for manufacturing the vaccines, and the exports of the finished product that didn’t allow the money to work”.

“[…] leaving out trade policy from what is being done on the climate side is a big missing piece,” she said.

A report to be launched at COP27 by the WTO includes policies for countries that need to be included into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and action plans to support adaptation. If trade policies are changed, then adaptation projects will be able to take off and spread.

The WTO head added that she had signed an MoU with Verkooijen’s Global Center on Adaptation.

“We have now a very practical collaboration, where we deep dive in certain countries to see which trade policies can be adjusted to basically make those countries more informed,” said Verkooijen.

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