US vows to avert ‘climate hell’ with COP27 commitments for Africa

By Julian Pecquet

Posted on Sunday, 13 November 2022 16:12
US President Joe Biden delivers a speech at COP27 climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. REUTERS

The US government has promised hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new assistance for Africa at the COP27 UN climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, as western powers come under pressure to push the envelope while helping the hardest-hit victims of a warming planet.

In his first trip to the African continent since taking office almost two years ago, President Joe Biden on 11 November announced doubling the annual US pledge to the international Adaptation Fund, $150m to help Africa adapt to and manage the impacts of climate change, and a funding package to boost Egypt’s transition to clean energy.

“The United States government is putting our money where our mouth is to strengthen accountability for climate risk and resilience,” Biden said.

Presidential promises

Biden’s $100m annual pledge to the Adaptation Fund, launched in 2007 to finance climate adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries, came a year after the $50m pledge that he had made at Glasgow’s COP26.

He also announced on Friday Africa-specific funding to accelerate the work of his President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) on the continent. The White House unveiled the plan last year, with the goal of providing $3bn in adaptation finance by FY2024.

“Today, as a down payment, we’re announcing more than $150m in initiatives that specifically support PREPARE’s adaptation efforts throughout Africa,” said Biden, who vowed to avoid a “climate hell”.

The new funding packages include:

  •     Expanding early warning systems to help cover Africa, including $15m to leverage long-standing relationships between the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and African weather services, in addition to a $13.6m contribution to the Systematic Observations Financing Facility, a UN trust fund that helps fill weather, water, and climate observation gaps in Africa
  •     $10m for the new Cairo Centre for Learning and Excellence on Adaptation and Resilience, which aims to build adaptation capacity across Africa
  •     An extra $3.5m to boost domestic efforts in the least developed countries, including Burkina Faso, Gambia, Malawi, and Uganda
  •     Granting the Africa Disaster Risk Financing Program and the African Risk Capacity Limited (ARC Ltd) $12m each to expand access to risk-based insurance 
  •     $25m for the African Union’s Africa Adaptation Initiative to launch a Food Security Accelerator aimed at boosting private sector investments in climate-resilient food security in Africa

“With US support, the Accelerator will help identify, structure and de-risk a pipeline of transformative adaptation investments in food security, helping to unlock private capital that is already standing ready to invest in these innovative solutions, ranging from cold storage logistics to climate resilient agriculture and post harvesting processes,” the administration says in a fact sheet of Biden’s announcements.

In addition, the US in partnership with Germany announced more than $250m in resources to unlock $10bn commercial investment to support Egypt’s green economy.

“This package will enable Egypt to deploy 10 GW of renewable energy by 2030, while bringing offline 5GW of inefficient gas-powered facilities, reducing emissions in Egypt and power sector by 10 percent,” Biden said. “We’ll also work with Egypt to capture nearly 4bn cubic metres of natural gas, which Egypt currently flares, vents, or leaks from its oil and gas operations.”

More government support

Biden’s new promises are part of the US’ larger scheme to combat climate change.

Earlier in the week, Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry announced the launch of an expanded carbon credit market system. The goal of the Energy Transition Accelerator is to fund renewable projects and accelerate clean energy transitions in developing countries, where financing is harder to come by.

“This concept holds enormous promise. We are working closely with governments and companies and NGOs on this. We can ensure it delivers finance at scale […] a just energy transition, with environmental integrity,” Kerry said at COP27.

Meanwhile the DFC, the US government’s development finance institution, announced it was accepting climate adaptation financing proposals in developing countries with an emphasis on four sectors: agriculture, water, built environment, and health. The goal is to help small and medium enterprises that have innovative solutions for tackling climate adaptation challenges.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of any economy – they generate millions of jobs, support communities, and empower people. At the same time, they have fewer resources to deal with extreme heat, flooding, drought, and other climate impacts we are increasingly seeing around the world,” DFC CEO Scott Nathan said in a statement. 

“That’s why we’re focused on supporting small businesses as they adapt to meet this challenge. DFC committed more than $390m for climate adaptation projects during the last fiscal year. We want to expand our work and help those most impacted by acting as a catalyst for private investment in developing countries.”

Finally, USAID announced it was expanding last year’s Comprehensive Action for Climate Change Initiative, a partnership with the African Union to reach the Paris Agreement goals of reducing carbon emissions and setting out long-term adaptation plans.

Up from only four African countries, the programme will now support 21 nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean while “working specifically with local communities, not just governments, so that people reap the benefits of the green energy transition”. Beneficiaries include Ghana, Zambia, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Guinea and Liberia.

USAID also announced a new Sustainable Banking Alliance to increase local banks’ capacity to access climate finance. The programme will kick off a pilot phase in Colombia and Rwanda with an initial budget of just over $1m.

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