Africa: Now is the time to unite and prepare for climate action!

Oluwaseun Oguntuase
By Oluwaseun Oguntuase

Centre for Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development, Lagos State University, Nigeria

Posted on Monday, 15 March 2021 14:27

President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde addresses an event to launch the private finance agenda for the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 at Guildhall in London, Thursday 27 February 2020.(Tolga Akmen/Pool via AP)

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) will be held this November in Glasgow. 

The Dasgupta Review, released after the conclusion of the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP25), is a 600-page comprehensive report that acknowledges the intimate relationship between climate change and biodiversity loss. The review submits that global climate change will increasingly be a major cause of biodiversity loss that will compromise the functional integrity of ecosystems, bringing about a chain of events that will radically alter the biosphere’s workings. 

Similarly, the UNFCCC’s Initial Synthesis Report measures the progress of national climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016.

Its goal is to limit global warming to well below two, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. The Paris Agreement works on a five-year cycle of increasingly ambitious climate actions carried out by countries. By 2020, countries submitted their NDCs, communicating which actions they will take to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in order to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Has there been progress?

Despite increased efforts by some countries, the combined impact of NDCs falls far short of what is required to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century.

According to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres: “[…]Governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Climate change is an exemplary illustration of inequality in the 21st century. Future climate will depend on committed warming caused by past anthropogenic emissions, as well as future anthropogenic emissions and natural climate variability.

The bulk of the temperature increase is due to historical emissions of developed countries that have attained their current levels of development through carbon-intensive growth since the pre-industrial period. The entire continent of Africa has contributed little to planetary warming, just 3.8%, but is disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change which are compromising the continent’s development and threaten the livelihoods of millions of Africans.

Africa’s challenge, and the solution

Finance remains the major challenge to climate action in Africa. Article 9 of the Paris Agreement requires developed country-parties to provide financial resources to assist developing country-parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation, in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention. Other Parties are encouraged to provide or continue to provide such support voluntarily. 

Global climate finance has reached record levels in recent years. The average annual public climate finance totalled  $253bn in 2017/18, representing 44% of total commitments. Private finance, which reached $326bn on average annually in 2017/18, continues to account for the majority of climate finance, at around 56%.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates show that the range of  $20-30bn per year will be required for climate change adaptation in Africa till 2030.

With the world on track to 3.5 – 4 degrees Celsius warming by 2100, the cost of adaptation for Africa could reach $50bn by the 2070s. It is important for African countries, under the auspices of the African Union, to have a unified voice at COP26. 

African negotiators at COP26 must press for more funds to adapt to the impact of climate change. They must ensure that developed countries do not merely redirect resources previously earmarked for other environmental and development areas to climate change, but that developed countries should provide new and additional financial resources, as stated in Article 4 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Efforts to qualify assistance towards combating the Covid-19 pandemic as climate finance must be resisted.

Africa should insist that major carbon emitters make significant cuts in their emissions in their NDCs to prevent dangerous warming and the occurrence of extreme weather and climate events.

The Small Island Developing States (SIDS), a coalition of some 40 low-lying islands which are also vulnerability hotspots for the impacts of climate change, will be a formidable partner for Africa at COP26 to arrive at a more favourable negotiation in respect of emission cuts. This decade is pivotal for climate action in Africa.

Bottom line

The Africa’s Adaptation Gap 2 report noted that implementation of climate action can only reach its full potential if complemented by comprehensive and effective national and regional policy planning, capacity-building and governance.

Transparency at public institutions to make every dime count is crucial to attract burgeoning private climate finance, to supplement public climate finance.

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