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Africa faces $3trn climate change bill

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Africa faces $3trn climate change bill

People take part in a protest for climate action on September 20, 2019 in Durban, as part of a Global Climate action day.

For Africa to avoid the worst effects of climate change, the continent will have to find a staggering $3trn by 2030. In addition, it will have to develop the capacity to implement often complex systems to roll back the deadly effects of climate change. Wanjohi Kabukuru wonders if Africa can pull it off.

By 2030, Africa will need $3trn in conditional and unconditional financing as part of the continent’s climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy.

This is the conclusion from the submissions of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) deposited at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat, headquartered in Bonn, Germany.

For the goals of the Paris Agreement to be met, which essentially means succeeding in limiting the global rise of temperatures to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the climate action plans submitted by each country, known as NDCs, must be realised.

NDCs are a core part of the legally binding Paris Agreement, which was signed in December 2015 in the French capital with the ultimate goal of restricting global warming. 

“To close the financing gap for the implementation of the NDCs in Africa, it is estimated that about $3trn will be required by 2030,” detailed a communiqué issued by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), explaining the hurdle facing Africa as it rushes to cut carbon emissions and adopt climate-smart development pathways.

The African Development Bank (AfDB), which hosts the African NDC Hub, echoes this financial estimate.

The year 2020, frazzled by the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, closed on a high note as African countries rushed to file their NDC submissions to the UN climate change agency, which oversees the Paris Agreement.

This was the second phase of submissions of NDCs, which are submitted every five years, specifying how countries will combat climate change and scale down greenhouse gas emissions to meet global targets.

The Paris Agreement was designed with the acknowledgement that each country has its own peculiarities, accompanied by its own advancement strategies, as well as abilities, to marshal resources and capabilities at different levels.

As such, the Paris Climate Agreement, hailed as a champion of multilateralism and environmental diplomacy, accommodates varying in-country development stages and implementation capacities.

It offers countries a flexible voluntary window to determine their own pledges and structure targets and commitments towards attaining the global emissions objectives, while giving due consideration to their development priorities and respective realities.

Nature-based solutions

During the 2018 COP24 in Katowice, Poland, states agreed to adopt what is referred to as the Paris Rulebook, which includes the tracking and reporting of progress on NDC implementation as a prerequisite for operationalising the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement offers Africa an opportunity to adopt low-carbon development pathways, such as capitalising on its abundant renewable energy resources to power socio-economic transformation and nature-based solutions for adaptation and mitigation.

“Investing in nature-based solutions implies setting aside protected areas, or rehabilitating areas to provide resilience for climate change. For example, Seychelles’ marine-protected areas will provide critical spaces for the reproduction of species that are essential to the eco-system,” says Jean Paul Adam, director of the Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Division at UNECA.

“As we seek to build back better from the impact of Covid-19, countries will define new modalities for trade and commerce. It is essential that these modalities favour a low-carbon footprint and initiatives such as the European Green Deal seek to make direct linkages between market access for countries and their commitment to carbon emission targets.”

How to raise the finance?

It remains to be seen how the $3trn will be raised, given the decades-old disagreements on climate financing that pit the developed nations versus the developing ones. 

“Countries should look into the relevant and correct grey and green integrated infrastructure strategies that work for them and invest in ecosystem-based infrastructure as a primary line of defence. This also supports food and other livelihood security aspects at the same time,” says marine biologist Dr David Obura, head of the Coastal Oceans Research and Development, Indian Ocean centre (CORDIO), based in Kenya.

As part of the focused actions needed, they should “include set-back distances to protect themselves from storm surges and tsunami waves, but also attend to all the other things, such as roads being built well and in the right places, evacuation strategies being developed, maintained and fully operational,” he adds.

The present state of financial flows into Africa linked to climate change remains low and a far cry from the $100bn per year that was due to be coming in by 2020, pledged at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) in 2009. The lack of a centralised system to track climate finance has also made it difficult to track the North to South climate finance flows.

AMCEN has already hinted that the continent “faces a serious financing gap in responding to climate change, particularly adaptation financing.” Despite this, Africa has set high and ambitious targets on curbing emissions and pursuing climate-smart development pathways such as those advanced through nature-based solutions.

“Africa has received just 4% of global climate change finance, much of which has gone to mitigation, much lower than national expenditures on adaptation,” AMCEN notes – and suggests that the continent will need to blend “public and private finance, with global climate funds constituting a critical option.”

To achieve Africa’s goals, AMCEN details a raft of options including the usage of public finance to “de-risk, incentivise and aggregate investment, strengthening the private sector investments and ensuring financial innovation to attract private sector investment at scale.”

In its ‘Implementing Nationally Determined Contributions’ report, the UN Environment Programme notes that Africa will need to rely on a slew of financial sources within domestic avenues and budgetary processes, including tax sources, sovereign wealth funds, insurance assets, pensions, stock exchanges, bank assets, illicit financial flows, fuel subsidies and even financial wastage, to meet their unconditional NDC targets.

Mithika Mwenda, who leads the continental civil society coalition on climate change, the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), calls for the continual mainstreaming and integration of climate change measures into national development plans and grassroots socio-economic policies, as well as access to global climate finance, capacity and technology transfer.

Adaptation appears to be the main climate change focus for Africa. AMCEN, together with the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change, and the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC), have all anchored their main agendas on increased action on adaptation, and positioned this objective in the framework of NDCs under the single-minded African Adaptation Initiative (AAI).   

Other than this, while most African nations have mainstreamed climate change adaptation into their development agendas, the continent also has to contend with the challenge of the lack of capacity to collect, collate and analyse metadata sets on climate change, quantifying adaptation and mitigation targets, and establishing performance goals. 

Africa also acknowledges its historical baggage and sometimes dissimilar climate change interests, which on occasion deny the continent the ability to firm up a common position with unique Afro-centric ideals during the global climate negotiations.

The State of the Climate in Africa 2019 report by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) notes that even though Africa is the least contributor on carbon emissions, it faces “the greatest impacts of climate change”.

Read more about environmental issues in Wanjohi Kabukuru’s special report on the Blue Economy

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Written by Wanjohi Kabukuru

Wanjohi is an award-winning international environmental investigative journalist, whose specialty covers environment, geo-politics, business, conservation and the Indian Ocean marine development. Over the last 17 years Mr. Kabukuru has written extensively on energy, marine science and environmental conservation. His articles have been published in top-notch publications as African Business, African Banker, Inter Press Service (IPS), New African, BBC Focus on Africa, Mail & Guardian (South Africa), Africa Renewal, 100Reporters, and Radio France International (RFI) among numerous other publications.

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