The Paris Agreement came into being after protracted negotiations over many years, marked in particular by the failure of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which had met in Copenhagen in 2009, to usher in a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. The Paris Agreement, as stated in its article 2, is aimed at holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Its implementation would be based on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and relevant capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances. In terms of the Paris Agreement, the submitted intended nationally determined contributions become the commitments of the parties to take collective action to implement economy-wide or sector-wide reductions of greenhouse gases emissions that will be evaluated, beginning in 2018. A key component of this accord is that developed countries will make finance and technology available to support developing nations in implementing their nationally determined contributions and adapting to a changing climate.
Although the Paris Agreement has been hailed as a landmark achievement in multilateralism, it was deliberately crafted with weak, self-determined targets and no enforcement mechanisms in order to avoid the challenges experienced with the Kyoto Protocol. This has significant implications for the achievement of the Paris Agreement’s goals. Overall, the commitments made under it are not sufficient to meet the 2oC target, with the most optimistic of projections indicating that full implementation of the targets will, at best, put the world on course for a 2.7oC warming. For Africa, it is important to note that a global average warming of 2oC would imply temperature increases of greater than 4oC on most of the continent, with disastrous consequences for economies, infrastructure and livelihoods. The challenge for the continent is how the various rules and regulations crafted to guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement, including the application of the ratchet-up mechanism, will be applied to support increased ambition beyond the current nationally determined contributions levels to prevent irreversible warming.
As with other parties to the Paris Agreement, African States have, through their nationally determined contributions, undertaken to reduce their emissions through various actions focusing on eliminating fossil fuel-based and land use-based emissions. There are, however, significant differences in the structure and content of the contributions, although the focus is on the calculation of domestic anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gas emissions, clarification of the mitigation pathways to be adopted and a description of the fairness and reasonableness of their contribution to global climate actions. The contributions also project the cost of the implementation of the adaptation and mitigation actions and the expectations of the source of the financing of such actions between domestic (unconditional) and non-domestic (conditional) finance. By and large, Africa’s contributions will require significant inflows of conditional finance to be implemented.
Many African countries have made considerable progress in preparing for the implementation of nationally determined contributions, including carrying out consultations with various stakeholders, developing implementation plans, designing institutional arrangements and coordination mechanisms and designing monitoring, reporting and verification systems to measure progress made in achieving the goals of the contributions.
Converting nationally determined contributions into investment plans and other climate actions requires the appropriate enabling environment, including aligning contributions with the existing national plans and enhanced capacity-building interventions. According to the 2016 African Capacity Index of the African Capacity-Building Foundation, more than 97 per cent of 44 African countries surveyed had a very good policy environment and processes for the implementation of capacity-building initiatives. On the other hand, very few countries (less than 16 per cent) had committed and implemented resources to achieve planned outcomes, while very few African institutions were producing enough skilled human resources to meet market demand for skills in climate planning, science and engineering.
Partnerships with regard to nationally determined contributions
Nationally determined contributions are central to addressing both mitigation and adaptation actions and are, to varying extents, dependent on the financing modalities for implementation. Crucially for Africa, mitigation actions will pivot around avoiding emissions, given the low level of fossil fuel-intensive activities on the continent. This presents Africa with very real opportunities to leapfrog the carbon technologies that have driven the industrialization of developed countries and to embark on industrialization technologies that are green and climate-resilient. African contributions are the central component of development policies that are intended to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In order to promote long-term climate actions and mobilize the means of implementation, various institutions have established partnerships regarding contributions with national, subnational, non-State and private sector actors on policies, strategies and actions tailored to the individual needs of African countries. Such partnerships include the Africa Nationally Developed Contributions Hub, the African Partnership Facility for Nationally Determined Contributions, the Nationally Determined Contributions Partnership and the new nationally determined contributions facility of the Agence française de développement.
The Africa Nationally Determined Contributions Hub, led by the African Development Bank, supports African countries in the development of strategies and implementation mechanisms for their contributions. It also provides technical assistance on strategy development regarding the contributions, facilitating access to climate finance, scientific knowledge, capacity-building, peer-to-peer learning, best practice sharing, monitoring and evaluation, and project origination.
The African Partnership Facility for Nationally Determined Contributions, led by ClimDev-Africa, is aimed at building on the same global solidarity framework upon which the intended nationally determined contributions were established in order to provide the physical and virtual space to facilitate the sharing of information, knowledge and skills to develop the ability to undertake and learn from the implementation of nationally determined contributions in a way that maintains alignment with national development aspirations and shapes future economic growth under climate change.
The Nationally Determined Contributions Partnership, hosted by the World Resources Institute and the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is also aimed at supporting countries in defining processes, policies and plans to advance the implementation of nationally determined contributions, while facilitating access to targeted technical assistance and fostering greater collaboration across sectors. It is also intended to raise awareness of and enhance access to climate support initiatives, best practices, analytical tools and resources, and is used to work with governments to better understand and address constraints so that those governments may gain access to bilateral and international support programmes. The Partnership is also intended to align development finance initiatives more strongly and coherently with the implementation of the contributions.
The new nationally determined contributions facility of the Agence française de développement is aimed at, among other things, strengthening countries’ “climate” governance, translating their contributions into sectoral public policies and designing transformational “climate” programmes/projects, with a priority focus on adaptation.