Africa gets clarity on Paris COP21 preparations and what to expect from it

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 23 January 2015 (ECA) – The Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) Programme today concluded a stock-taking exercise on Africa’s journey in the climate change negotiations through a three-day Expert Group Meeting which ran from 21 – 23 January 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was organized to streamline and sharpen Africa’s strategies and expectations from COP21 in Paris, France later this year.

Dr. Fatima Denton, Director of the Special Initiatives Division at the UN Economic Commission closed the meeting on a positive note, convinced that the meeting had definitely put Africa’s main players on climate change on a better footing as they strive to get the best for the Continent from the new agreement on climate change, scheduled to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

For three days participants thoroughly explored the pros and cons of definitions of new aspects of the negotiations such as the Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDC); Structural and Conjectural Issues affecting Africa’s Negotiation; including Adaptation and Loss and Damage; Technology transfer; Climate Finance; and, Capacity Development.

Dr. Bubu Pateh Jallow, Department of Water Resources, The Gambia described the meeting as “unique” in Africa’s history in climate negotiations, saying: “I don’t think this kind of meeting has ever been conducted for Africa, in the sense that we have always had meetings mostly to discuss prepared agenda items. But to come out of a COP session and have a meeting organized for Africa, this is the first time it has happened. And the issues we discussed were very pertinent, and will continue to be pertinent even beyond Paris21”.

“My suggestion is that a senior level meeting between the three institutions: AU, AfDB and ECA be convened to see how they can work together on critical issues discussed at this meeting so that it is clear what  each has to take up on behalf of all of Africa”, he stressed.

The Chair of the African Group of Negotiators, Mr. Elhassan Nagmeldin (of Sudan) was equally upbeat about the meeting, saying “this meeting has given us very useful perspectives in terms of our own performance on key negotiation issues.  We are now negotiating a new agreement and nobody in Africa will be happy if we make the same mistakes that we made in Kyoto Protocol.

“We had all thought the Kyoto Protocol had some elements that could help Africa better face climate impacts, but we soon saw that it did not. The Protocol has not benefitted Africa as the other regions because we didn’t pay full attention to some of the issues”, he regretted.

Dr. Seth Osafor, consultant in international environmental law and a veteran in climate negotiations supported Mr. Elhassan: “I think this meeting has helped us to look critically at our performances over the years. We have looked at some of our achievements, but we have also looked at some of our shortcomings.

“As we move towards Paris, we are trying to look at how effectively Africa can be organized to face the challenges. For instance, we have been looking at how we can enhance capacity of our negotiators but also at the kind of support that African ministers who attend COP meetings require to prepare better, because, at the end of the day, some of the decisions taken at the Conference are political decisions, and if our Ministers are not well briefed or equipped we have a problem, because they might not be able to deliver.”

Dr. Chukwumerije Okereke, prof. of Climate Change Governance at the University of Reading sounded a satisfactory note when he told ClimDev-Africa’s communication that: “I’m going away from this meeting with two important takeaways. The first is the understanding and the conviction that we actually do have a lot of African scholars who are well grounded in the science and politics of climate change. Therefore, the problem of Africa doesn’t seem to be capacity per se. The problem is how to organize and mobilize our capacity. I heard a lot of insightful presentations, commentaries and analysis coming out of this room which I am very delighted about.

“Secondly, I am going away with the understanding that a lot of our African negotiators understand the intricacies and the complexities of climate change negotiations. However, it is clear that although they understand these intricacies and complexities, they feel almost powerless to change any aspect of the negotiations. The main reason, and this may not sound palatable, is that they do not have real political backing from visionary leaders in Africa. We cannot expect the West to do this for us. The change has to start from within. The preparation has to begin from within. The vision has to be crafted from within. And we have to go to Paris as well as to other meetings to champion a narrative and cause that is consistent with our development aspirations.”

The meeting was hosted by the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), the research arm of the ClimDev-Africa consortium, under the theme: “Understanding the evolving landscape of Africa in the UNFCCC Negotiations: from Kyoto to Paris”. About 40 experts in different aspects of climate change negotiations from across the continent attended the meeting to share their perspectives and narratives on the negotiations landscape.

The outcome of the meeting will be extended outlines of documents that will facilitate understanding of the different elements of the negotiations, including the alignment of INDC to national development strategies of African countries; enhance abilities to support the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) meeting in Paris; improve Africa’s preparedness in accessing finance and technology; and, forge a strategy that ultimately results in a monitoring and evaluation framework for Africa’s climate negotiations.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in this era. In response to the impacts of climate change, the international community instituted the UNFCCC process to seek better ways of managing the phenomenon on global level.

Africa’s participation in the UNFCCC negotiations has recently been boosted by concerted effort to have an African Common Position for each session of the global climate talks. These efforts crystalized in Decision No. Assembly/Dec. 457(XX) of the coordination mechanism of the Committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) taken during the 2011 Malabo Summit authorising the Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) Programme, to organise and manage Africa’s participation at all COP events.

Issued by the Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa).