- Main Themes
- Africa at COP21
- Africa Climate Talks (ACTs)
- Climate Diaries
The negotiation text for the Paris COP 21 was published in February 2015. Several key themes in the text will occupy the negotiators in Paris. While climate change is a global concerns, there are historical, regional and local specificities which ensure that of the main themes under negotiation, some will have more significance for Africa than other continents, and Africa will seek outcomes from these themes that support the continent’s sustainable development, adaptation and mitigation goals. Of these, none is more significant than the question of climate finance and other means of implementation. Also significant for the continent are the questions surrounding the founding principles of the UNFCCC and Kyoto protocol, the Precautionary Principle, the Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility, and the principle of sustainable development. Successive COPs of the UNFCCC have had the effect of refining and the interpretations of these principles in ways that have caused concern among some African constituencies. These concerns are reflected in efforts to uncover the extent to which the Paris accord will represent shifts in the global interpretations of these principles, and the implications of these reinterpretations for Africa. Of particular concern is the question of how climate science is generated and deployed to inform global climate policy positions, and how these are implemented through mechanisms of the UNFCCC.
The extant climate science confirms that climate change is not a distant prospect but a current reality. Climate change is unequivocal, and the impacts are already being felt in many different spheres of life. But in particular, climate change is negatively affecting the livelihoods of the most vulnerable communities, especially small-island developing states, fisher-folk, rural smallholders and other natural resource dependent communities across the African continent. For such communities whose livelihoods are dependent on climate sensitive activities such as agriculture and fishing, adaptation to climate change is imperative. Adaptation must also occur at the municipal, state and global levels. At these local levels, the capacity to adapt to climate change impacts is determined by the underlying social and economic weaknesses that also determine vulnerability to climate change impacts in the first place. These underlying weaknesses include access to resources, land tenure, health and education, and the wider enabling environment created by strong and accountable local and wider governance systems. Adaptation at the local level is therefore difficult to separate from development. Some observers have therefore called for a ‘development first’ approach to adaptation that addresses the vulnerability context, rather than addressing the impacts of climate change alone.
While climate change entails a slew of negative impacts on livelihoods and economies, and even an existential threat to whole nations as in the case of small-island developing states (SIDS), it also offers some opportunities. At a broad developmental level, it is acknowledged that given the correct level of support and enabling environment, climate change could stimulate developing economies into adapting sustainable development paths. At more localized levels, the transition to carbon neutral development pathways offers entrepreneurial opportunities to investors, new opportunities and spaces for policy makers to address equity concerns in gender and youth policies, as well as opportunities to revisit questions of regional and international articulations of economies. However, the opportunities from climate change are attenuated significantly by the costs of climate change. In Africa, there is a need to negotiate the balance between costs and benefits carefully and develop a narrative that is realistic and supports a progressive position on climate response strategies.
Finally, there can be no doubt that the narrative of climate change is highly political, and that the political context shapes the nature of the global climate governance framework. To be sure, significant efforts have been made by African researchers and activists to analyze the political economy of global climate governance. However, there remains an urgent need to unravel the political nuances of the UNFCCC process in order to ensure informed participation in the process by African politicians, negotiators and policy makers. There is also an urgent need to create spaces for the elaboration of African political positions on climate changes, and to create debate on these positions between politicians, policy makers and the various African stakeholders affected by climate change.
Given this context, the specific themes that will be addressed in the climate dialogues will be means of implementation, the linkages between climate science and climate policy, opportunities for development in the context of a changing climate, and global climate governance.
A major issue omnipresent in all COP negotiations is the question of means of implementation – finance, technology transfer and capacity building. The question of means of implementation is rooted in the equity of approach premise that rich countries should assist poorer countries to transition their economies to climate friendly production technologies as well as provide assistance to cope with the lived impacts of climate change on economies and livelihoods. However, the mean of implementation question has remained unresolved in the progression of the global climate governance framework. Various funds have been created to support climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives. But such funds have remained un or under resourced. Where pledges have materialized, complicated procedures have been put in place to access them, with the result that those countries with the least capacity to adapt to climate change also need the most capacity support to access the available climate funds. Major initiatives such as the African Group Renewable Energy Development Initiative have remained in -operational due to lack of adequate financing.
Debate is required to demonstrate the effectiveness or otherwise of existing means of implementation, and to explore alternatives at global and national levels. Innovative approaches to mobilizing domestic resources for climate response are beginning to emerge in some African countries. There is a need to explore these innovations and inform other African countries of alternative climate finance strategies. Thus a key question to be addressed in the Paris framework is how can the global climate ambition be reflected in resource mobilization for climate finance? How can nations develop alternative and innovative mechanisms to finance climate initiatives?
A linked issue is the need for a global strategy to address loss and damage from climate change. Loss and damage will be a core debate in Paris, and as with the other means of implementation, it appears that the dominant narrative is for market based systems to address loss and damage.
Similarly, capacity building and Technology transfer are contentious issues.
Understanding of the climate phenomenon is based on solid physical and hydro-meteorological science. This solid scientific basis in turn informs the policy and governance responses to climate change. In practice, climate science has been provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which collects the best available science from individual scientists working in a broad spectrum of environments across the globe and across the various climate disciplines. The IPCC Assessments have become the basis for climate policy at global and local levels. Global and national climate policies are geared towards mitigating climate change while at the same time adapting to the impacts of changes that are already occurring. This entails integrating climate change into development and sectoral policies. However, development processes invariably impact on the mitigation response by emitting GHGs, or by refocussing technologies to wards less carbon intensive production, manufacturing and distribution technologies. As a consequence of the significance of carbon emissions to the development processes, it has become imperative to calculate correctly the amounts of carbon that can still be safely absorbed in the atmosphere, and to allocate this carbon equitably in order to support sustainable development processes. Thus a key aspect of the IPCC climate science is the estimation of the ‘carbon budget’ UNEP 2010. The Emissions Gap Report.
An outcome of the Copenhagen COP was global agreement on the emissions reductions required in order to control global temperature increases within the 1.50C or 20C limits. The Copenhagen accords required significant emissions reductions in order to stay within these limits. Several countries have made commitments to reduce their commitments and there climate scientists have responded by modelling different scenarios to demonstrate the probabilities of staying within the desirable limits with the pledges that have so far been put forward. This represents the level of global ambition to control global warming. Going forward to Paris, the emphasis of national commitments to reduce emissions is encapsulated in Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to emissions reductions which all parties are to compile and submit by the 15th of October. But questions remain about the best possible mechanisms to achieve the goal of controlling global warming, the implications of 1.5oc and 20c for development and livelihoods in Africa, and about the extent to which INDCs not only represents a shift in the interpretations of CBRD, but also the extent to which the INDC is the appropriate mechanism to regulate emissions.
In the lead up to Paris 2015, UNFCCC Parties are discussing ways to increase the level of mitigation ambition in the pre-2020 period, (2015-2020) with a view to ensuring the highest possible mitigation efforts by all parties. The aim is to close the ambition gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ current mitigation pledges and an aggregate pathway consistent with maintaining a likely chance of holding the increase in global warming below 2C or 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Major issues in the negotiations include concerns about low levels of mitigation ambition in developed countries’ pre-2020 pledges (lower than developing countries); low levels of finance, technology and capacity building to enable mitigation actions by developing countries (no roadmap for finance to 2020); inadequate progress in implementing concrete mitigation actions to curb warming; and efforts to shift responsibilities away from developed countries under the Convention towards international cooperative initiatives and the private sector.
Many scientists are debating the different emission pathways that can be adopted in order to meet the temperature increase limits. It is thus important to have an African debate on the carbon gap, the carbon budget and its relationship to Africa’s sustainable development requirements. This debate will also be linked to the INDCs as a response mechanism, and the nature of technological support and other means of implementation required for Africa to meet its development needs while at the same time mitigating carbon emissions. This session will discuss the IPCC Physical Science with respect to Africa and COP 21, focusing in particular on determining what the acceptable temperature increases for Africa are, how these can be achieved and Africa’s role in those scenarios. Within this context, debate will also focus on what does the carbon budget mean for Africa? How best can this be allocated in order to allow for Africa to develop equitably and sustainably? How should the carbon budget be incorporated in the post 2015 agreement?
While it is acknowledged that climate change represents an enormous challenge to humanity, it is increasingly also recognized that it is an opportunity to catalyze a transition to a more energy efficient green economy UNEP 2010. National economies can be assisted to transition from carbon intensive to green technologies. National and global enterprises can be developed and grow around the provision of appropriate technologies, and green growth can contribute towards poverty reduction in sustainable ways. The transition to efficient green economies has sectoral implications for climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water, energy as well as the environment. In the agriculture sector, structural transformations will be required to respond to rainfall and seasonal variability. These will include innovations in seed technologies as well as water harvesting, storage and utilization. In the energy sectors, technological innovations will include improving energy efficiency, investments in ‘green ‘ energy technologies, and improving access to sustainable energy for all. In the water sector, improvements in water storage, distribution and use are indicated. Other responses such as flood control, management of underground water resources, and improvements in urban water and sewerage reticulation systems, are also required.
However, climate change is also a constraint on growth and development. Addressing climate change has become central to the continent’s development and poverty reduction agenda. Poorer countries and communities will suffer earliest and hardest because of weaker resilience and greater reliance on climate‐sensitive sectors like agriculture. In Africa, recent modelling indicates that a temperature increase of 20c could mean a loss of 4.7% of GNP, most of it as a result of loss in the agricultural sector. A temperature rise of 2.5‐50c would be worse; hunger for 128 million, 108 million affected by flooding and a sea‐level rise of 15‐95cm. Climate variability lies behind much of the prevailing poverty, food insecurity, and weak economic growth in Africa today. Climate change will increase this variability; the severity and frequency of droughts, floods and storms will increase, leading to more water stress. Changes in agricultural, livestock and fisheries productivity will occur, and the continent will face further food insecurity as well as a spread of water‐related diseases, particularly in tropical areas. Some 200 million of the poorest people in Africa are food insecure, many through their dependence on climate sensitive livelihoods – predominantly rain‐fed agriculture. Temperature increases and changes in mean rainfall and evaporation are likely to become ever greater and more damaging to livelihoods through the 21st century.
The ability to adapt production and manufacturing technologies is constrained by limited financial, resources in developing countries and is thus dependent on technology transfers. Adaptation also means the reallocation of available finances from limited resources towards responding to immediate and local needs, including responding to climate related disasters and emergencies. Thus while climate is an opportunity for development, it is also a significant cost.
This session will critically examine the opportunities from climate change narrative by discussing the implications of climate change for the various climate sensitive sectors of African economies, the opportunities that are available for the transformation of these sectors in response to climate change impacts, as well as the structural and other limitations to adaptive capacities within these sectors.
Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) are the central mechanisms for global environmental governance Andonova et al (2009). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the associated Kyoto Protocol (KP) govern global cooperation in response to climate change and global warming. The UNFCCC is undergirded by three key principles – the Precautionary Principle, the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR), and the commitment to sustainable development – which define cooperation between countries and also condition national and sub-national climate policies. Global climate governance has been characterized by a standoff between developed and developing countries, and among developed countries, which has prevented the emergence of a legally binding climate governance framework. This standoff appears to be continuing, and taking on new dimensions in the build up to Paris 2015. The main areas of contention in the design of the global climate governance framework revolve around questions of attribution (common but differentiated responsibility), equity (financing climate mitigation and adaptation, including technology transfer and capacity building), and emissions reductions.
While non-nation state actors (NSSAs) have become increasingly important in climate governance, the development and implementation of adaptation policies and strategies remains dominated by state actors. Civil society organizations and local communities have so far played a limited role in the formulation of national climate change adaptation policies and strategies. This is a highly contradictory reality, and reflects the uncertainties in the changing balances and configurations of power between states, civil society (including the market), and international organizations. Climate change constitutes an arena in which power shifts between different actors and interests are expressing themselves in many complex ways. The need to understand how the different power relations act out, and the implications of these interaction on climate governance at local, national and global scales is urgent.
The original remit of the UNFCCC was to manage mitigation. Adaptive capacity was considered to be an indicator of the extent to which societies could tolerate changes in climate, and was not seen as a policy objective. Adaptation emerged from this context to deal with the impacts of non-mitigated greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in an “impacts-based” approach to climate change risk. This impacts-based approach requires external scientific and technological expertise to define climate change problems, and formulate technological adaptation solutions, based on specific knowledge of future climate conditions.
The principal current climate change concern for Africa is its implications for development and the wellbeing of societies and ecosystems. The governance of climate change adaptation on the continent thus requires a review of the nature and trajectory of growth and development processes, the democratization of global systems to achieve equity, and the realignment of decision making processes to facilitate greater public engagement in the formulation of global and national responses to climate change.
Africa contributes only 3.8% of total greenhouse gas emissions, yet Africa’s countries are among the most vulnerable to global warming. The global climate governance framework seeks to achieve an equitable and democratic climate response which allocates historical responsibility and also mobilizes resources to support national and sub-national responses to climate change. However, commitment to the global framework has proved to be variable, with some countries repudiating the KP and others similarly withdrawing from global climate agreements See e.g. Karlsonn-Vinkhuyzen (2013). The UNFCCC is increasingly characterized by contestations over its legitimacy, issues of institutional fragmentation, and significant differences in the interpretations of key principles of the convention and the KP. These contestations are indicative of the highly political nature of global climate governance.
Leading up to Paris 2015, UNFCCC Parties are negotiating a new climate agreement under the Convention that will be applicable to all parties. This agreement — in the form of a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force — is to be agreed by the 2015 Paris COP and to come into effect by 2020. The two main issues currently under discussion are in relation to the “elements” of the agreement (whether it will cover mitigation, adaptation, technology, finance, capacity and transparency, and how) and “contributions” (the scope and information to be provided in the “intended nationally determined contributions” or INDCs by Parties to the new agreement).
Major issues include whether the post-2020 agreement will cover all the elements in a balanced and comprehensive manner, or focus asymmetrically on mitigation, carbon markets and transparency or “MRV" to the exclusion of adaptation, finance, technology or capacity (all of which are important to Africa). Concerns with the latter approach is that it will result in a weaker international regime than the Kyoto Protocol for developed countries, and a stronger one for developing countries, without adequate provisions for support.
The African Group of negotiators is calling for a comprehensive agreement covering all elements in a balanced way, with general commitments and global objectives, specific commitments by parties, operational mechanisms and provisions on accountability, compliance and review. On “contributions” the Group has stated that these must be in conformity with the Convention, respect differentiation between developed and developing countries and build on established Convention obligations. Developed countries should put forward contributions addressing adaptation support, finance, technology and capacity (as well as mitigation) as failure to do so will limit prospects for a balanced outcome in Paris.
The ACT debates will explore global climate politics and the implications that questions of power, equity and ethics affects the principles of the UNFCCC. The dialogues will seek to elaborate an African position on the founding principles of the convention and ways by which these principles should be reflected in the post 2015 climate agreement. The dialogues will also address global climate governance dynamics and the implications of these for Africa’s development pathways.
President of SADC Parliamentary Forum
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Let me start by expressing my heartfelt appreciation for inviting me to be the guest of honour at this important conference on Africa Climate Talks. This conference is a clear signal that Africa is ready to shift from being just a mere spectator at COP meetings to a key player. This comes after the realization that the Kyoto Protocol has not benefited Africa as the other regions because of poor preparation before the negotiations. But also, the African ministers who attend COP meetings face challenges arising from lack of a common stand on African issues. Africa's stakes are high; it bears the greatest proportion of risks and impacts posed by climate change, which incidentally is disproportionate to its share of responsibility for global warming. Africa has demonstrated a strong commitment to the global process.
Observations show the international negotiations to tackle this problem have been embraced by Africa, even where there should be reservations. Africa is the only global region with the greatest proportion of people living below USD $2 a day that imposes a cap to consumption opportunities. If economic strategies have to be built around low carbon intensive pathways, how will this affect and restrict growth in terms of per capita GHG emissions in Africa? Low carbon growth is definitely a positive thing, if invested in and provided with adequate support to ensure implementation in terms of finance, capacity and technology transfer , Unfortunately, all the previous pledges in relation to support for implementation have fallen short and in some cases remained illusive promises.
The president of the United States of America recently stated that climate change is the hardest challenge to solve politically and is fast becoming the weapon of mass destruction. This is an incontrovertible truth. Climate science is clearer than many leaders would like to believe. For humanity to have a chance of staying below the 2°C threshold, a small reduction in CO2 emissions will not be enough.
The unpalatable truth is that emissions will have to fall to zero later this century in order to stop any further rise in the atmospheric concentration of CO2• Climate science has been compelling us to act. 97% of scientific findings show that climate change is real and humans are responsible. These findings are evidence-supported; peer-reviewed; and fact-based. Signs of climate change are evident everywhere, There is sea level rise; extreme weather events; prolonged droughts; food insecurity and climate change related conflicts, among others. For the developing countries, these challenges are interacting with existing vulnerabilities to worsen the already bad situation. Climate science is telling us that there is still a window of opportunity; however, this window is closing very fast.
In spite of what may be achieved in Paris, we are all fully aware that the post-Kyoto agreement that will be negotiated will not remove all climate challenges facing the world today. However, it will be a step in the right direction. If we fail to act now, it will be a moral and policy failure. How can our children and grandchildren understand our failure to act in the face of such compelling evidence of impending disaster? Sdence defines the law of gravity and also defines the freezing, melting and the boiling points. How do we fail to understand when the same science tells us that any temperature increase beyond 2°e is catastrophic? Definitely, something is wrong here.
As we fast approach COP 21, it is encouraging to learn that industrialized nations are finally realizing the impact and magnitude of climate change. The United States and China- the world's greatest emitters- have realized the importance of the issue of clean energy and have announced their emission targets. At the G-7 summit held from 7th - 8th June 2015, the G-seven governments declared that the 2°C limit requires "de-carbonization of the global economy over the course of this century." They stated clearly that humanity must not merely reduce, but must end, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels this century, This is an important announcement, which must be taken note of. At the Vatican gathering in April this year, which included world-leading climate scientists and Nobel laureates, Pope Francis and the religious leaders of all the world's major religions urged the world to take wisdom from faith and climate sdence in order to fulfil moral responsibilities to humanity and to the future of Earth. In the same vein, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Kl-moon, clearly stated that climate change action now is both a practical need and a moral imperative. We should heed their call.
The convergence of thinking on the need to take action implies that urgent and concrete steps are needed to address climate change, as set out in the Intergovernmental Panel in Climate Change (IPCC's) Fifth Assessment Report. In this regard, the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris (COP 21) is a crucial conference, because it needs to achieve a new international agreement on Climate, applicable to all countries with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. It also implies that the required reduction in emissions of 40 to 70% by 2050 as set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a challenge that can only be met by a global response.
Although the recent efforts are still substantially short of achieving the universallyagreed goal of keeping the warming increase below 20 C, the developments represent an important first step in increasing momentum for ambition raising and open the way for further improvements in the run-up towards the global agreement to be adopted at COP 21 in Paris.
We are gathered here today to explore how Africa can take up its position and play an active role at the COP 21 Conference in Paris at the end of this year. I understand that this conference is one of the interconnected sub-regional events that will be part of the preparatory process for Africa's contribution to COP 21. It will seek to define an African climate change narrative and further build confidence and consensus around key issues. Fortunately, a lot of our African negotiators understand the intricacies and the complexities of climate change negotiations. However, it is dear that although they understand these intricacies and complexities, they have- in the past- faced major challenges in their attempt to change any aspect of climate change negotiations.
Africa has many 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 as such. The main problem- if one may say- is that they do not have real political backing from visionary leaders in Africa. It is to expect too much for the developed countries to do this for us. We need to change and 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 to champion a narrative and cause that is consistent with our own development aspirations.
Finally, let me point out the crucial issue of the Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDC) that was a cornerstone of the Lima Call for Action during COP 20 and has emerged as a key expectation of the Paris climate negotiations. Regrettably, it should be noted that the framing of the INDC is still heavily skewed towards mitigation, as opposed to the equal weighting repeatedly requested by parties from developing countries for mitigation and adaptation. Although the Parties have been invited to consider the topic of adaptation in their INDCs, countries are not explicitly expected to put forward "finance commitments" as part of their INDCs.
On the contrary, the document does request developed countries to provide finance for ambitious mitigation actions in developing countries. Africa should ensure that the new agreement reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances as reiterated in Lima. It is therefore imperative that Africa should have a clear understanding of the negotiation process so as to better contribute to it and participate in its implementation in a meaningful way.
May I conclude by observing that success at COP 21 is critical to the post-2015 global climate regime that could keep climate change under control. It is my hope that this conference will contribute to Africa's preparedness in forging a strategy that ultimately will result in a monitoring and evaluation framework for Africa's climate negotiations.
It is my belief that this conference will definitely put Africa's main players on climate change on a better footing as we strive to get the best for the continent from the new agreement on climate change, scheduled to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Since we are negotiating a new agreement, nobody in Africa will benefit if we make the same mistakes that we made in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. It is therefore important that COP 21 succeeds. If a new climate agreement is not reached, the world's sustainable development path will be jeopardized.