INDCs – a balancing act for Africa?

It is now widely recognised that without a concerted and dramatic global push to reduce global greenhouse gases, our planet and its people face the impact of dangerous and irreversible climate change.


To address this escalating threat, the outcome of COP20 in Lima called upon the international community to take bold and ambitious steps to reduce global emissions and bring global temperature rises under control.


Together with others, African countries were invited to show these steps in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC); these national intentions will contribute to the new international climate deal to be agreed at COP21 in Paris.
Given the urgent need to keep global warming under control and curb vulnerability, mitigation and adaptation are principal focus of INDCs.


In keeping with the bold ambition called for by the UNFCCC, INDCs submitted by African countries – despite having contributed only a tiny fraction to overall greenhouse gasses - demonstrate strong and genuine ambition of addressing adaptation and mitigation of emissions.
The challenge for African countries is how to balance mitigation of climate change and national development strategies to drive social and economic growth.


African countries have every right to step-up their development processes and provide its citizens with adequate standards of living. However, if the pursuit of new infrastructures to provide food, water and energy security or vital services such as transport and health increases the continent’s emissions, how should Africa deal with these potentially conflicting priorities?


The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) provided support to some African countries in the preparation of their INDCs. Our experience showed that, with carefully structured approach, the pursuit of sustainable economic growth can go hand-in-hand with reducing a country’s carbon footprint. In Malawi, for example, production of ethanol fuel is central to the country’s development ambition towards low-carbon economic growth, develop local businesses and create employment; at the same time, through its fuel blending programmes, Malawi is making a significant contribution to global efforts to reduce emissions in the production of this cleaner, greener form of energy.


In terms of the overall ambition to limit an increase in global warming to 2˚C, the latest analysis of INDCs show submitted plans falling short the target; current projections show temperatures will increase by around 3˚C. A major point of interest in Paris will be whether or how countries ratchet up their emission reductions targets to reach the 2˚C threshold. Whatever approach is agreed, one thing for Africa one thing is clear: any plans to reduce emission must be integrated with, and complement, the continent’s pursuit of its social and economic development and enhancement of adaptation efforts.


Patrick Tamrat is a Consultant at the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), Special Initiative Division of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Opinions expressed in the ACPC Climate Diaries are the authors’ personal views and do not represent the view of ACPC. ACPC accepts no liability for use of or reliance on information found in the Climate Diaries.