From 7 to 18 November 2016, the world will gather in Marrakesh, Morocco, for the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22), to once again discuss how the landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement, signed in 2015, can be turned from policy into action. Given that the Paris Agreement will be in force from 4 November 2016, the focus on implementation is indeed timely. However, ensuring that the implementation of the agreement is complementary to socio-economic development priorities is an urgent imperative for the global community. Already, however, national development agendas across the continent and the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 provide frameworks to ensure continued economic growth while simultaneously meeting the climate objectives specified in the Paris Agreement. The challenge is to move from talk to action.

Turning challenges into opportunities

A step in the right direction would be for the continent to invest in clean energy. Moreover, clean energy linked to sustainable ecosystems-based adaptation (EBA)-driven agriculture will ensure not only the implementation of specific provisions of the Paris Agreement but simultaneously meet socio-economic development priorities.

EBA-driven agriculture has been proven to increase yields while also strengthening existing ecosystems. This will go a long way towards ensuring food security while offsetting a number of other crucial gains for the continent. For instance, Mali has restored over 500 000 hectares through the application of simple indigenous soil and water conservation techniques. Similarly, Senegal has regenerated indigenous trees on 40 000 hectares of cropland while Ethiopia has restored 2 700 hectares of barren mountain terrain. These are just a few among many other examples.

Since 2011, farmers in Nyando Climate Smart Villages have been working with researchers, development partners, and government extension agents to test a portfolio of promising climate change adaptation, mitigation, and risk management interventions. (Photo credit: Flickr/K. Trautmann)

Since 2011, farmers in Nyando Climate Smart Villages have been working with researchers, development partners, and government extension agents to test a portfolio of promising climate change adaptation, mitigation, and risk management interventions. (Photo credit: Flickr/K. Trautmann)

Tapping into opportunities created by the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030 to support agro-industrialisation efforts

By aligning its development agendas with the Paris Agreement, Africa will be able to leverage Articles 9, 10 and 11, which mandate developed countries to support developing countries with both financial and non-financial means of implementing the agreement. For instance, the Paris process secured commitments by a global alliance to mobilise up to USD1 trillion to finance renewable energy development and the continent could tap into this to bridge the energy gap and to power agro-industries.

That said, fulfilling the provisions of the Paris deal is by no means enough. Practically unlocking this potential will require broad participation, involving both state and non-state actors. The good news is that African Ministers of Environment have already committed to actualising this collective effort through country-driven but continentally synergised and globally supported efforts. This has been demonstrated by the Cairo Declaration, which recognises the Ecosystems-Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) as the priority policy-action framework for bridging implementation gaps through mutual partnerships between both state and non-state actors.

Eliminating barriers and bridging gaps through EBAFOSA

EBAFOSA was formed following the second Africa EBA for Food Security Conference, which was convened by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), African Centre for Technology Studies and other partners on 30 and 31 July 2015. A total of 1200 delegates from all across Africa unanimously adopted the Nairobi Action Agenda and the Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly as the continental policy platform to foster and nurture partnerships through branch formation in each country.

EBAFOSA, which aims to bring together global, national and regional stakeholders, is the first inclusive pan-African policy framework and implementation platform. One of its aims is to bridge gaps in policy by breaking inter-ministerial silos through convening the requisite ministries of environment, agriculture, industry, energy and finance so that they can work collaboratively to craft policies linked to catalysing clean agro-industrialisation. In addition, EBAFOSA action is country- driven, with state institutions and personnel taking the lead in implementation, while EBAFOSA partners coordinate the sharing and transfer of innovative practices. This will facilitate institutional capacity building through transfer of globally and continentally sourced best practices and technologies.

In the long run, through working together, Africa will simultaneously satisfy its climate obligations and be able to leverage opportunities and provisions under the COP21 deal while also working towards ensuring food security, job creation and inclusive economic growth.   

Conclusion

Investment in clean energy and agriculture cannot be looked at in isolation. Clean energy is an enabler of sustainable agriculture industrialisation, which has the potential to be worth USD1 trillion by 2030. This will go a long way towards effective poverty alleviation and the creation of millions of jobs. As already stated, EBAFOSA offers a transformative model of practically linking implementation of the Paris agreement to socio-economic development, which remains the urgent priority for countries across the continent.

To quote President John F Kennedy once again, “One true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members.” Let us seize the moment and build on what is already working to combat climate change while ensuring inclusive growth for all.