In the latest build up towards the 21st Conference of the parties, the President of the General Assembly convened a High-Level Event on climate change on 29 June 2015, which was meant to provide impetus and political momentum for an ambitious climate agreement in Paris. At this event, the SG expressed concern that negotiations towards a meaningful climate pact were progressing too slowly.

Africa stands to lose if agreement is not reached in Paris

Africa’s emissions are negligible and the region stands out as the most vulnerable with weak adaptive capacity, as documented in the 2nd Africa Adaptation Gap Report. The report observes that under the current trajectory, mitigation efforts are not in tandem for a below 20C warming scenario by 2050. Rather, the current track could lead to an above 40C average global temperature rise by 2100.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The implication is that Africa’s adaptation costs could hit US$ 100 billion annually by 2050. Cumulatively, the AAGR2 observes that Africa’s adaptation costs for the “below 20C” and “over 40C” warming scenarios are projected to exceed US$ 1 trillion by the 2060s. It further adds that, even with effective adaptation, the cost of residual damage is expected to double the adaptation costs in the period of 2030-2050. In both cases, the cost of inaction is higher. The continent’s backbone sectors, such as agriculture, energy, tourism, and healthcare, are highly climate sensitive and dependent on healthy ecosystems. These sectors are underpinned by healthy ecosystem services such as water, hydrologic regulation, soil fertility, and biodiversity. Regardless of the impending imperative for action, Africa’s adaptation costs and the global mitigation policy actions are disconcerting.

Africa Voices, Policy Decisions

The 15th session of the Africa Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) concluded with the Cairo Declaration including inter alia the need for parity between adaptation and mitigation in the Paris deal. This event also marked the launch of the 2nd Africa Adaptation Gap Report, which called for ambitious mitigation action leading to deep global emissions reductions, and the need for an innovative financing model for adaptation integrating up-scaled international financing with domestic, regional, and national level financing.

 Photo: Bob Nichols
Photo: Bob Nichols

Beyond Paris and into the future: what can Africa do?

In line with a key tenet of the Cairo Declaration considering Africa’s rich natural resources, the continent must develop strategies and mechanisms that will leverage natural capital to finance development, including climate resilience building. Strategies to actualize this are documented in vital continental blue prints. The AU Agenda 2063 counts on an education and skills revolution underpinned by science, technology and innovation, among other strategies. These should be implemented in full.

Decision 1 of the Cairo declaration calls for value addition in sustainably managing natural resources while ensuring the protection of ecosystems and minimizing environmental degradation. The overriding principle is for African countries to embrace sustainable industrial development as a way of leveraging their comparative advantage in natural capital into competitive advantage at the global level and income opportunities for their economies. These incomes will then enhance resilience building in the continent.      

Photo: Wise Geek
Photo: Wise Geek

Specific to adaptation financing, the 2nd Africa Adaptation Gap Report documents the need for an innovative financing model for adaptation that integrates up-scaled international financing with domestic, regional, and national level financing. Through analysis, the report concludes that through internal sources, Africa can potentially raise US$ 3 billion annually by 2020 by pursuing a number of national and continental measures elaborated in the report. While this is not adequate, it demonstrates the extent to which African countries can contribute to closing the adaptation gap so that the extent to which international climate financing should be mobilized to leverage such local resources can be understood. The AU Agenda 2063 calls for establishment of an African Climate Fund (ACF) to address the continents adaptation and mitigation concerns. Once again, the need for domestic resource mobilization is underscored.

While the need for strategies to mobilize new untapped sources of domestic funding for development and climate resilience building cannot be over emphasized, the continent is already loosing astronomical amounts in annual unaccounted for capital flight through illicit financial flows (IFFs). The African Union /UN Economic Commission for Africa (AU/ECA) high level panel report observes that Africa loses US$ 50-60 billion annually, and cumulatively, over the past 50years, Africa has lost amounts estimated to exceed US$ 1 trillion, a sum roughly equivalent to all of the official development assistance received by the continent during the same time frame.

These losses lay grounds for the case made by the AU/ECA high level panel, that by stemming these IFFs Africa can recoup enough resources to leverage external sources of funds and finance its development and resilience building. This report also documents strategies that the continent can use in stemming IFFs. These recommendations should be implemented unreservedly.

Photo: Lifestyles Green
Photo: Lifestyles Green

Cop 21 an Opportunity for Africa to mobilize for means of implementation

The Cairo declaration calls for the need of global policy action to keep global average temperature rise to below 1.50C and parity between adaptation and mitigation actions in the Paris deal. Consequently, the Paris deal should ensure enhanced global mitigation action as the best insurance against potentially catastrophic climate impacts and unmanageable adaptation, including residual costs and damage in Africa. Agreement should ensure adaptation and mitigation action is considered at a par by global players in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities based on respective capabilities. Technology transfer and capacity building must be used to operationalize a Low Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS) for Africa.

Photo: Ideas for development
Photo: Ideas for development

The recently launched 2015 Africa Adaptation Gap Report 2 (AAGR2) documents that Africa’s annual adaptation costs could rise to US$ 50 billion by 2050 and soar to US$ 100 billion for under 20C and over 40C warming by 2100, respectively. Cumulatively, for both scenarios, these costs could exceed US$ 1 trillion by the 2060s. Consequently, AAGR2 calls for an innovative financing approach combining ambitious international financing toward adaptation actions in line with the Cancun climate finance commitments of US$ 100 billion disbursement annually by 2020, with internally sourced funds projected to potentially top US$ 3 billion. For the subsequent periods, it buttresses that adequate (large-scale and increasing) and predictable funding must be mobilized. The Paris deal should capture these financing strategies.

Additionally, Annex I countries must commit to meeting their climate obligations to support non-annex countries in line with the UNFCCC charter.

The climate challenges are immense, but at the same time present an opportunity. Creating jobs and sustaining growth as well as eradicating poverty in a carbon-constrained world demands a restructuring of energy systems and a deeper appreciation of the boundaries of the ecological systems. It is therefore imperative for Africa to seize this opportunity now and into the future.