Africa Day at COP21: the President of France calls for Africa’s “ecological debt” to be settled

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Tuesday, December 1, was Africa Day, the day when the continent most affected by climate change was in the spotlight at the COP21 meetings in Paris. The day was also chosen for the official inauguration of the Africa Pavilion, an area dedicated entirely to the continent where climate change issues specific to Africa will be showcased.

Africa Day began with a summit of African Heads of State in parallel with the COP21 conference at Le Bourget, Paris, with the theme “Climate challenges and African solutions.” It was attended by the French President, François Hollande.

Settling Africa’s “ecological debt”

The summit included financial aspects, which are key to fighting climate change and desertification, as well as the development of renewable energies in Africa and the "green wall", which will act as a barrier to desertification in the Sahel. The leaders also discussed the preservation of Lake Chad and the River Niger, which already suffer from climate deregulation and pollution and could possibly disappear in the long term. "Lake Chad is dying and the River Niger is silting up," declared the Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou at the opening of COP21 on Monday, sounding an alarm bell.

At the end of the summit of African Heads of State, the French President pledged “2 billion euros in favour of renewable energies” by 2020. In total France has committed "6 billion euros between 2016 and 2020" to supporting electrification in Africa, where nearly 600 million people are still without access to electricity.

France intends to be "fully committed to the African continent," announced François Hollande, who pointed out that Africa is the continent most vulnerable to global warming even though it is only responsible for a small share of the world's greenhouse gas emissions (4%). Hollande added, "There is an ecological debt to the African continent which the world must settle.”

Interest in renewable energies and clean energies is growing in Africa. Although there are increasing numbers of supporters on a continent that has an enormous potential for solar, hydroelectric and geothermal energy, the issue of funding such projects must be raised from the outset. The African Development Bank is one of the partners of the NOORo project in Morocco, which seeks to build the continent's largest concentrated solar power plant at Ouarzazate, as well as the extensive Lake Turkana wind power station in north-east Kenya.

Inauguration of the African Pavilion

Another highlight of Africa Day took place at noon: the inauguration of the African Pavilion, occupying more than 1,000 m2 and decorated in the continent's colours by the AfDB and its COP21 partners, the African Union/NEPAD and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The traditional cutting of the ribbon was carried out by Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, head of the African Union Commission, alongside Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB, and Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the ECA.

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Photos of the inauguration of the African Pavilion are available on Flickr.