Africa sets path to the post-2015 new climate agreement discussed during Africa Day at COP 20

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The Africa Day side event was held during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 20) to deliberate on the forthcoming agreement on climate change to be concluded in Paris during COP 21, in particular its implications for the continent, including how important issues pertaining to adaptation, climate finance, women and youth can be properly addressed. It was a timely opportunity to underline Africa’s concerns and priorities.

This event has become the symbol of the representation of Africa at the UN Climate Change Conference as highlighted during the opening session by Mohamed Gharib Bilal, Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania and representative of the Coordinator of the Committee of the African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).

The Opening Session was followed by a panel discussion which focused chiefly on issues related to climate finance for addressing adaptation, low carbon development and inclusive growth in Africa, as well as the necessary support for African countries to access climate finance. Alex Rugamba, Director of Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department at the African Development Bank, started by welcoming the pledges made to climate finance funds and called for "more ambitious ones". He stressed that "financing is particularly a challenge that no matter the excellent plans one develops to combat climate change, without finance to execute them they remain sheer plans".

Social inclusion is also key to ensuring sustained resilience to climate change on the African continent. Women and youth are particularly identified as vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, alternate Board Member of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) explained that the Fund's Gender Policy had been inspired by the policy of the African Development Bank and that it will help mainstream gender in its operations.

"The negotiations have reached a critical stage", said Olusha Olayide from the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture at the Africa Union Commission on behalf of the Commissioner Rhoda Peace Tumusiime. She called for intensified efforts and responses to include and address the aspirations of women and youth in the new agreement.

Fatima Denton, Director of Special Initiatives at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), underlined that the new climate agreement is about "Africa's collective security and also about Africa's resolve to continue on a growth trajectory that will not reverse in a downward spiral".

"The 2015 agreement will last for decades and should not jeopardize the right for Africa to pursue a sustainable development path", insisted Nagmeldin Goutbi Elhassan, Chair of the African Group of Negotiators.

This is why, "we need to be firm about our positions and work tightly together, stressed Jesca Eryo, Deputy Secretary General of the East African Community. “The agreement needs to contain what we expect”, she concluded, drawing on her experience as a Minister of State of Uganda being part of past climate change negotiations.

A strong consensus emerged among the panelists and the audience that climate change poses complex challenges to the development of African countries that should be addressed in the new climate change agreement. Climate change opportunities, if properly harnessed, will enhance Africa’s development agenda and engender new perspectives into current development pathways to make it more resilient and sustainable.

The Africa Day side event was jointly organized as a collaborative efforts of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, the Government of the Republic of Mozambique, African Union Commission (AUC) and New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa African Climate Policy Centre (ECA/ACPC), the African Development Bank (AfDB); and the Secretariat of African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) hosted by theUnited Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office for Africa.