A balancing act: implementing climate change commitments while striving to end poverty!
Sometimes as a quick-fix solution to ending poverty, the world’s poor countries including Least Developing Countries (LDCs) resort to cheap but unsustainable exploitation of natural resources: develop now and clean up later! This approach may have been used by developed nations years ago, but times have changed. Today, climate impacts have become more alarmingly urgent, and at the same time climate-smart solutions are becoming more viable and affordable. It would be simplistic bordering on fatalism to adopt yesteryear’s solutions to 21st century development challenges.
In the aftermath of the 2015 historic climate treaty meeting in Paris, urged on by soft pressure from developed countries for them to show their contribution to addressing the global climate challenge, many African countries elaborated their nations’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), even though the climate dilemma was a problem they had done very little to cause. All 54 African countries agreed and signed the Paris Agreement. Since then, 43 have ratified their NDCs and submitted them to the global registry. Rarely do global conventions received such near-total endorsement! For African nations, this may have been driven by the realization of the biting effects of climate change on the continent, with recurrent droughts and floods crippling infrastructure and creating climate refugees, and negative impacts on food security, roads, energy systems, and even on people’s health.
As the world gathers once again for the annual climate treaty conference COP23 in Bonn, many African ministry officials have one key preoccupation – now that they have ratified and committed, where do they begin? There is no NDC blueprint; even the Paris Agreement rule book remains a work in progress. There are no clear directives on how to access means of implementation once a country has ratified its NDC. For many countries, INDC documents were hastily prepared to meet the deadline of submission before COP21 in Paris, without thorough analysis of the impact of proposed climate “contributions” on their national development plans. Now that they have ratified their commitments under the Agreement, countries are obliged to implement at least the unconditional contributions in their NDCs. This is no easy feat for any country, particularly where government officials are faced with competing priorities in health, education and other development objectives with limited financial means, funds which are further depleted when climate shocks hit! The decisions and actions countries take today will count towards the level of their ambition next year when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Facilitative Dialogue undertakes a global stocktaking of the world’s efforts toward achieving Paris Agreement goals.
As the only multinational development bank based on the continent, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is confronted with this challenge firsthand, as its Regional Member Countries turn to the Bank for support in implementing their NDCs. The Bank actively encouraged its clients to sign the Paris Agreement and still technically and financially supports the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) for the UNFCCC. It is therefore logical that its member countries turn to it for solutions, and the Bank welcomes the opportunity to help them undertake this pivotal work.
Through its 50 years of experience in Africa’s development, AfDB knows full well that this is not a challenge it can undertake alone. To bolster support, the Bank set up an Africa NDC Hub with ten key partners: African Union Commission (AUC); New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS); and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
There is a lot of expectations on the Africa NDC Hub as a one-stop shop for solutions to meet country NDC targets. It is incumbent upon the Bank and its partners to design programmes that build country capacities to take ownership of this process. Without strong internal systems to manage the whole paradigm shift, all this joint and well-intentioned effort will yield very little in terms of ending poverty and protecting the environment.