With a united African front, the COP of Action could spell real action for Africa
By Edward F. Martin
The UNFCCC’s COP 22, as the COP of Action centered in Africa with Morocco at the helm, is a remarkable opportunity for Africa to rally the international community around its urgent efforts to gain real ground on its interlinked goals for essential development and climate action on the continent.
African states understand that they must urgently accelerate their economic and social development in an environmentally sustainable way, but many lack the financial means or the capacity to do so. In Africa, the continent facing the double-edged challenge of under-development and climate vulnerability, countries stand to gain enormously at COP 22. With a united front, they can help shape the global climate framework in a way that provides essential support for their interlinked development and climate goals.
Climate action and sustainable development are inherently linked in Africa as demonstrated by the broad portfolio of projects financed or supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB). Kenya’s Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is facilitating a low-emissions path to development by adding 300 MW to Kenya’s power grid, saving the country US$ 150 million in annual foreign exchange through fuel displacement costs,[i] upgrading 200 km of roads and bridges,[ii] and avoiding the equivalent of 736,615 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.[iii] In addition to addressing the country’s climate goals, this project covers issues central to achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on reducing poverty, combating climate change, supplying affordable clean energy, providing inclusive and quality education, promoting economic growth and decent work, building industry, innovation and infrastructure, and taking urgent action on climate change; and AfDB High 5s on lighting up and powering Africa, Feeding Africa, Industrializing Africa, Integrating Africa, and Improving the quality of life for the people of Africa.[iv] The AfDB is also supporting the implementation of projects such as the Global Environment Facility’s Climate Adaptation for Rural Livelihood and Agriculture (CARLA) in Malawi. This project aims to improve agricultural production and rural livelihoods over an area covering 30 000 households, and to enhance Malawi’s institutional capacity to support community-based adaptation. It is expected to increase agricultural output and the income of beneficiaries by 20% over time.[v] This project contributes to climate action and to development goals such as SDGs on ending poverty, achieving food security, ensuring good health and wellbeing, and taking urgent action on climate change; and AfBD High 5s on feeding Africa, and improving the quality of life for the people of Africa. Projects such as Lake Turkana and CARLA are effectively striking a balance between climate action and economic development.
The current UNFCCC framework for climate action embodied in the Paris Agreement is not conducive to supporting these initiatives on a significant scale. Many African states have limited access to global climate finance because they lack the capacity to develop bankable projects, or they have markets that are high-risk and cannot attract private investments.[vi] These countries need technical assistance from the global community to attract the private sector, build sustainable markets, draw on international funds, and implement effective projects. Other African countries can develop bankable projects but face another hurdle. The majority of international climate finance goes to mitigation.[vii] While Africa has great potential to pursue a low-carbon pathway to development, the continent also has an immense need for adaptation because it is disproportionately vulnerable to climate change.[viii] The continent also needs better access to climate technology.[ix]
The current framework is not conducive to effective climate action in Africa, but it has elements that can be improved with Africa’s contribution. The AfDB’s Green Bond Program is helping to mitigate the risks associated with investments in Africa’s climate projects. As of February 2015, the program raised US$ 500 million and SEK 2 billion. It is financing mitigation and adaptation projects.[x] The Climate Investment Funds, for which the AfDB is an implementing agency, have raised US$ 8.3 billion and are expected to attract an additional US$ 58 billion in co-financing. They also have an adaptation component and they attract new investors to developing markets by running pilot programs that demonstrate the viability of renewable energy projects.[xi] The AfDB is successfully tackling issues crucial to Africa – through initiatives such as Lake Turkana, CARLA, the Green Bond Program and the Climate Investment Funds – in part because it heavily involves African actors.
COP 22 is taking place in Morocco, an environmental leader[xii] that has experience in overcoming the challenges of implementing climate action, has multiple channels to collaborate with other African countries, and shares with much of the continent a disproportionate vulnerability to global warming. Morocco is actively promoting COP 22 as the COP of action, the COP for Africa and the COP that will determine the implementation mechanisms of the Paris Agreement. In addition, it is important to remember that Morocco will hold the COP presidency for at least one year beyond COP 22. This will be a key opportunity to focus on climate issues that are central to Africa: increasing international support for adaptation; improving access to public and private climate finance; helping states build the capacity to implement projects and attract finance; and improving the efficiency of technology transfers. If African states present a united front at COP 22 and maintain it throughout Morocco’s COP presidency, they may be able to shape the international framework for climate action so it provides essential support for their interlinked development and climate goals.
The AfDB is striving to seize this unique opportunity by facilitating a strong and united African presence at COP 22. It is sponsoring key pre-COP events such as the “International Conference on Water and Climate” which took place in Rabat, Morocco in July 2016 with the participation of officials from more than twenty African countries. The Bank is also sponsoring the Climate Finance Day that will take place in November 2016. It is using its extensive network of regional offices to mobilize public and private climate actors throughout the continent. And it is collaborating with UNECA, the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development to organize the Africa Pavilion at COP 22. The Pavilion is a space where issues central to climate action in Africa are highlighted, African negotiators meet to develop common strategies, and the importance of African contributions to international climate action can be emphasized. Finally, the AfDB will be assisting Morocco well into its COP presidency by using its expertise to provide essential technical support.
The AfDB is facilitating the presence of a strong and united front at COP 22, and through Morocco’s COP presidency, because it is a remarkable opportunity to galvanize climate action and the achievement of AfDB High 5s, and UN SDGs in Africa.
Edward F. Martin is an intern with the African Development Bank (AfDB) Moroccan Field Office (MAFO) on COP 22 preparations. He previously worked on community-based conservation in Malaysian Borneo as a volunteer with the Global Diversity Foundation and on issues relating to displacement as a board member of Projet Refuge in Montreal, Canada. His academic background is in Political Science and History.
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[xi]. Climate Investment Funds, http://www-cif.climateinvestmentfunds.org/ (accessed September 12, 2016).