Panelists call for strong Paris agreement, climate finance justice for Africa

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Panelists at high-level event on climate change on Tuesday have renewed their call for a strong and universal climate change agreement with increased flows of funds, sufficient to fulfill Africa’s development aspirations.  

This is in addition to the need to have adequate, predictable, sustainable climate finance resources to address Africa’s challenges in transitioning to low-carbon development, climate-smart agriculture, and sustainable urban development. 

This was at the high level event held under the theme “Climate Change: The Last Mile to Paris” held in Abidjan on Tuesday, May 26 as part of the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB).

With countries set to approve a new climate change agreement under the UN in Paris in December, panelists stressed the need to accelerate efforts to mobilize funds to facilitate African countries to adapt and minimize the impact of climate change as well as low-carbon development.  

Africa, with its vulnerable populations and vast potential, has perhaps the most to lose from climate change and the most to gain from an effective climate change agreement, they argued.  

“What we need are mechanisms to ensure that we are creating a discourse that deals with development … We understand that in the context of Africa if the money is not there, the adaptation costs rise and as they rise our ability to provide food to the world is diminished,” said Trevor Manuel, the former Finance Minister of South Africa. 

Manuel pointed out that countries were falling short of both financial and policy commitments needed to deal with climate change. Specifically, he mentioned that actual pledges to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) are just at approximately $10 billion, still too far from the commitments of industrialized nations made five years ago in Copenhagen (Denmark). They promised that the fund would have $100 billion annually by 2020. The GCF is aimed at helping the developing world deal with mitigating the effects of and adapting to climate change.

Panelists also underscored the need for African countries to align their contributions to the Paris climate agreement with their own long-term sustainable development priorities. 

In his remarks, Makhtar Diop, Vice-President, Africa Region, World Bank, pointed out that climate finance will help expand access to cleaner energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. 

“We need to accelerate the renewable energy agenda. Today, we have an opportunity to have green growth in Africa. At the same time we should be increasing competitiveness of our economies,” said Diop. 

Discussants also argued that governments have the power to catalyze private sector climate finance by sending the right policy signals. Through policy, they can shift the investment landscape toward cleaner energy and innovation.  

Arnaud Buissé, Deputy Assistant Secretary from the French Treasury, underscored the importance of political will to facilitate the achievement of ambitious commitments in Paris. 

For his part, the UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Carlos Lopes, underscored the need for Africa to go beyond global negotiations on climate change in their current format and seek solutions that effectively address African concerns.

“We do not want Africa to be part of handouts anymore. We want Africa to be part of the solution for climate change,” Lopes said.

Africa, he argued, has the potential to leapfrog to a new clean techno-economic as it is not locked in any technology preferences. It could follow a green and clean energy pathway and leapfrog old carbon-intensive models and pursue a low carbon development pathway.  

In December 2015, countries will meet in Paris to sign a global agreement on climate change. Countries are aiming to reach a global binding agreement in Paris on a deal that will come into force from 2020.

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