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Suspense at COP21 on world climate deal: Has Africa finally been heard?


Deal or no deal? Will COP21 lead to a deal ratified by the 196 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change? Will this agreement be universal and binding? Above all, will it finally consider the interests of Africa?

COP21 closes its doors this Friday 11 December after two weeks of intense negotiations and a heavy programme. But negotiations are continuing behind the scenes until the following day, Saturday 12 December. "We prefer to give ourselves the time to consult delegations throughout Friday," said the French presidency on Thursday 10 December after presenting the penultimate version of the draft agreement.

The eyes of the whole world are riveted on COP21 and those of Africa are in particular, eager to know the outcome, the stakes being so great for the continent. Its programme of transformation, especially in agriculture, is tied to world climate negotiations (see article). And the only certainty is that Africa wants a universal and legally binding agreement that meets the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Attending in serried ranks and presenting a united front under the colours of the Africa Pavilion (organised by AfDB, the African Union with NEPAD and the ECA), the African countries came to COP21 firmly decided to make their voices heard. They have unceasingly presented themselves as a source of proposals and an integral part of the solution to climate change, and not from a position as supplicants. Africa has made its grievances known, but it has plenty to offer in return, as AfDB president Adesina put it in this piece which appeared in Le Monde and The Guardian.

And the proof of Africa's involvement and commitment to the fight against climate change is this: In Paris, 53 of the continent's 54 countries presented their respective plans for Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) - Libya was missing, for obvious reasons. Africa's INDCs are ambitious, with an emphasis on adaptation to climate change, but much still remains to be done. The African Group of Negotiators (AGN) is well aware of this, taking the voice of Africans to the heart of the tough negotiations involving the countries of the whole world.

Unity creates strength, as illustrated by the Africa Pavilion's packed and varied programme, which included more than a hundred events in the two weeks of the COP21 summit. Conferences, round tables, photo exhibitions, drama... one event after another presenting in turn the serious challenges and other dangers that threaten the future of Africa as a result of climate change. But they also presented promising and hopeful initiatives and 100% African innovations in pole position for new ideas related to climate.

Because Africa must be heard. The continent, which causes less than 4% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, is suffering the worst effects of climate change on the planet. As French President François Hollande said at the opening of COP21, the world owes "an ecological debt" to Africa. Droughts, floods, storms and other extreme weather events are becoming ever more frequent. On top of climate hazards, deforestation and land degradation only serve to worsen the threat that weighs over African agriculture, 94% of which is rain-fed.

Leaks from the behind-the-scenes talks suggest that the draft agreement will plan to limit the increase in global temperatures to below 2°C, to a maximum of 1.5°C, as AfDB has already demanded on behalf of many African nations, particularly island countries.

Negotiations are deadlocked, however, on certain important points and in particular those demanded by Africa: How should efforts be divided between the countries of the North and the South? What level of ambition should be set for the objectives in the fight against climate change? Finance is the hardest stumbling block of all: Who will pay? And how much? Will those who pollute the most see their bill increase, as demanded by AfDB and the majority of African and developing countries?

What are the doubts of African experts on the final agreement? The struggle continues against climate change.

It was several years ago that AfDB joined the fight against climate change. Even before COP21, the Bank had promised to redouble its efforts on climate funding, promising 5 billion US dollars per year from 2020 - almost three times as much as now. AfDB will continue to help the countries of the continent adapt and find solutions to the effects of climate change. It will continue to offer its support to all those who voice the interests of Africa, especially including the AGN and participants in the Young Africa Lawyers Programme. And it will do this for the benefit of the whole continent and every African without exception.

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