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Interview with Seyni Nafo, African Ambassador to COP24


Spokesperson for Africa at the 2015 Paris climate talks (COP21), Mali’s Seyni Alfa Nafo was also the chief negotiator for all the developing countries within the G77 and China (more than 136 countries) on the issue of  increasing the pace of climate action by 2020. Subsequently, , he was Chair of the African Climate Negotiators' Group (AGN) in 2016 and 2017, when he launched the landmark proposal for the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative. Still under the AGN, Ambassador Nafo continues to defend Africa's climate agenda, supporting all African Union initiatives and, most especially, those of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).

Below is an interview he gave from Katowice, Poland, which hosts COP24 from 3 to 14 December 2018.

  • You chaired the AGN on Climate Change  discussions at the United Nations, and this group has the support of the African Development Bank. What is the AGN, and how does the Bank support it?  

The AGN was formed with the Climate Convention (Ed. 1992) and represents the 54 African countries which negotiate from a common position within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.The AGN is mobilized whenever there is a need to defend the interests of Africa in negotiations around the fight against climate change. Unlike the European Union, whose negotiating mandate on climate is vested in the European Commission, it is the AGN that negotiates on behalf of the African continent, directly mobilizing the 54 governments and their experts.

The support of the African Development Bank comes into play on three levels: firstly, the Bank is a learning and knowledge. It has proven expertise in many areas, including climate change and in all the areas concerned: adaptation, mitigation, finance, water, agriculture, and so on. This give us a partnership and support in terms of advice. The Bank also has a number of initiatives to combat climate change, including the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) Independent Delivery Unit (IDU). The Bank supports us financially, particularly valuable for research activities, and even offers the Group logistics support for its negotiators and experts to attend various meetings. Lastly, the Bank not only has considerable resources of its own, but also the capacity to mobilize resources and partnerships essential for accelerating the pace of specific urgent initiatives. It is also accredited to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which, at the October 2018 meeting of its Board, – where the Bank has three directors and three alternates – considered three of its projects, two related to renewable energy (Burkina Faso and DRC) and one related to adaptation in the Niger basin.

  • The signing of the Paris Agreement at the close of COP21 in Paris was hailed as a great step forward and the role of the AGN in defending the interests of Africa was crucial during the preliminary negotiations. What is its role now?

The climate negotiations are unique in that they are held in successive rounds. Between 2011 and 2015, or in other words, between COP17 in Durban and COP21 in Paris, a cycle of negotiations was held on a global treaty. These are highly political negotiations. COP22 in Marrakesh, where the Paris Agreement was ratified, witnessed the start of a more technical round. The countries of Africa committed themselves legally, as did the other countries. What now remains to be done in COP24 in Poland is to move onto the implementing decrees stage. To be more specific, we now need to establish the procedures, rules and terms for application of the Agreement. But, apart from the technical aspect, this COP's second "big issue" is the matter of funding. The GCF's funding replenishment meeting will be held in October 2019. These resources were capitalized to the tune of US $10 billion at the Lima conference. We expect to raise as much this time.

The role of the AGN has evolved. Since 2015, we have had an additional mandate, one that I would describe as an 'incubation mandate', that moves us onto a kind of AGN 2.0. Our mandate now is to help our member countries to mobilize resources and build their capacities in order to facilitate their tangible actions. This leads to the formulation of concrete initiatives such as the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) and the Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI). That's what we do!

  • Three years on from ratification of the Paris Agreement, can Africa really be optimistic?

Yes, for several reasons: it cannot be denied that awareness has been raised throughout Africa, with real consideration of the policy issues. In 2014, all we had was an annual meeting of African Heads of State on the subject, and the Committee of Heads of State and Government on Climate Change was the only body we had. Since 2015 there have been three or four meetings every year in Africa and we now have six initiatives covering all or specific parts of the continent,[1] each led by a Head of State. And then, we have never before been as well-structured operationally, the AGN working closely with member countries to speed up implementation on the ground.

International politics is going through a difficult time, with gaps and weaknesses – you only have to look at the current position of the United States to see this. But the fact is that Africa has no choice. The last IPCC reportdemonstrates how the impacts of climate change affect every development sector: agriculture, industry, transport, urbanization, and more. Africa is not merely affected but, worse than that, if nothing is done, these impacts will continue to grow in strength, consequently threatening to wipe out everything that we have gained, all the progress made by African countries in terms of development in recent years. So, we need to firm up our actions and speed up implementation of dedicated initiatives.


  • If there is consensus on the urgent need to act, funding continues to pose problems, especially in Africa. We still do expect the developed countries to keep their promises. Can you take action when the money is not there?

The fact is, the current situation is making it difficult for the developed countries to keep to their commitments, especially that of achieving the mobilization of at least $100 billion per annum by 2020, promised way back in 2009 at COP15 in Copenhagen and confirmed in Paris at COP21. The task is made even more difficult by the fact that there was no prior agreement on the rules of accounting to be used within this framework to clarify funding. And it is specifically on the establishment of these common rules that AGN has been working within a multilateral framework at the UN, for COP24.

Despite this situation, African countries are working on the development of their own strategies to mobilize resources, in order to make the most not only of international opportunities, but also of those available on the continent. The drying -up of aid and concessional finance is a reality, hence the need to maximize every opportunity. Never has there been so much funding (mostly private) available worldwide; everyone agrees that there are very significant amounts of capital, even in Africa. The first Africa Investment Forum, held by the Bank in South Africa in early November is the most striking example of this: we cannot simply hold out our hands and wait for the funding to come to us. The funds exist; what we have to do is ensure we have the means and capacity to mobilize them. But a huge amount of work remains to be done on this, in terms of financial engineering and intermediation and of improving national and regional business climates in order to capture these resources. This task must involve every stakeholder on the continent through a truly transformative partnership. Africa needs to trust in itself and pick up the pace. And it is probably therein that the ultimate challenge for the African Negotiators' Group, AGN 3.0, lies.

[1] African Adaptation Initiative (AAI); Initiative for the Adaptation of African Agriculture to Climate Change (AAA); Climate Commission for the Sahel; Climate Commission for Insular States and the Oceanic Economy; Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI).

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