Africa Climate Week: Moving forward with ambition, determination and hope

By Climate Champions | September 2, 2022
  • In record-breaking attendance numbers, more than 2,000 delegates flooded to Libreville, Gabon, to attend Africa Climate Week between 29 August and 2 September — the last of the regional climate weeks before COP27
  • High level speakers included Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba; Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs and COP27 President Designate; Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary for the UNFCCC; Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin, High-Level Champion for Egypt; Nigel Topping, High-Level Champion for the United Kingdom; Josefa Sacko, Commissioner of the African Union; Bogolo Kenewendo, Special Advisor and Africa Director for the Climate Champions; and Omnia El Omrani, COP27 Youth Envoy
  • Events throughout the week brought together stakeholders from across the climate ecosystem, creating an open and reflective space to address how best to unlock shared opportunities and managed the shared risks — exacerbated by the current interconnected geopolitical crises — all in view of building resilience that will create an empowering environment especially for women and youth
  • Although Africa accounts for no more than 3% of global emissions, the continent faces vastly greater exposure to the risks of climate change — yet also has the potential to play a leading and pivotal part in shaping the future of climate action

The week brought to the fore the extent to which Africa is endowed with two unique qualities: a vast natural capital (from forests, mangroves, oceans and rich deltas); and the opportunity to leapfrog the high carbon development route of developed countries to promote the transition to a low greenhouse gas and climate resilient development pathway within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

However, making the most of this potential will require dedicated work by all stakeholders in the next eight years to power the green growth pathway which offers job creation, livelihood improvement, skills development, and a vital carbon storage potential for the planet. The race to 1.5C requires a managed, just and financed transition.

H.E. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat, emphasized the need “to unlock long-term, climate resilient development in order to operationalise and boost intra African trade in a manner that contributes to climate-positivity.”

“As we begin the countdown to COP27, we move forward with ambition, determination and hope. The global community must work together to solve the climate crisis – and Africa is a key element to this solution,” said UN Climate Change High level Champions Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin and Nigel Topping. “Africa must combat climate change within a more comprehensive agenda for sustainable development. It is not realistic to have climate action without considering the full context of the sustainable development agenda, poverty, hunger, employment and women empowerment. Mobilisation of climate finance in Africa is crucial to create real progress in Africa.”

COP27 Youth Envoy Omnia El Omrani highlighted the importance of including youth in decision-making and innovative action, reminding the audience that “without urgent climate action, we [the youth] will continue to suffer the most”.

Across Ministerial Roundtables, the Implementation Lab, the Marrakech Partnership workshop, and many other rich events, solutions to particular topics were explored between non-State actors, Government representatives, Civil Society Organisations and African Leaders.

The time is ripe for investing in high quality carbon credits

Scientists unrelentingly warn that, given the delay in action to date, cutting emissions alone will no longer suffice to keep the world on track to a resilient, just and zero carbon pathway. Any realistic route to preserving the security of humanity will require a ‘holistic approach’, including the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – and the later we leave it, the greater the scale and the faster the timeline will be needed. The time is ripe to strengthen the integrity of carbon markets and urge corporations to invest in high-quality credits which integrate nature and biodiversity at their core, and benefit primarily local and indigenous communities. As Mwangi Githiru so eloquently posited, “Co-benefits are core benefits” (Mwangi Githiru, Wildlife Works).

Addressing waste management can help unlock many connected issues

Events repeatedly raised the issue of urbanisation rates continuing to soar globally, increasing pressure on waste management. Multi-level governance – namely through partnerships and circular economy models – is essential to feed waste back into the African economy. Women, young people and marginalised communities – in particular those working in the informal sector – must be placed at the heart of implementing these governance structures so that these solutions benefit all of society. Whilst governance solutions must be strengthened and inclusive, a top-down system is not sufficient to fully support local communities suffering against climate change. Activating the private sector can also help increase employment opportunities for the young generation to flourish.

African pathways to a just transition 

Energy is at the heart of the response to the climate change emergency and at the heart of its solution. A swift and broad transition to sustainable energy will be essential to achieve the emission reduction goals of the Paris Agreement. Most recently at COP26, the Glasgow Climate Pact called for accelerating the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies to transition towards low-emission energy systems by scaling up clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, including accelerating the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. To ensure this transition is just, it is imperative to support the poorest and most vulnerable in line with national circumstances, recalling the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities.

Africa must strive to decarbonise in order to maintain its competitiveness in a future low carbon world, and to build resilience to the adverse effects of climate change. However, energy transition is not an easily accomplished task for Africa: as a continent, it comprises the highest number of people without access to energy. At present, 43% of the total population (600 million people) lack access to electricity. The COVID-19 pandemic and soaring energy/food prices are reversing positive trends in improving access to energy – 25 million more people in Africa are living without electricity today compared with before the pandemic.

The energy transition is therefore not only about a rapid transition from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energies; it is also about providing affordable and reliable energy for African people, and closing the gap of energy poverty. Climate-related policies designed to accelerate a just transition must also be accompanied by adequate social protection measures that mitigate the impact on those most socio-economically affected.

Relatedly, the Marrakech Partnership workshop also helped shine a spotlight on the need to address policy requirements with all stakeholders at the table, to ensure that policy measures benefit all communities and to mitigate against the potential perverse outcomes of stronger regulation. This thinking will be further elaborated during Climate Week New York, from 19th – 24th September.

Underlying all these issues and their solutions is the need for accelerated finance – with a special focus on gender considerations 

No solution can come to fruition without the right finance – or without gender balance. Against a backdrop of worsening extreme poverty, climate week events yet again reiterated the need to channel and dramatically scale finance for the needs of the whole of Africa, turning the trillions pledged into billions invested now, without exacerbating debt burdens and in particular by placing women at the heart of solving these issues.

Africa Development Bank is already leading on developing green banks across the region to provide local, specialised finance facilities ready to invest in sustainable projects. The Africa Cities Water Adaptation Fund and the Africa Forests Restoration fund both aim to accelerate financing for resilience in Africa, blending both private and public funding by investing in projects and offering grants for analytical support to develop action plans for African cities.

Standard Chartered bank has set aside $300 billion dollars of sustainable financing in Asia and Africa. It is clear that non-state actors have a real role in catalysing climate finance and action in Africa as stakeholders in the Marrakech Partnership. These projects and other ‘finnovations’ (innovations in financial instruments and structures) must exponentially multiply in order to halve emissions this decade and protect those most vulnerable. Non-state actors play a catalytic role in deploying climate finance and action in Africa as stakeholders in the Marrakech Partnership, in support of the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

 

 

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