Africa’s agenda for the ongoing UN climate talks COP21

African Elephants are a key species vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

With current greenhouse gas emission trajectories global warming could produce catastrophic and irreversible damage according to previous warnings by climate scientists. And so, more than 190 countries around the world converge at the Conference Of Parties 21 (COP21) in Paris from next week for discussions that could pave the way for a global agreement on pool actions necessary to reverse the deteriorating impact of climate change. This includes the result of increasing global temperatures - causing rainfall shortages, degradation of soils, degradation of forests, animal and plant extinction, and drought.

The world is seeking an international framework that will replace the Kyoto Protocol and one that makes it possible to accelerate actions against climate change, according to the United Nations.

Due to its geographical positioning, Africa still remains the largest victim of emissions even though it is the lowest emitter continent (contributing less than 4% of global carbon emissions). The African Development Bank (AfDB) has previously announced that if the current emission rates continue, adaptation to climate change will cost Africa about US$20-30 billion per year in the next 10-20 years. As the talks kick off, a lot is expected from the regional leaders to put the continent's agenda into consideration in reaching an agreement. 

African leaders will be very cautious to have their agenda taken more seriously in arriving at a viable agreement, due to their frustrations with previous climate-related agreements. The chair of the African Group of Negotiators Mr. Elhassan Nagmeldin said during an Expert Group Meeting that took place in Addis Ababa in January this year  that Africa was regretting the Kyoto protocol outcomes since leaders from the region had not paid full attention to some of the issues during its penning down. The meeting was organized by African Climate Policy Center (ACPC), a research arm of the ClimDev-Africa consortium. 

Although no bidding agreement will result from the COP21 talks slated to run untill 11 December, resolutions are expected to be ambitious and integral enough to lead the way into penning an agreement (at a later date), whose implementation will see reduction of greenhouse gas such that the global temperature does not rise by 2 degrees Celsius or more before 2100. COP21 follows the partial failures of the Copenhagen 2009 and the fact that the tenure of Kyoto Protocol is about to expire. COP is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Image Credit: Climate model predictions for global warming under the Special Report on Emissions A2 scenario relative to global average temperatures in 2000. 

In preparation for COP21, Africa has been gathering for a common voice: through the Committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) to help forge a common goal. In addition, Africa Climate Talks, has been in the forefront of boosting cooperation towards a common goal. Africa Climate Talks will facilitate further discussions on the continent's issues at COP21 through a platform known as the Africa Pavilion

"Africa, in  post-2015 negotiations, is about building a strong coalition of partners that will support its efforts to produce bankable proposals and strong adaptation and mitigation programs," said the Director of the Special Initiatives Division at the UN Economic Commission for Africa and Coordinator of the ACPC Ms. Fatima Denton to the delegates during the annual Conference on Climate Change and Development (CCDA 5) in Zimbabwe.

ClimDev-Africa has, by way of organizing meetings and platforms that bring African voices together, identified climate finance as the most important issue for Africa, and regional representatives will be lobbying for developed nations and the largest emitters to bear the largest responsibility for climate change.

"Climate justice means that developed countries which have caused climate change with its related damages should also provide means to address its consequences on the rest of the world,"

 This statement came from African leaders after a meeting in Ethiopia last month. It was attended by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and civil society representatives.

Previously, the issue of funding developing countries to deal with climate change adaptation and mitigation has always born controversies. Indeed, since there have been arguments that more commitments outside the UN as well as different partnerships and funding mechanisms are needed in order to create more impact, it would be reasonable for any government to commit to engage "non-state actors" such as businesses and local governments to fund some initiatives.

While leaders from this continent emphasize that the financial burden is not to be shifted to the private sector and developing economies, and that largest emitters need to bear the largest responsibility by increasing climate funding, there is no doubt that an acceptable balance would be necessary. That too will be necessary for a self-reliant and responsible Africa. Although such ideas could be unpopular, many leaders consider it to be critical. President of Côte d'Ivoire Alassane Ouattara, said during the African Development Forum in Marrakech last year, that there was a need for innovative funding approaches.

"It is important to get the business sector on board. Government cannot shoulder the whole responsibility," he said. 

SEI Senior Research Fellow Francis X. Johnson has also, offered his opinion on the CCDA 5 conference held recently in Zimbabwe, saying that it is important for Africa to put its resources to climate-related development to complement what comes from the developed world. Africa has continued to receive support in counterring climate-related issues from developed nations, the World Bank, AfDB, UN and other organizations and financiers, although it is argued that much remains to be done today. 

According to the ClimDev-Africa consortium, Africa will also be seeking more support in climate technology transfer and capacity building in mitigation and adaptation measures against climate change. Others include access to climate information by planners in order to facilitate climate-smart agriculture, as well as a need to boost access to renewable energy.

There is no doubt that the world cannot wait  to act and stop the deteriorating climate. Stakes will be high for a continent that emits low greenhouse gas but one that suffers the most from climate change, and hence cannot be strategically left out when forging  agreements.