What’s at stake for Africa at COP21

07 Dec 2015

children fetching water at a river UNDP is helping Rwanda boost resilience to disasters and the effects of climate change. Photo: UNDP Rwanda.

The international community is currently mobilized around the ongoing 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) taking place from 30 November to 11 December in Paris, France, and where delegates from around the world are expected to agree on a global plan to tackle climate change. This is a critical moment for the world in general, and Africa in particular.

Africa is especially vulnerable to the effects of anthropogenic climate change even though its contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is negligible when compared to that of industrialized regions.

With two-thirds of working Africans making a living off the land, erratic and extreme weather patterns resulting in floods and drought affect food security as well as economic activity. Models indicate climate change could cause annual losses that amount to 1.5-3 percent of GDP by 2030.

The recently-released 2015 Africa Adaptation Gap Report estimates that Africa’s costs for adapting to climate change will run to USD $7-15 billion per year by 2020. In the scenario that the global temperature rise is kept below 2°C, this figure could rise to $50 billion per year by 2050. Beyond 2°C, the cost of adaptation could reach a staggering $100 billion per year.

As such, the African Group of Negotiators, comprised of climate negotiators from every African country, and supported by UNDP, have a most critical task. The Common African Position calls for an agreement that robustly recognizes the adaptation needs of vulnerable developing countries and particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and includes issues related to funding, capacity development and technology transfer.

The Green Climate Fund set up in 2009 aimed at providing $100 billion in annual adaptation funds to developing countries, has not yet achieved its goal, and current levels of overseas climate finance directed to sub-Saharan Africa in particular are clearly insufficient to meet the region’s adaptation finance needs.

African governments have been making progress on adaptation across different fronts. UNDP has held four regional workshops in which almost all sub-Saharan countries participated, to go through the process of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – the post-2020 climate actions countries intend to take under the new international agreement to be reached in Paris.

Countries are also including climate adaptation measures in national public budget lines, a trend that will help strengthen ownership, leadership and accountability, and promote adaptation being viewed as part and parcel of broader development efforts.

In addition, several countries, including Ethiopia, Mali, Rwanda and Senegal, have established national Climate Change Funds to support the implementation of national projects and programmes on adaptation, mitigation and access to clean energy.

Government engagement of the private sector on climate change is another opportunity to boost adaptation, but has yet to fully gain traction.  Providing information and incentives could help bring the sector on board in a more systematic and long-term way.

African governments and the private sector should not see climate change as an obstacle to the continued rise of the continent, but rather as a real opportunity for Africa to rethink its development path and make it climate-resilient, risk-informed and carbon-neutral. 

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