News & Media / COP28 Reality Check: Collaborative Insights on Climate Priorities for Africa

COP28 Reality Check: Collaborative Insights on Climate Priorities for Africa

24 November, 2023

Co-author by Lina Ahmed, a Policy Advisor specialising in Climate Loss and Damage at Germanwatch; Michael Kakande, the Chairperson of The Resilient40; and Sandile Mtetwa, Sustainable Energy Specialist, Next Generation Foresight Practitioner and Research Associate at Integrated Africa Power.

The COP28 discussions are increasingly vital in reshaping global strategies towards climate action, particularly in addressing Africa's pressing adaptation needs. Sandile, Michael, and Lina delve into crucial questions concerning adaptation, decarbonisation, finance, and youth engagement within Africa's climate agenda from diverse perspectives.

Balancing Net Zero Emissions and Development Goals in Africa

Decarbonisation is pivotal in our pursuit to limit global temperature rise above 1.5℃ by 2050. By this crucial year, Africa's carbon emissions are projected to remain at a modest 4% of the worldwide total, factoring in population and industrial growth. With this context in mind, it becomes apparent that imposing overly optimistic timelines and targets on emerging markets to curtail carbon emissions, especially amid economic, social, and political constraints, may border on the impractical. Among Africa's 54 nations, 38 have either proposed, pledged, documented, or enshrined in law a transition plan towards achieving net-zero emissions. It is noteworthy that Nigeria, as the sole African nation with a legally mandated net-zero program, aims for the year 2070. An analysis by McKinsey and Sustainable Energy for All indicates that £1.9 trillion is needed to expand the nation's industries and address its energy requirements, with 25% dedicated to net-zero efforts. Extrapolated to other African countries, the investment needs are staggering. According to the recent Africa Climate Summit, Africa currently receives only $60 billion annually for climate-related activities, far short of its needs. It would be wise for Africa to focus on providing clean energy solutions to its more than 600 million people, intensifying efforts to conserve biodiversity, and using advanced technologies to adapt to climate change. These interconnected efforts unquestionably add value to the overarching 'net-zero' agenda while respecting Africa's development timeline. Climate pledges should reflect each nation's capabilities, commitment to people, and development priorities, epitomising a genuine 'just transition'.

Prioritising Adaptation in Africa: A Vital Imperative

The IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report compellingly illustrates the interplay between Loss and Damage (L&D), adaptation, and mitigation. It highlights an unsettling trend: as climate change intensifies, the world, particularly Africa, edges closer to the boundaries of transformation. These boundaries are defined by 'soft' limits, where limited finance hinders adaptation, and 'hard' limits, where no measures suffice to mitigate the risks. Africa needs a more sophisticated approach to address its growing climate challenges, including increased extreme weather events, considerable temperature swings, and rising sea levels. In keeping with this, the emphasis on L&D must not overshadow the necessity of adaptation; instead, the two approaches must cooperate to address a crisis that has had and is still having a significant impact on the continent. The consequences cover a wide range of issues, including the undoing of development gains, threats to the food and water systems, loss in biodiversity, and effects on health due to mass displacement and fuelling of conflicts.

The projection that the L&D gap could soar to 580 billion USD by 2030 in developing countries is a jarring wake-up call, signalling the inadequacy of current mitigation and adaptation efforts. This alarming figure emphasises the critical need for enhanced adaptation finance and an accelerated fossil-fuel phase-out. The discourse should evolve beyond a binary choice between priorities. Instead, it should focus on the urgency and effectiveness of implementing solutions, the importance of locally-led transformative actions, and the need for increased, predictable and accessible finance for adaptation and L&D.

Empowering African Youth in Climate Action

The significance of engaging African youth in the climate agenda cannot be overstated. As the youngest continent with the world's highest youth population, involving youth strengthens the narrative, positioning them as both beneficiaries and agents of change in Africa's climate response. Empowering youth ensures active involvement in shaping climate policies and fostering a sense of responsibility in mitigating the crisis while advancing Africa's development.

Africa's climate priorities demand a nuanced approach that harmonises adaptation and mitigation efforts, respects developmental timelines, and integrates the invaluable role of its youth. The COP28 discussions should foster collaborative actions and increased support to drive sustainable climate solutions across the continent.

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