Climate change talks: Are the negotiations beneficial to Africa?

SANF 19 no 2
The growing frequency and unpredictable nature of natural disasters such as floods and droughts is a striking reminder and warning that climate change is a serious phenomenon that has the capacity to destabilize the world.

In recognition of this, the global community has put in place various initiatives to combat the impacts of climate change including negotiating for a binding agreement on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is critical, particularly for developing countries such as those in Africa who naturally produce less emissions yet are the hardest hit by climate change due to limited financial resources to adapt to such changes.

However, since the climate change negotiations begun some decades ago, there have offered very little hope for Africa as issues of climate financing for adaptation remain largely unresolved.

For example, prior to the latest climate talks held in December 2018, the African Group of Negotiators came up with a common position where they outlined priorities and expectations to strengthen climate resilience.

One of the key priorities was the need for developed countries to provide a predictable and adequate financing mechanism to fight the impacts of climate change.

However, the conference failed to come up with a solid position on climate financing, much to the disappointment of Africa.

Developed countries only “urged” to meet their existing commitment of mobilizing US$100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020.

Climate experts in Africa are of the view that in order to  keep global temperature rise well below 2°C , developed countries must be held accountable for their past mistakes and should provide a reliable flow of financial resources to developing countries to boost their adaptation and mitigation efforts.

The Zambezi Environment Report 2015, for example, already warns that impacts of climate change are being felt across all sectors in southern Africa including on water resources, human health, food security, tourism and livelihoods.

This implies that any delay in implementing adaptation measures will further worsen the impacts of climate change in the region.

Namibia, which is the current Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has urged rich nations to deliver on their financial obligations in a transparent manner for developing countries to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

“In Namibia, the implementation of our country’s NDC is conditioned to the provision of 90 percent of the financial resources from developed countries,” Namibian Prime Minister, Dr Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said at the 24th Conference of Parties (COP 24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Katowice, Poland.

SADC and the rest of the African continent argues that such assistance should act as a net transfer of wealth from rich to poor nations mainly in the form of grants as opposed to loans which will further burden developing countries.

In the Paris Rulebook, nations are allowed to count all non-grant instruments as climate finance such as commercial loans and they are only asked to report the grant-equivalence of all these on voluntary basis.

The rulebook is a long-term regulatory framework agreed in Katowice that will help countries to plan, communicate, implement, report and follow up on their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Another outcome that did not meet the expectations of Africa is that the rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement failed to put enough emphasis on the question of loss and damage.

The rulebook only indicates that vulnerable countries will have a place to report climate-related losses and what they are doing to deal with them, including information on the kind of help they need.

In Katowice, the issue of loss and damage became one of the sticking points as developing countries wanted loss and damage to be treated as a stand-alone while developed countries were in favour of lumping it with other adaptation initiatives.

The failure by the developed countries to consider loss and damage as a critical component means that funds for increased adaptation will remain a challenge for a long time in Africa.

Despite its major shortcomings, negotiators at Katowice, however, managed to finally agree on the rule the rulebook which now acts as an operating manual for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The UN Climate Change Secretariat notes that the rulebook “operationalizes the transparency framework,” which “sets out how countries will provide information about their NDCs that describe their domestic climate actions.

Article 4.3 of the Paris Agreement mentions that each party’s successive nationally determined contribution will represent a progression beyond the party’s then current nationally determined contribution and reflect its highest possible ambition, reflecting its common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

The countries’ climate pledges in the NDCs mandated by Article 4 of the Paris Agreement and the  rules around what should be in them are supposed to make it easier when making comparison between and among countries and when adding them up as a global aggregate.

To this end, climate negotiators  highlighted that all countries  “shall” use the latest emissions accounting guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, last updated in 2006, but now in the process of being refreshed next year.

The UNFCCC Parties are set to re-submit or update their NDCs in 2020. A global stocktake to assess the effectiveness of climate action being undertaken by countries will be carried out in 2023.sardc.net


Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region. 

This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.

SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985.      Email sanf[at]sardc.net     

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