African countries deserve an enhanced climate ambition

Africa expects transparency in climate finance and better access to know-how to better face climate change.

African countries have been at the climate-change negotiating table for more than 20 years. The continent faces some of the most severe impacts of climate change, but questions remain over its adaptive capacity despite this engagement.

African civil society organizations, trade unions and governments have advocated for three main means of implementation: climate finance for adaptation and mitigation; technology transfer; and capacity building. The latter is aimed at facilitating and enhancing the ability of individuals, organizations and institutions in African countries to identify, plan and implement ways to adapt and mitigate to climate change. African countries are now preparing for the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Katowice, Poland from 2 to 14 December 2018. Through the Paris Work Programme (PAWP) expected to be adopted in Poland, African countries expect that COP 24 will deliver on the continent’s expectations with regards to facilitating climate resilience.

Climate finance for adaptation and mitigation

Climate change is impacting all economies in Africa, a continent highly dependent on agriculture. The impact is increasing the already high inequality, as resources meant for investment in social amenities are being channelled into climate-change adaptation. In this case due to climate change related disasters like droughts, flooding there is an adverse impact on Agricultural production hence food insecurity. Therefore, resources meant to provide other services like universal and affordable health care, expansion of infrastructure and other social services for the poor are channelled to climate change response initiatives.

During the COP 16, the world’s developed countries agreed to mobilize 100 billion US dollars per year by the year 2020 for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. This is still a pipe dream as only 10 billion US dollars have been mobilized so far since the establishment of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in 2006 to date. Additionally, African countries continue to face difficulties in accessing the funds as they are on a perpetual treadmill of paperwork to even qualify to receive any of the funds earmarked for them. Is imperative of global social justice that this funding be fast-tracked.

"Climate change impact is increasing the already high inequality in Africa, as resources meant for investment in social amenities are being channelled into climate-change adaptation."

As countries head to Poland in December, African countries approach the negotiations with the hope that issues dealing with transparency and accountability on climate financing will be made clearer and smoother. Otherwise, African countries will be obliged to divert more domestic resources to meeting their commitments under their Nationally Determined Contributions, which could affect other development priorities. If promised international funding is not forthcoming and the shortfall needs to be made up from scarce domestic resources, this can mean these resources are no longer available at national level for example for social protection measures or food security. The decision in Poland should therefore be clear on provision, transparency and accountability of climate financing.

Technology transfer and capacity building

Many adaptation and mitigation solutions will require technology as well as financing, for the purposes of innovation and upscaling across various sectors. Technology transfer, therefore, is critical for African countries. One of the concerns for African countries is the sheer lack of capacity to implement new technologies for climate-change responses. But Africa has the potential to also transfer technology to the north if the existing low carbon technologies that incorporate the already existing indigenous knowledge of African countries are expanded. Therefore, a provision for reverse transfer from South to North with regard to technology should also be provided. At the moment the discussion is being handled as North–South transfer only.

Africa is also cautious of becoming a testing ground for new technologies. Therefore, technologies from the north should be tried and tested before being transferred to Africa—for example short-lived solar panel technologies that end up being very expensive in the long run—a key issue that needs to be part of the discussions at COP 24. Finally, the means of implementation, especially climate finance and capacity building on uptake and implementation, are critical for technology transfer to work in Africa.

Climate change needs to be tackled on a global level and in a just manner

The climate-change crisis is now being felt in developed countries. As Europe and America battle wildfires amid massive heat waves over the past year, the impact in Africa is felt even stronger. The increasing frequency of droughts and flooding, and consequently increased risk of violent conflict in already volatile regions, present a major threat to livelihoods on the African continent. Looking ahead to Poland, it is the hope of African countries that these impacts will be reflected in the outcome document.

"It is important to ensure that the commitments towards promoting decent work and a just transition are properly articulated in the Paris Work Programme"

Lastly, as parties move towards operationalization of the Paris Agreement, it is important to ensure that the commitments towards promoting decent work and a just transition are properly articulated in the Paris Work Programme. This is key because climate change is already having significant impacts on the world of work in Africa. Over 60 per cent of Africa’s economically active population works in and lives off the agricultural sector, which is adversely affected by climate change. The transition to low-carbon economies offers great potential for green jobs creation, in areas such as the renewable-energy sector. This transition process however means that current existing jobs that do not offer sustainable production methods will be at a risk. It is important to ensure that this transition happens in a socially just and inclusive manner.

Therefore, a socially and ecologically just outcome from COP 24 must take into consideration the African demands on the means of implementation (climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building) for adaptation and mitigation as well as the necessity of a just transition. This outcome should also facilitate the realization of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), especially goals 8, 10 and 13, which focus on promoting decent work, addressing inequality and climate action.


Robert Muthami is a Programme Coordinator at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Kenya Office. He coordinates work around socio-ecological transformation. For more information on the work by FES in Kenya visit the country office website and follow the official Facebook fan page.

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