By Herman Kwoba
As the world gathered in New York on April 22nd to sign what has largely been referred to as a landmark deal, it was evident and quite clear that Africa had little influence on this process and their huge continental endorsement went unnoticed. This was shown by the large attention paid to Western States. It is however also quite clear that the Paris Agreement is and will largely remain a set of good intentions, and countries will not only need to make their symbolic gesture count for much more than good PR, but also take up an ethical commitment that ensures they play their rightful part in what is to follow the signing.
This article is however not an ethical appeal to countries to uphold their pledges and commitments, it is an attempt to highlight the potential areas that Africa should maximize on for it to gain and which areas we can explore further, for the sake of the planet, regardless of the unforeseen benefits. It is also a pre-emptive elaboration of the possible areas negotiators will use to garner support back in their countries after the symbolic gesture of appending signatures is done with .
So, what does the Paris Agreement mean for the African continent?
Actually, quite a lot.
For starters, as much as INDCs took centre stage, it was good to see that adaptation also took a prominent space in the agreement. The main article on adaptation (Article 7) seems to be fully focused on the LDCs and the developing countries. To break it down, adaptation has in the agreement been referred to both in terms of the support the continent needs to receive as well as in reference to the central role adaptation plays in the climate change agenda. The adaptation efforts currently existing and being implemented on the continent were acknowledged as well a call for strengthened cooperative and well streamlined efforts made. The agreement has also appealed for increase in the current amount dedicated to adaptation (particularly in the pre 2020 ambitions), and made it clear that adaptation efforts should be determined by the party implementing them, and not as directed by those providing support (read developed countries).
On the very hot area of finance, I was a bit disappointed to note that there was no ‘stricter’ urgency placed on its execution modalities. The fact that money has been promised (not committed), was promised, and will continue to be promised without a clearer centralized mechanism established to ensure full actualization, is not very welcome. I am yet to do a detailed assessment of the issue, however, I am confident that the previous set target of 100 billion dollars by 2020 has not been achieved and is not on course to be achieved; and this is what forms the backbone of the problem. As much as I appreciate that the GCF, GEF, Adaptation Fund and a few other channels have been suggested as serving the agreement, I believe that a more reliable and dependable mechanism can be established to function in an elaborate way. I am convinced that a quota-based financial framework, which is not volunteer-based, would have made more sense. I am however not being ignorant of the difficulty this would involve considering the level at which discussions are taking place. At the same time, it is good to realize the significant emphasis being laid on the reporting mechanisms; where a clear outline of how all forms of support provided shall be reported.
Closely related to finance is capacity building, which I am glad to note was also given considerable attention. It has been presented with regard to the money to be committed to it as well as with regard to the framework of its implementation. The reason I say capacity building is closely related to finance is because there exists an evident need for capacity to be enhanced on the recipient’s side; especially as more money is being promised and continues to be promised. It is quite clear by now that money does not necessarily translate to actions, nor does it necessarily mean presence of absorption capacity or distributional and management capabilities. There is presently a lot of money (for climate related interventions) on the African continent or currently making its way to the continent, and it still needs to be spent, or is not spent as well as it is supposed to be. This is however not a call for a eurocentric approach that involves individuals from the west coming to train “the Africans” on how to handle their issues, this is rather a call for the Africans to (themselves) invest in finding the most appropriate ways of executing their plans. The agreement has actually acknowledged this issue when it says “…financial support should be aimed at implementing plans developed by developing countries…”.
On other subjects, mitigation (closely tied to the INDC); loss and damage- mainly linked to the Warsaw International Mechanism-, where it has been made clear that its actualization does not form any basis for liability and compensation; and technology transfer, it appears there is still a bit more work lined up to make them more realistic and not just sets of ambitions to be achieved. It is also worth acknowledging an area where, if the mechanism is well set up, the continent would significantly gain; this is in the name of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes. This is more of a re-branding of the REDD+ and other carbon transfer schemes, which although they offered significant benefits, had some shortfalls in their implementation. Let us wait and see how this shall fair.
Herman is a Kenyan student of water Policy at the PanAfrican University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES) based in Algeria. He has a deep interest international development and is passionate about African progress. His main vision is to see Africa play a stronger central role in the climate change negotiations and in the overall UN engagement process.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in their private capacity and do necessarily represent the views of the African Climate Reality Project.