Africa takes the lead on climate friendly development

By Rehana Dada

INDC submissions are currently coming in to the UNFCCCsee note, if not thick and fast, at least with purpose and resolve. The collection of countries on the nearer side of commitment to action on climate change includes both big and small economies, and the submissions themselves could be seen to be another concretisation of the same stances that have been taken throughout almost the entire history of the negotiations. However, alongside the formal climate negotiations processes, a number of innovative process show countries’ commitment to addressing climate change and sustainable development, one such process being the Africa 2020 Initiative.

(Image below: Kenya plans to install 400 MW of wind power)

Kenya plans to install 400 MW of wind power

Kenya is the most recent African to submit its INDC. Its emissions in 2010 stand at 73 MtCO2eq, of which 75 percent is from agriculture and LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry), with a significant amount of this a result of the use of wood fuel. In its INDC the country states its commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030 relative to its BAU (business as usual) scenario of 143 MtCO2eq. Its adaptation contribution is to ensure enhanced resilience by mainstreaming adaptation in its medium term plans and implementing adaptation actions.

Image Above: In the cooking hut in a village in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Over two thirds of Africans lack access to modern energy. 

Morocco, which submitted its INDC in early June, commits to a reduction of 32 percent by 2030 compared to its BAU scenario, which it states translates into a cumulative reduction of 401 MtCO2eq over the 2020-2030 period. This will be achieved through transforming its energy sector, along with strong political commitment.  It states that it intends to produce over 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2025, reduce its energy consumption by 15 percent by 2030, substantially reduce fossil fuel subsidies, and increase the use of natural gas. There will also be interventions in other sectors such as agriculture, water, and industry.

Morocco’s adaptation objectives are: to protect its people through a risk-prevention management approach that relies on observation and research around current and future climate risks; protect its natural heritage and natural resources through ecosystem restoration, flood prevention and combating soil erosion using an ecosystem based adaptation approach; protect high risk infrastructure and climate-sensitive systems such as agriculture and tourism; and protect its cultural heritage.  The country already spends 9 percent of its overall investment expenditure on adaptation, and commits to increasing this to 15 percent.

Both Kenya and Morocco’s INDC are pronounced in their conditionality on support in the form of finance, technology, and capacity building.  Morocco’s finance requirement to achieve its mitigation commitment is USD 45 billion, and its ability to commit is conditional on receiving about 75 percent of its budget through international support. Its adaptation targets require international support in technology and capacity building.  Kenya estimates that it needs USD 40 billion to achieve its climate change goals but has not yet stated its domestic capacity.

As Seyni Nafo, spokesperson for the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN), explains, “Finance is going to be very important – it’s always been important in climate negotiations for developing countries, in particular Africa.”  The AGN is developing a proposal for finance for the pre- and post-2020 commitments which will cover matters such as the call for USD100 billion per annum by 2020 to support developing countries in meeting climate change commitments, replenishment of the Green Climate Fund, and sustainability of the Adaptation Fund.  He says, “We have a very comprehensive position but partners are not willing to make new commitments because of the economic situation.  For us, the finance package is one of the elements that will make the Paris commitment relevant – and that’s finance in the text, in the complementary COP decisions, and also in the new initiatives that Africa is taking on renewable energy as well as adaptation and loss and damage.”

The Africa 2020 Initiative is being developed with the intention of enabling energy access and scaling up sustainable development. Over two thirds of Africa’s people lack access to modern energy, with the gap estimated at over 300GW.  Developing an environmentally friendly and efficient energy infrastructure is a key NEPAD goal in the drive for sustainable development, and there is also recognition that much of this energy needs to come from renewables in order to minimise global warming. The continent has strong renewable energy resources, and its lack of an extensive modern energy system can be considered an opportunity to develop a system based on the newest available renewable technology. “Our hypothesis is that renewable energy can play a significant role in increasing access to energy on the continent, and this is an opportunity that cuts across sustainability, development and finance for development,” explains Nafo. The Initiative was approved by AMCEN (African Ministerial Conference on the Environment) in late June.

Providing smart grids is an important aspect of the Africa 2020 Initiative
 (Image Above: Providing smart grids is an important aspect of the Africa 2020 Initiative)

In its first phase, Africa 2020 aims to provide 10,000 MW of renewable energy capacity and develop smart grids in at least 10 to 15 countries by 2020.  This would be achieved through: investment and resource mobilising to scale up private and public finance, enable finance readiness and support smart monetary and finance policies; research and technical support for policy and other incentives; and strengthening Africa’s engagement in international negotiations to build support for a Global Renewable Energy Support Initiative.  The intention is to establish a functional structure and start roll out of the initiative by January 2016. Africa initiatives already underway to develop renewable energy include Kenya’s plans for 400MW of wind capacity by 2020.  Finance is also key in implement these initiatives, with Africa 2020 requiring at least USD 20 billion, a quarter of which needs to come from grants.

The AGN is also developing a comprehensive proposal for adaptation and loss & damage across Africa.  It identified four areas for work: Enhancing observational infrastructure and early warning, strengthening African institutions and national processes, and enhancing regional and international cooperation. Says Nafo, “These areas are very broad, but we developed our plan this way to be able to capture the richness of the national plans and programmes of African countries”.  The proposal links the climate and post-2015 development agendas. It is expected to be released publicly in August.

“We are committed, we are capable and we are willing and able to act,” says Nafo, “It’s one thing to say Africa is vulnerable and needs finance to adapt, and it’s one thing to come up with ways through textual negotiations to address those challenges.  We’re doing all of that, but we’re also taking it to the next phase, which is for Africa to devise our own plans and strategies, and if we get any support, it is to further operationalise the frameworks devised by the continent.”

Preparations are underway to ensure that African ministers and heads of state have a powerful set of tools and instruments to support their engagement in the negotiations. Even if the Paris agreement looks likely to disappoint those asking for strong, binding commitment, the processes alongside the formal negotiations might prove to be significantly effective in contributing towards sustainable development and containing global warming.

Note : The unwillingness of developed countries like the USA to submit to obligatory actions to curb global warming under the UNFCC unless less developed countries also do so led to a stalemate in negotiations. In order to break this, COP 17 in Durban in 2011 established the  Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), and subsequent negotiations under the ADP resulted in agreement that all countries would commit to a set of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC). All countries were asked to communicate their INDC to the UNFCCC in advance of COP 21, which is due to take place in Paris in December 2015.