Experiences from Africa Climate Week, the road to COP 27

By Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil, SF Global Co-Director and NDC Coordinator, Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Contracted through UNDP

Over 2,300 people came to Libreville, Gabon Africa’s last Eden, where 80% of the country is covered with forests which absorb 100 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. Gabon has one of the most ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the world, which commits to remain carbon neutral to 2050. Throughout the week, participants could enjoy through videos and photographs displayed in the many rooms at the conference venue, the spectacular rain forests, amazing wildlife and fascinating art and culture of Gabon. The venue of the conference was overlooking the Atlantic ocean, with spectacularly clean beaches, evidence that the country takes environmental management seriously. I was part of the group of NDC Coordinators from Africa who were funded by NDC Partnership to attend ACW to share experiences and learn from the regional exchange sessions. New funding initiatives were launched during the week and panel discussions held on a variety of topics. There were some interesting side events and several opportunities for networking and exploring collaboration at the ACW. It was my first time to attend an ACW and here I share my experiences from the week here.

Climate change and development go hand in hand

Development is measured through the world’s achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while climate action is measured through achievement of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). There is growing recognition that countries, particularly in Africa, need to advance the Agenda 2030 and Paris Agreement jointly to have both developmental benefits and climate resilience. Aligning the two can have a multiplier effect, reduce duplication and increase efficiency- maximizing resources, technical capacity, information, and expertise sharing. There were several sessions at Africa Climate Week where linkages between NDCs and SDGs were discussed.

The Kingdom of Eswatini delegation comprising of Duduzile Nhlengethwa-Masina (Director of Dept. of Meteorology), Simelane Bafana (Instrumentation Engineer at Dept. of Meteorology), Deepa Pullanikkatil (NDC Coordinator).

There is need for long term vision

The Long Term Low Emissions Development Strategies (LT-LEDS) is an instrument that illustrates how countries can decarbonize their economies in the long run, up to 2050 and beyond, against which shorter-term targets can be set through NDCs and National Adaptation Plans. It is a crucial policy tool and can help to explore the consequences of policy choices in terms of integrated socio-economic objectives. LT-LEDS should be country-owned, tailor-made, and forward-looking to allow countries to follow a low carbon and climate resilient pathway after toll that COVID-19 recovery has taken on many developing nations’ economy. The NDCs and LT-LEDS are connected because aligning short-term climate action with long-term strategies can substantially shape countries’ short- and mid-term priorities, policies and investment pipelines, leading to significant cost reductions in the long-term. Linking NDCs to long-term mitigation strategies will be key in ensuring efficient use of resources, particularly crucial for responding to climate change amidst and following the COVID-19 crisis.

Just Transition

The buzz words at ACW were “Just Transition”. The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group defines the Just Transition concept as a framework for facilitating equitable access to the benefits and sharing of the costs of sustainable development such that livelihoods of all people, including the most vulnerable, are supported and enhanced as societies make the transition to low carbon and resilient economies. A Just Transition affirms Africa’s right to development and industrialization based on the Paris Agreement-negotiated language of equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances. The consensus seems to be that, in Africa, the priority is to lift its people out of poverty foremost, while supporting environmental sustainability and inclusive economic growth. AfDB launched a Just Transition Initiative with funding from Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and this will develop a network of relevant stakeholders, partners and experts to discuss a just transition in Africa with an objective to create consensus and a way forward on the continent.

Financing is urgently needed for climate action

At ACW, climate finance was widely discussed and mentioned in almost every session. “It is not realistic to have climate action without considering the full context of the sustainable development agenda, poverty, hunger, employment and women empowerment. Mobilization of climate finance in Africa is crucial to create real progress in Africa.”, said COP 27 Climate Champion, Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin. It is estimated that Africa will need $2.8trillion to implement NDCs between 2020 and 2030. African governments have committed USD 264 billion of domestic public resources, about 10% of the total cost. USD 2.5 trillion must come from international public sources and the domestic and international private sectors. This external financial support, required beyond domestic public sources, is defined as “climate finance need”. We hope COP 27 will help mobilize additional climate finance beyond the $100billion promise.

Road to COP27: Action & Implementation

One of the outcomes of CoP26 was the finalisation of the “Paris Rulebook”. As a result, the main theme of CoP27 is the implementation of the Paris Agreement. COP 27 must live up to its expectation because we have no time to lose, as evident by the recent drought in Somalia, heatwaves in Europe and flooding in Pakistan, climate change continues to wreak havoc around the world. We have a lot to do, and I left Gabon with the message that Africa will move forward with ambition, determination and hope towards a climate resilient future and will continue the discussions at COP 27 to ensure that we foster ambitious action on climate change adaptation and mitigation.