HomeOpinion & AnalysisWhat Africa negotiators should aim for at COP26 Glasgow 2021?

What Africa negotiators should aim for at COP26 Glasgow 2021?


By Mitchell Mahachi

NEGOTIATORS on behalf of Africa have a challenging two weeks during the annual UN climate change conference as they represent more than 1,2 billion people back home and are not expected to come empty-handed or with a bag full of empty promises.

The conference presents an opportunity which Africa cannot miss. Africa is heavily affected by climate change and needs resources for adaptation and also mitigation.

She also needs to send out a strong message to the developed world to reduce their emissions and attain a less than 2°C temperature increase against the business as usual currently prevailing.

The team

Africa is represented in two groups at the COP26 meetings, that is the least developed countries where 33 of 54 African countries are present, then the Africa group of negotiators (AGN) where all 54 African countries are members.

The least developed countries website is surprisingly more comprehensive and has up to date information than the African group of negotiators.

One hopes this does not reflect on the state of readiness of the latter. The website can be a very important tool as a repository of information for building capacity of future climate negotiators and informing various stakeholders.

Negotiating climate change between unequal parties

The climate negotiations between Africa and the developed world have been described as negotiations between unequal partners.

For instance, the first round of National Determined Contributions in many African countries were largely dominated and written by international consultants.

It is akin to the numerous international coaches in African football and the continent keeps hoping to win the World Cup. However, the African group of negotiators have proved their mettle at previous conferences and are expected to obtain tangible results from COP26 Glasgow.

What is at stake for Africa?

It is difficult to fathom and express the dire situation of climate change and its impact on Africa and its very survival.

COP26 carries the weight of Africa’s problems and solutions. Key results of the Global Climate Risk Index 2020 by Germanwatch reveals that three  countries namely Madagascar, Rwanda and Kenya are among the top 10 most affected countries by climate change. The Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) for 2021 shows five African countries as the worst affected namely Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Sudan and Niger from the top 10 list.

Due to the fact that most of the countries in Africa are not adequately insured for climate change shocks, the already vulnerable communities are left in an even more precarious state.

The African climate policy centre projects that the gross domestic product (GDP) in the five African sub-regions would suffer significant decreases as a result of a global temperature increase. For scenarios ranging from a 1°C to a 4°C increase in global temperatures relative to pre-industrial levels, the continent’s overall GDP currently estimated at around US$2,6 trillion, is expected to decrease by 2,25% to 12,12%.

What makes the whole situation complex is that the contribution of African countries to global emissions was only 3,7% in 2018, yet it is the hardest hit by climate change impacts.

AR6 findings on Africa

An assessment of observed changes in hot extremes shows an increase throughout Africa and a high confidence in human contribution to the observed changes.

Africa again shows an increase in heavy precipitation, but the confidence of human contribution is low due to disagreement.

The picture is the same again in respect of agricultural and ecological drought which shows an increase and the confidence of human contribution is also low due to disagreement. Given that most African economies are dominated by agriculture, this spells doom for the continent.

A colleague of mine once told me that when you go for negotiations, do not go with a bagful of arguments. He posited going with a few arguments and sticking to them through thick and thin. I believe this is one scenario where his argument may come handy. The issue of the US$100 billion pledge is fraught with grey areas and, therefore, could be the trump card the AGN must stick to and apply pressure on the developed nations to have climate targets that are more ambitious given the little window period of opportunity left.

US$100 billion support

Without doubt, the issue of climate finance is at the heart of COP26. It is only fair that in 2009, the world’s richest nations pledged to provide $100 billion of funding every year by 2020 to help developing countries tackle the climate crisis, but that goal was never attained. Only $79,6 billion was made available in 2019, the latest year for which data is available, according to the Paris-based OECD. Failure to meet this target has implications on the trust and solidarity between the developed and developing nations ahead of COP26. This could potentially derail the conference as the latter question the sincerity of the former’s commitment to meet emission targets.

Allocation of responsibility

For starters, there is no internationally agreed basis for allocation of the $100 billion pledge among the developed countries. Germany internally is reported to consider its share at about 10% of the sum, but has never officially endorsed this. The USA is considered to be at around 40% but has never come forward to endorse this percentage. As it stands, no country can be brought to book because they have failed to contribute their share of the US$100 billion pledge. Surprisingly, the Nato alliance clearly states that members are to commit 2% of their overall spending on the military, yet the same members are quiet on such a matter of immense importance. This casts doubts on the sincerity of some nations, thereby endangering the conference altogether. Also team Africa could propose a mechanism for the payment of the US$100 billion based on a function of a nation’s emission contributions, its NDCs and performance on them, among other criteria.

As a precondition for the COP26 to proceed, team Africa should demand the payment of the outstanding amount from the US$100 billion. If for some reason the developed nations are unable to pay, such as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, then they could have their outstanding balances recorded as I owe you to pay later. This is why it is important to allot responsibility to each of the developed nations.

Time to homogenise climate finance

There are a lot of cross hairs on what is implied by climate finance. Some countries provide only grants as climate finance, while others count loans to developing countries, which must be repaid. For example, France, Japan and Germany, who are the highest contributors, provided most of their finance through loans. Most of the countries ranked in the middle provided the majority of their finance as grants, which requires more budgetary effort for contributors but is more desirable for resource-strapped developing nations.

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