The 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) concluded with the release of the Glasgow Climate Pact on Saturday, November 13. The final document fell short of some expectations but contained several consequential new items for the global climate agenda. Promises of accelerated climate adaptation finance, the commitment to “phasing down” certain fossil fuels, and the finalization of rules for a global carbon market are all likely to have a significant impact on African countries.

On November 15, the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and AUDA-NEPAD, the African Union Development Agency, co-hosted the panel discussion Climate Change: Securing Africa’s Future between climate and policy experts to discuss the outcomes of COP26 for Africa.

Independent impact and development consultant Dolika Banda moderated the virtual event. Dr. Nick Westcott, Director of the Royal African Society and ACET Board member, delivered opening remarks on behalf of ACET, while Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of AUDA-NEPAD, presented the development organization’s perspective. Panelists included Mirabelle Moreaux, Investment Director at Injaro Investments; Moky Makura, Executive Director of Africa No Filter; Lesley Ndlovu, CEO of African Risk Capacity; and Cesar Calderon, Lead Economist at the Office of the Chief Economist for Africa at the World Bank.

Five key takeaways from the discussion:

1. COP26 signaled a strengthened global consensus on the reality of climate change.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Westcott encapsulated the all-encompassing and borderless nature of the climate challenge for the continent: “Climate is at the heart of everything we do … [and] climate change doesn’t end at national borders.” He stressed that regional cooperation and regional integration are crucial in the face of these transnational threats.

There was broad consensus among panelists that Africa is particularly vulnerable to the risks posed by climate change, as the continent is experiencing increasingly frequent and severe climate shocks. Several participants noted the significance of threats to the agricultural sector. According to Lesley Ndlovu, “700 million people’s economic activities in agriculture can be impacted by extreme weather”—but only 20-30 million farmers have sufficient prearranged financial coverage. Cesar Calderon noted that “the impact of drought on medium-term growth is about eight times higher for countries in Africa.”

Moky Makura noted that, while awareness of climate change among Africans continues to be low, media coverage and conversations on the continent increasingly come with an awareness of the climate dimension. Examples include recent coverage of Madagascar’s droughts and famine and the farmer-herder crisis in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

2. Africa should plan for increased climate financing—and verify COP26 commitments.

At COP26, African negotiators attempted to hold developed countries accountable for failing to deliver on the $100 billion annual commitment in climate financing for developing countries. The goals of the African Group of Negotiators included securing significantly higher financial commitments to help African countries achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). While the Glasgow Climate Pact does call for “accelerated financing,” panelists kept their expectations in check.

Mirabelle Moreaux reminded panelists that the 2009 target of 100 billion in climate financing from developed countries to the developing world had been missed for several years, with the target expected to be hit only in 2023. She noted that catalytic funding is essential to scale climate-smart innovations. “This is not about a handout,” she said. “This is responsible action taken by all global citizens.”

Emphasizing the need for cautious optimism, Dr. Mayaki said the increased focus on adaptation was “a win for Africa” and that more funds are likely to be available, primarily from the private sector in the form of loans and unilateral disbursements through development banks. He also called on African countries to build their own capacity to independently verify climate funding spent on the continent, rather than relying on figures disseminated by developed country parties.

3. Africa must plan for ‘phasing down’ of fossil fuels.

Dr. Mayaki noted that the language of “phasing down” rather than “phasing out” will benefit oil-exporting countries like Nigeria and Angola. As traditional off-takers have set targets for phasing out fossil fuels, these exporters will need to find demand within Africa. The African Continental Free Trade Area “could provide mechanisms to ensure that Africa makes the best use of its fossil fuel resources before it becomes globally unattractive to do so,” he said, while countries also pursue renewable energy targets.

Cesar Calderon saw opportunities for decarbonization for African countries, particularly in the manufacturing sector. He called on policymakers to take advantage of the minerals that power the green economy, including copper and cobalt, and urged countries to find ways to insert these raw materials into regional value chains. Calderon also saw value in renewable energy for development: “solar and wind, along with an expansion of the national grid can help achieve the goal of universal access to electricity.”

4. Africa needs to take advantage of strengthened global carbon offset markets.

One of the more significant outcomes of COP26 was the resolution of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which formalizes the mechanism that allows countries to trade carbon offsets on international markets to meet their Paris Agreement goals. According to Dr. Mayaki, the capacity to understand and take full advantage of the carbon market is lacking in Africa. He urged countries and partners to help “develop robust capacity development strategies to make sure Africa is not [missing out], as happened with the clean development mechanism under Kyoto.”

Dolika Banda underlined the point, saying: “we should not be the commodity that is traded, but we should take part in the commodity trading, especially as the continent closest to net-zero emissions.”

An audience member asked the panel about the key elements required to make the carbon market work for Africa. Dr. Westcott noted that barely three percent of climate finance comes to Africa due to a lack of viable projects. He was hopeful that the strengthening of global carbon markets could “enable African countries to get more benefits from the contributions they are already making” but noted that this would require African governments and communities to scale up education to ensure local mobilization.

5. COP27 presents a vital opportunity to make African needs and priorities heard.

ACET President and Founder K.Y. Amoako joined the panel to underscore the importance of the discussion ahead of COP27 next year in Egypt.

“I think the timing of this conversation is important. We want to drive the African narrative and make sure that our priorities and needs drive COP-27,” he said. “Most importantly, our leaders also need to know that we need to work together. What affects one country here affects the other. So we have a lot to do.”

Watch the recorded event below

ACET research on climate change and African transformation

The third edition of the African Transformation Report, Integrating to Transform explores the critical need for African countries to work together beyond trade to tackle shared challenges.

Chapter 3: Managing Climate Risks explores climate risks as one of the three issues that pose significant long-term challenges to transformation.

Read ATR3: Managing Climate Risks

The second edition of the African Transformation Report, Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation sets out a bold new agenda for African development powered by a revolution in agriculture.

Chapter 9: Harmonizing Intensification, Sustainability, and Climate Change proposes ways to ensure that the agricultural and economic transformation is environmentally friendly against a backdrop of climate change.

Read ATR2: Harmonizing Intensification, Sustainability, and Climate Change

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