Africa Shines: Leading the way in UN Climate Change Summit negotiations

Climate change is not tomorrow’s problem, but is very much todays’ predicament. The United Nations Climate Change Summit took place this past September in New York. While pessimists did not believable in the possibility of any concrete measures be taken, the outcomes were very much so the contrary. At the forefront, taking the lead of negotiations were leaders of various African nations. Leaders showed a united front and made use of the channels available to them to do so. Indeed, organisations such as the United Nations, despite debates on their efficiency, do provide the platform and much-needed visibility for developing nations to shape agendas. The systematic use of institutions and international processes creates incentive for countries to partake in global governance and consequently influence global policy. The UN Climate Change Summit has shown Africa’s potential to shine and claim its rightful seat in global governance discussions.

Encouraging measures to confront climate change were announced by government, business, finance and civil society leaders present at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York. “Never before have so many leaders gathered to commit to action on climate change,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

The most significant event at the Summit was the leadership role demonstrated by African nations, very much behind these bold measures for change. As such, 19 ministers from Africa endorsed the Africa Clean Energy Corridor (ACEC). The initiative seeks the development of renewable energy projects used by the Eastern Africa Power Pool and Southern African Power Pool from its current 12% to at least 40% by 2030. 80% of all electricity in eastern and southern Africa is generated from gas, oil or coal. The transition away from carbon fossil fuels would save 2,500 tonnes of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions. The mutual effort led by African nations will also diversify resource availability, improve energy security and improve investment opportunities and job growth. In effect, cooperation on renewable energy implementation in the region would reduce generation costs by 4% and nearly triple electricity supply on the African continent.

Furthermore, the restoration of over 30 million hectares of degraded forest lands was a main focus on the Summit with nations such as Ethiopia, DRC and Uganda committing to the course in order to achieve a global Bonn challenge to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020.

“The courageous leadership demonstrated by these countries and by the wide range of global leaders in support of the New York Declaration on Forests, underlines that nature-based solutions can play a vital role in our fight against climate change and addressing the fundamental need to reduce emissions,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). IUCN estimates that meeting the 150 million hectare challenge target alone could add approximately US$ 85 billion to national and local economies and remove an additional 1 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

Pledges by African countries to combat deforestation and more than double restoration targets will bring significant climate benefits as it inspires initiatives that will contribute significantly to poverty reduction, economic development and food security across countries and regions. It is clear through this past UN Summit that African nations are more than ever determined to take the lead on global issues. The time of Afro-pessissism is over as leaders of the continent are showing great commitment to not only fighting climate change but changing opinions on the role played and to come for African nations.

Not only has this rhetoric been framed, but practice is matched to the latter. In effect, the continent has pledged to add climate change bonds to global warming resources. In 2016, the first climate change bonds will be issued from Africa. These bonds will allow Africa to make use of both capital markets and donor funds to reinforce its defences against extreme weather patterns such as prolonged drought or extreme heat. The plan was revealed as a consequence of the New York Summit and will see a first issue of around $200 million for up to five years. If successful, the bonds will be reintroduced every five years over a period of at least thirty years. African Risk Capacity (ARC), an African Union agency, will be developing and issuing the bonds. ARC was founded early 2014 to improve the continent’s ability to plan, prepare and respond to natural disasters and climate change. One can expect in the future continued bold measures and positions from the continent on other global issues justifying their growing leading influence in international affairs.

Written by Emma Bonvalot-Noirot (@Em_BN)


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