OPINION: African expectations from climate change funding
Sena Alouka, Director of Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement in Togo, discusses the progress of the Green Climate Fund, and looks at how Africa is engaging with the climate finance.
The recent Climate Summit in New York, initiated by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, brought together over 120 heads of state and ministers, leaders of multilateral organisations, civil society and private sector leaders from across the globe. The intention was to mobilise the political will for a meaningful agreement on climate change in 2015 and also to encourage pledges to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Calling on world leaders to take serious actions and demonstrate concrete commitments, the conference highlighted the need to move this agenda forward.
Climate change impacts continue to intensify and African countries, with high poverty levels and related food insecurity, are host to some of the most vulnerable regions and people in the world. Africa as a whole is hugely dependent on agriculture as its main economic activity and has suffered under prolonged droughts and floods. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report indicates that Africa is likely to exceed the 2°C temperature increase by the last decades of this century. This increase has been projected to further devastate the conditions in Africa, from amplifying stress on water to exacerbating the vulnerability of agricultural systems. This will have strong adverse effects on food security.
African leaders are gradually taking bolder steps to address climate change. However they meet challenges at various levels. It has to be acknowledged that there exists a huge knowledge gap on the realities of climate change and the position African leaders should take. This is evidenced by inadequate policies that do not directly address the situation or support efforts to alleviate it, for example, in the case of energy policy. African governments are struggling to meet rising energy demands in their countries. Forests have been seriously degraded as charcoal is often the easiest option to meet immediate energy needs. Efforts to address this are minimal and restricted, due the inappropriate policies in place and the inadequate allocation of funds for climate change by governments to implement comprehensive climate adaptation and resilience building activities. This is not helped by the fact that the international community does not provide nearly enough funding and expertise to ensure that critical adaptation efforts are supported or that the renewable energy is favoured over the development of “cheap” energy options based on fossil fuels.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), such as JVE International, have been working directly with local communities in many African countries to identify and implement innovative solutions to adapt to the changing climate. For example, efforts have been made to provide energy to rural communities using pico hydro systems in areas not covered by the national grid. Feasibility studies have been carried out and it is encouraging to see the developing interest from the government. To further achieve optimum results, JVE has been working with local communities in Togo to educate and sensitise them on the climate change agenda, develop resilience and ensure that the various stakeholders are informed and knowledgeable enough to contribute to the national debate.
In partnership with other CSOs from Benin and Ghana, several workshops on the Green Climate Fund have been held to create awareness and build capacity of the government, private actors and civil society, in order to collaborate on the opportunities the fund can provide to combat climate change. The participation of government leaders is key in bridging the knowledge gap to ensure that they build upon available knowledge in their countries and promote stakeholder involvement in decision-making.
So far, many opportunities to attract funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation are missed because leaders are often poorly informed or lack access to the national network of organisations working on climate change. In Togo, for example, government offices have limited capacity to engage with the Green Climate Fund and other international funds. With limited national-level public funds available to address climate change as an urgent issue, this should be a top priority for the government. The need for capacity development is therefore significant and should be directed first at the relevant ministries as custodians of the Green Climate Fund, and then to civil society and actors working on addressing climate change. Moreover, ensuring better capacity and increased stakeholder involvement in climate change funding policies would also signify a long term investment in the country, through the formulation of well-informed and inclusive climate policies. Lasting solutions need to be identified in order to scale-up public finance and shift private sources to support locally-driven climate action.
Following the commitment of developed countries, made during the UNFCCC’s Conference of Parties in Copenhagen in 2009, the process to set up the Green Climate Fund is still being finalised. Intended to make available US$ 100 billion per year to assist developing countries to adapt to climate change and invest in clean energy options, it is one of the main channels for the financial support. It is taking far too long and does not reflect the urgency of the matter. With the UN Climate Summit, the floor has been opened to political leadership on climate change. Going by the pledges announced so far, amounting to 2.3 billion, there is still a huge gap between the Copenhagen promise and the present fulfilment. The fact that money starts to flow in, however, signals that the Green Climate Fund will open for business soon. The top priority on our agenda is to ensure that communities in Africa, where the needs are so big, can access these funds. There is growing interest in the GCF on this side of the globe and the cry for climate action is evident, going by the thousands who took to the streets of New York. We will work on our side to keep this momentum going, by engaging with governments and civil society to create an African movement that will hopefully put enough heat on the wealthy governments to cool the temperature.
Sena Alouka is Director of Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement in Togo. His organisation monitors climate change policies in Togo and international climate finance, including the Green Climate Fund. CDKN occasionally invites bloggers from around the world to provide their experiences and views. The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of CDKN.
 http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/WGIIAR5-Chap22_FINAL.pdf, p.1202
 For example, African countries that are rich in fossil resources, keep the exploitation of these resources as a first priority, over developing the renewable energy sector.
 See for example a recent study by Neil Bird from ODI: http://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/9164.pdf
 Pico hydro is a term used for hydroelectric power generation of under 5 kW.