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OPINION: Does mitigation matter for Africa?

CDKN Africa’s Webster Whande reflects on whether mitigation is a priority for Africa and the role of the INDC process on the continent.

On 10 June, Ethiopia submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC, the twelfth country to do so (the third in Africa after Gabon and Morocco, and the first country supported by CDKN). It is indeed “something to be celebrated,” according to Sam Bickersteth, Chief Executive of CDKN. But the actual submission is not the only action to be celebrated, says CDKN Africa’s Webster Whande.

“The INDC process on the continent has spurred not only talk around climate change but also concrete mitigation and adaptation plans,” Webster said in a telephone interview from the Bonn Climate Change Conference.

“Historically a low emitting region, African countries’ getting on board with their contributions sends a clear message that Africa expects all Parties to lead in climate change action.”

Traditionally, African countries have focused on adaptation, but the INDC process has shown that “African countries are not looking at themselves as being unique and exceptional, despite being historically low emitters. It shows that they want to contribute to the international climate change effort and raise their mitigation ambitions.” African countries have repeatedly called for an increase in pre-2020 ambitions as a trust-building measure amongst Parties. The Government of Ethiopia’s INDC – which aims to cut future projected emissions by 64% by 2030 and commits to poverty reduction – has to be celebrated from that perspective as well.

Dr Whande, who provides support to the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) through CDKN, participated in a Bonn side event hosted by the MAPS Programme on whether mitigation matters for Africa.

“The talk highlighted that it is a myth that mitigation doesn’t matter for Africa,” said Dr Whande. “Since COP17, it has been very clear to all Parties participating in the negotiations that the 2015 agreement – covering both mitigation and adaptation – is applicable to everyone.” According to Webster, participation itself of African countries in the negotiations shows that mitigation is a concern for the region.

“Africa is already taking action to cut emissions. A proposed AGN Renewable Energy Initiative aims to implement 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity before 2020 as well as increase access to energy – an ambitious act for a continent where some sub-regions have as low as 35% energy access. That’s just one large-scale example of how the African continent is beginning to plan for reduced emissions while increasing access to energy and safeguarding the continent’s current development trajectories.

While mitigation matters for Africa, the continent remains particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. African Ministers of Environment, at a recent meeting in Cairo, endorsed and encouraged African countries to develop adaptation along with their mitigation INDCs. The process of undertaking the INDC is also an opportunity for African countries to show their adaptation actions and needs. Adaptation is a key issue for majority of African countries and the INDC can highlight what actions have already been taken as well as what capacity, technology and finance African countries need to make a meaningful contribution to the international effort.”

Dr Whande also highlights that INDCs can be used as a planning tool for many countries and as a means to enhance capacities and improve data collection. Typically, the focus of African INDCs has been on sectors as opposed to economy wide, as it is easier to manage the data. So far, core sectors have been energy, industry, agriculture, water and forestry and land-use change.

There has been great effort in putting the INDCs together and, for the CDKN project , there has to be some recognition of these efforts. “We have seen through the INDC process and at the negotiations that there is action at all levels, which is very positive.” It is the continent’s hope that in the lead up to the Paris climate change negotiations, uncertainties around INDCs will be clarified and allow African countries to implement their INDCs, with international cooperation.

For more information visit the CDKN INDC page.


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