Africa’s recovery from Covid, climate change effects won’t undercut Paris accord, AU says

UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action Selwin Hart.

Africa can rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic and climate crises in ways that align with Agenda 2063 and comply with the ambition of the Paris Agreement to keep the rise in global temperatures under 1.5 degrees Celsius, the African Union Commission has said.

The commission convened a ministerial meeting on November 14 to update AU member states, development partners and financial institutions on progress in implementing the 2021-2027 Green Recovery Action Plan (GRAP).

Chaired by Josefa Sacko, the commissioner for agriculture and the blue economy at the AU, the forum was held at the United Nations climate summit (COP27) venue in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, providing a platform to lay the groundwork for a pledging conference expected to be held in the first quarter of 2023.

The AU assembly adopted the GRAP at its 35th ordinary session in February, aiming to facilitate climate-resilient recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and promote sustainable green transition on the continent.

Speaking at the Sharm el-Sheikh event, Selwin Hart, assistant secretary-general for the UN Climate Action Team, said Africa stands on the frontline of the climate crisis and because COP27 is being held on the continent, the conference must deliver.

“There has to be fundamental changes at the international level in ways to address the African climate issues. This means there has to be equity, especially in the transition to renewable energy,” he said.

“For instance, Africa’s renewable energy capacity is 60 percent, while installed solar capacity in the continent is a mere one percent.”

One of the biggest hurdles for Africa’s transition into green energy, he said, has been the cost of capital, with African countries forced to pay more than the industrialised world.

“The cost of capital for renewable energy in the continent is seven times higher than the cost of capital in the developed world,” he added.

The GRAP seeks to empower countries and regional economic communities in Africa to seize the window of opportunity to build a different future.

The Sharm el-Sheikh gathering aims to review progress in the implementation of the GRAP, review some flagship programmes submitted by AU member states and lay the groundwork for a formal pledging conference of the GRAP in the first quarter of 2023.

The GRAP is a policy instrument to coordinate and stimulate urgent action to help AU member countries to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate change crisis.

The Climate Change Performance Index 2023 shows that North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia have some of the biggest emitters in the world.

But it is Africa that bears the heaviest burden from the impacts of climate change. Various African countries have experienced erratic weather patterns in recent years, attributed to the effects of climate change.

In Kenya, the worst drought in four decades is ravaging communities, leaving hundreds of people dead and sending others deeper into poverty.

And that is why African negotiators have been pushing for loss and damage finance from the developed world. It is time for developed countries to start paying for the damage they have caused as a result of development, said Collins Nzovu, the Zambian minister for green economy and environment and chair of the African group of negotiators.

“It is scientifically proven and what we've been basically telling them is that can you increase your ambition because we are experiencing these devastating effects? On adaptation, our demand has been that adaptation finances be increased, actually, that it [be] doubled and they come through with $100 billion,” he added.

The AU leads the GRAP in collaboration with several other organisations. Focused on five pillars, the GRAP seeks to support the AU in achieving Agenda 2063, Africa's blueprint and master plan for transforming the continent into the global powerhouse of the future, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

The GRAP is an African-led framework to mobilise partners, knowledge, and investments needed to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.

This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organised by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Centre for Peace and Security.