Africa Day at COP21

Tumusiimeby Christine Hou T’15

To many developing nations with unstable infrastructure and an agriculture-dominant industry, the changes in weather patterns have significant impact on their livelihoods and economies. In Africa, where droughts and water shortages have led to civil unrest, leaders are pressuring developed nations at COP21 to curb emissions. At the same time, African nations seek financial and technical assistance. As the representative from the African Development Bank stated on Tuesday during Africa Day’s opening session, “The vulnerable should not be made to pay for their vulnerability. This is what leads to perpetual poverty.”

In Sub-Saharan Africa, over 95% of agriculture depends on rainfall, which means food security is completely weather-reliant. For developing nations comprised of smallholder farmers, a few seasons of drought can push families into poverty. Unreliable weather patterns also strain urban infrastructure and change country demographics, as the rural poor who can no longer live off their land must migrate into the cities.

Africa Day was first and foremost a showing of solidarity amongst the 53 African nations who submitted INDCs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, (of which Libya was the only outlier). Their INDCs are also amongst the most ambitious–-despite coming off a small base of emissions, African nations have committed to cutting 86-90% of carbon emissions. At the African Development Bank, a $5 billion USD per year fund has been created to address issues related to climate, which can be leveraged to an additional $20 billion USD for the continent.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, the African nations also focused on the need for common but differentiated responsibilities (a common theme at these negotiations). As a result, in their INDCs, 58% of adaptation commitments were conditional, and 66% of mitigation commitments were conditional.

Overall, all African leaders on the panels, which included the main negotiators on behalf of the African coalition as well as ministers from Ethiopia, Egypt, Niger, Uganda, Namibia, and the East African Community, were adamant on doing what they could to secure a binding Paris agreement. For a continent that may bear the biggest burden of climate change, Africa’s long-term future will be shaped greatly by the outcomes of Paris.

Photo: Welcome Remarks by H.E. Mrs. Rhoda Peace , Commissioner for the Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission

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