Submissions to the Talanoa Dialogue from the African Climate Talks (ACT!)


The African Climate Policy Center (ACPC) in collaboration with Addis Ababa University convened the second round of the African Climate Talks (ACT!) at the Intercontinental Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the 22-23rd March 2018. The event attended by more than 170 participants as a follow-up to the inaugural ACT event which took place in September 2015 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

This African Climate Talks proposed to introduce a critical dimension to the Talanoa dialogue by interrogating contextual questions which are typically silent in the UNFCCC process. In this broad context, the ACTS elicited debate over a range of issues that affect the implementation of the Paris Agreement in Africa. Participants identified alternative pathways to the resolution of the climate (and development) crises facing the continent.

From October 10-12, 2018, The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa Union Commission (AUC) and the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) convened the seventh conference on climate change and development in Africa, (CCDA-VII). The conference was attended by over 700 participants representing communities, policy makers from local and national governments, scientists and researchers as well as other stakeholders from across the African continent. The participants gave feedback and validated the Talanoa dialogue inputs from the second African Climate Talks.

Below are the proposed contributions from the African stakeholders into the Talanoa dialogue.


We acknowledge that due to its rapid adoption and ratification, the Paris Agreement (PA) entered into force without any preparation (ground rules and rule book, modalities and guidelines). Until the ground rules are finalized, implementation is going to be extremely difficult. However, the development of the ground rules should be an opportunity to finesse the agreement and specially to address the concerns of Africa and the developing world regarding issues of equity, as well as CBDR.

The Paris Agreement is effectively a ‘deregulation/derogation’? of article 2(2) “This Agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.”

Although Africa has a committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC); the African Ministerial Committee on Environment (AMCEN) providing political leadership at the pan African scale, in reality there is limited political leadership on climate change at the national level throughout the continent. This results in climate change being marginal in national political and development discourses across the continent, although this is the continent that is most heavily impacted by the phenomenon.

The Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are the main mechanisms for achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, are completely voluntary and lacking in ambition at the aggregate level. On the other hand, Africa’s NDCs are overly ambitious, given the continent’s limited role in global warming. As such, every effort should be made to raise the ambition of the developed world. Consider regional dimension of NDCs.

Climate change and development are not mutually exclusive. There is therefore a need to link climate change negotiations with other development and trade negotiations. It is well established that the absence of linkages between the different regulatory frameworks results in the practice of avoiding legal restrictions in rich countries by moving manufacturing and waste to poor countries. For instance, the WHO does not have air-quality programmes in place for sub-Saharan Africa, though it does for Europe, the Western Pacific, and the Americas. Because of regulatory deficiencies, the oil industry complies with tighter restrictions on some continents by offloading dirtier fuel on others. There are many other ways by which emissions are transferred to Africa. This only results in increasing emissions from Africa, and yet this could be resolved by linking trade, health and climate change regulations. Climate change should be more comprehensively integrated into the WTO, the SDGs and Agenda 2063, with clear performance indicators.

Despite the agreement on a global goal on adaptation, the PA remains mitigation centric. More effort should be made to support adaptation in Africa. Already, many countries are diverting significant national funds and other resources towards climate change adaptation, and these expenditures need to be reflected and accounted for in the implementation of the agreement, and particularly in the further development of the climate finance mechanisms.

On the Performance of the UNFCCC

The meeting noted with concern that despite the institution of the UNFCCC process in 1992, there has been no meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, atmospheric concentrations of GHG have been increasing, with already disastrous impacts on Africa.

The meeting recognized the ideological, political and economic challenges that face the UNFCCC and all its instruments. However, the meeting recommended that in order to be effective, the ENFCCC should explicitly address the enormous power imbalances that exist between the developed and developing world, and ensure that the principle of CBDR is brought back, with appropriate mechanisms for binding commitments to emissions reduction.

The market based mechanisms put in place to manage emissions and mitigation, especially REDD+ and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) have not been particularly effective in Africa for a variety of reasons. For REDD+, the project preparation overly complex – yet there is no guarantee for funding. The administrative costs tend to be extremely high, and there is a disconnect between global policy optimism and local realities of implementation of REDD+ initiatives – such as recentralization, leakage, permanence, monitoring, unmet community expectations and human rights abuses.

Instead of relying solely on market mechanisms and responses driven by the state, the UNFCCC should seek creative ways of engaging society. Non-state actors beyond the private sector have important roles to play in climate change adaptation and mitigation, but are not accorded adequate recognition in present agreements. The engagement of society in climate action requires that society be furnished with adequate and relevant information. This cannot be the responsibility of the media alone.

Financing Mechanisms need to be rethought

The UNFCCC process should learn lessons from more successful multi-lateral agreements such as the Montreal Protocol and the WTO. What made the Montreal Protocol effective and how can this be adopted into the PA? The WTO negotiations are a permanent process, with rounds of negotiation dedicated towards resolving specific challenges in the agreement. The same principle of permanent negotiation should be adopted in the PA. WTO is a rule based organization, with e.g. formulae on how much each country should offer to reduce the tariffs.

South-South can help develop initiatives on finance and tech transfer through working with regional development Banks for example ADB, Asia Dev Bank

The meeting noted that Africa’s contribution to the climate change narrative is very minimal, and this needs to be addressed. The continent should invest its own resources to promote a climate science which is multidimensional, focusing on all issues or threats that Africa faces. All the disciplines, including Anthropology, Finance, Meteorology are relevant. In order to strengthen African participation in understandiung climate change and in designing responses, the continent should therefore consider the following:

  • Create an African Climate Science Working Group
  • Create stronger institutions at the continental level to enhance the integration of an African climate science into the continental and global arena. In this regard the meeting noted, with appreciation, the role that has been played by the African Group of Negotiators since its inception in unifying African voices and negotiating common African positions at the UNFCCC COPS. To enhance this contribution, the meeting recommended that:
  1. The African Union considers establishing a Commission on Climate Change
  2. The Climate Change Commission should in turn create a permanent secretariat supporting the AGN. This would enhance institutional accountability
  3. The Commission should raise domestic resources to support the AGN and wean it of reliance on foreign donors as this compromises the negotiations of African positions
  4. The Commission strengthens South-South Cooperation towards the 1.5 degrees target.

On engaging African Knowledge Systems

The meeting noted that climate change governance has systematically marginalized endogenous knowledge systems, and yet local adaptation responses are based on local interactions with the climate, using local knowledge and observations. This has been exacerbated by a development model whoich is ‘western centric’ ‘Formal’ climate actions are detached/divorced from the societies in which they are implemented. It was further noted that the discourse on technology transfer has been dominated by western technologies. Yet there are many technologies among African communities and cultures which are locally relevant and resilient. There is need to disrupt the pattern of relying on western technologies for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

To promote the inclusion of Endogenous Knowledge Systems in understanding and responding to climate change, investments should be made in the following:

  • Promotion of co-learning and co-creation of information
  • Translation and communication of information in other languages, including the promotion of media such as community radio
  • Development of platforms where EKS knowledge systems can be shared 
  • Support for scientists to bring out the link between science and IKS
  • Promotion of entrepreneurship for local innovations

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