SPECIAL COP22 – What does the Paris deal mean to the African continent?

The Paris Agreement will enter into force on 4 November 2016. So far, 92 countries (including the US, the European Union and China) have ratified the deal, allowing it to become operational before the next UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Marrakech this month.

The African continent will host a COP for the third time, with Morocco at its second experience after COP7 in 2001. After the adoption on December 2015, only two African countries ratified the Paris Agreement swiftly: Somalia and Cameroon, accounting together for nearly the 0.50% of global emissions. Morocco, together with Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, Swaziland and Uganda deposited the necessary instrument of ratification during the 21 September UN event. Algeria, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Rwanda ratified during the following weeks. The contribution of the perhaps most vulnerable continent consists therefore – to date – of 16 ratifications out of 55 states, covering 2.05% of current global emissions.

Africa contributes only marginally to climate change in terms of emissions. A group of 11 selected African countries (Table 1, chosen according to representative economic, political and climate-related conditions) emits together 3.45% of current global emissions, while the whole continent accounts for 7.18%.

Africa data and ratification status


On the other hand its high exposure, low adaptive capacity, geographical and socio-economic features made Africa the most vulnerable continent to climate change impacts, such as floods, water scarcity, and desertification. Most of the countries in Table 1 do have both coastal and desert areas, with Somalia and C.A.R. in a risky mix of natural fragility and political instability. Moreover, countries affected by internal conflicts or terrorism (such as Nigeria) often have to counter damages to their energy, water and transport infrastructure, incurring in the risk of securitization overspending.
Differences among African countries emerge distinctly, both in term of development pathways and climate policy.

Among the selected countries, linkages emerge between the incidence of the industrial sector on the national economy, the overall GDP level, the incidence of oil rents on the GDP, the level of CO2 emissions, and the diplomatic behaviour. Oil-dependent Nigeria and agriculture-driven Somalia – the richest among considered countries, and one of the poorest – stay respectively at the two far ends of the ratification continuum. Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt dominate the continental economy. Data on the diffusion of access to electricity, combined with figures on per-capita GDP and internal inequality, divide Africa into an electrified, richer North and a poorer South-East (with significant exceptions, such as South Africa). Growing population, increasing per-capita GDP levels and equality rates is expected to lead to an increasing energy demand which richer countries have to satisfy. African countries need financial, technological and R&D assistance to avoid new carbon-dependent energy systems. A reliable international framework and trust in transfer mechanisms is to become crucial at any level.

Many African leaders committed, through their INDCs, to ambitious environmental goals. Liberia pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2050, Morocco already invested 2 billion dollars in the majestic Ouarzazate 160MW concentrated-solar plants project. Angola committed to a 35% emissions reduction by 2030. On the other hand, South Africa and Egypt (accounting together for more than all the other Table 1 countries’ aggregate emissions), put forth vague pledges without indicating quantitative reduction targets or baseline years.

Conditional and unconditional reduction pledges can be found in the majority of African countries’ INDC, suggesting a precautionary behaviour. African governments are aware that optimal mitigation and adaptation measures could become unbearable without international efforts. The effective participation of African countries to the new international climate regime will thus depend on the support they will receive to adopt low-carbon pathways and to build climate resilience. The financial resources currently devoted to adaptation still represent a small portion of total climate finance volumes flowing from developed to developing countries, and are insufficient to meet adaptation costs in the developing world. According to UNEP, the adaptation finance gap is likely to increase substantially up to 2050. The issue, with a particular attention to Africa’s fragility, has been central during the first informal pre-COP meetings held in Morocco. Pre-COP22 informal meetings have been already focused on how to implement transfer mechanisms and on setting a roadmap for the $100 billion climate finance goal reaffirmed in the Paris Agreement. OECD countries recently proposed a draft roadmap (with a doubling of adaptation finance) during further pre-COP ministerial meetings.

In order to make COP22 a key step towards an inclusive implementation of the Paris Agreement, a broad level of international commitment and a strategical use of COP-leadership will be key factors in the upcoming climate agenda.


This read is an updated version of the article first published on ICCG’s International Climate Policy Magazine n. 42.

(Image: Transport for Dakar. Photo credit: Jeff Attaway/Flickr)