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Adaptation to climate change remains key priority for Africa, say negotiators

The African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change (AGN) has re-affirmed its commitment to ensuring that climate change adaptation remains a top agenda item for the continent.

African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change (AGN)
Top right: Fatou Ndeye Gaye, AGN Lead Coordinator for Gender and ACE with AGN Chair, Ephraim Mwepya Shitima; top left: Lawrence Pollier, UNFCCC Secretariat; bottom left: AGN Chair, Ephraim Mwepya Shitima; middle right: Dr. Priscilla Mbarumun Achakpa, Gender and Climate Change Expert; and bottom right: Excellent Hachileka, UNDP Regional Expert for Africa on Climate Change, at the training for Young Climate Change Negotiators in Zambia

Speaking at the first AGN Preparatory Meeting in Livingstone, which was held alongside the Young Climate Change Negotiators Training, Zambia’s Ministry of Green Economy and Environment Permanent Secretary, John Msimuko, said adapting to the impacts of climate change remains one of the key challenges that Africa is facing.

“Adaptation remains a key priority as people, infrastructure and ecosystems on the continent continue to experience climate shocks and economic distress. The latest science by the Intergovernemntal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that Africa will need up to $86.5 billion for adaptation alone by 2030. Yet Africa only contributes approximately 4% to the global Green House gas emissions. Therefore, let us continue pursuing Africa’s special needs and special circumstances even at this year’s COP28. There is need for a transformative agenda on adaptation at COP28,” he said.

COP28 will be held in the United Arab Emirates from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

An anecdotal example highlighting the importance of adaptation to Africa was provided by host city Mayor, Constance Muleabai, who fingered climate change as the reason for reduced tourist numbers to the Victoria Falls, one of the seven Wonders of the World.

“Climate Change has continued to adversely affect our tourism sector which the people of the city of Livingstone heavily rely on,” she said. “Due to increasing temperatures, we have been experiencing low water levels in the Zambezi River, leaving the falls almost dry. The immediate resultant effect is reduced numbers of Tourists visiting the site. This means reduced incomes for the local communities.”

With a busy schedule awaiting negotiators, the meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the outcomes and achievements of COP27 and strategise on the Group’s work plan and their expectations for the forthcoming sessions; SB58 in June and COP28 later in December.

Ahead of the final stage of the Global Stocktake (GST) later this year, the subject was one of the key highlights among several important agenda items discussed. The discussions centred on the need for the Global Stocktake to take a balanced approach by removing, inherent bias for mitigation at the expense of adaptation.

“As AGN, we would like to see an outcome that is comprehensive and balanced to facilitate progress across all the thematic areas, and respect the priority issues of all Parties and stakeholders,” said AGN Chair, Ephraim Mwepya Shitima.

“The inherent bias in favour of mitigation ought to be rectified while the needs of adaptation and recognition of adaptation actions as part of the contribution of Parties towards the global effort should be accorded sufficient attention,” he added.

The global stocktake, as enshrined in Article 14 of the Paris Agreement, is a process for taking stock of the implementation of the Paris Agreement with the aim to assess the world’s collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the agreement and its long-term goals.

The first stocktake got underway at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November 2021 and is expected to conclude at COP28. Each stocktake is a two-year process that happens every five years.

The AGN Strategy meeting further considered the Chair’s report from his engagements with stakeholders including at the 36th Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit at which he briefed the Committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) on COP27 key outcomes and their implications on the continent.

Some of the key issues and priorities for Africa discussed included: modalities on the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund; doubling of adaptation finance and the general need for reforms of the climate finance architecture; Just transitions work programme taking into account national circumstances (Africa’s special needs and circumstances); a call for ambitious mitigation in the context of the recently released IPCC Synthesis report; Koronivia Joint work on Agriculture and food security; and implementation of the Gender Action Plan.

Gender and Climate Change

According to the UBFCCC, climate change has a greater impact on those sections of the population, that are most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and/or who have the least capacity to respond to natural hazards, such as droughts, landslides, floods and hurricanes.

Women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women. Women’s unequal participation in decision-making processes compound inequalities and often prevent women from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policymaking and implementation.

Yet, women can (and do) play a critical role in response to climate change due to their local knowledge of, and leadership in sustainable resource management and/or leading sustainable practices at the household and community level. It is for this reason that Parties to the UNFCCC have recognized the importance of involving women and men equally in UNFCCC processes by establishing a dedicated agenda item under the Convention addressing issues of gender and climate change and by including overarching text in the Paris Agreement.

In acknowledging the importance of gender equality, the AGN has been undertaking deliberate steps on gender responsiveness. At COP27, the AGN released key findings of a Gender Responsive Climate Action study, which was undertaken through support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Building on that report and recognising the need to increase number of female negotiators, the AGN organized a training of young negotiators, which was attended by over 46 young negotiators from across Africa from March 28 to 29, 2023 in Livingstone, Zambia.

UNDP strongly believes that having more women negotiators will strengthen the AGN and make it more impactful as a negotiating organ,” said Excellent Hachileka, UNDP Regional Climate Expert for Africa. “Building the capacity of the new young negotiators is extremely important as we move towards 2030 and as countries enhance their climate actions through the revised and more ambitious NDCs and the associated enhanced transparency reporting commitments.”

For the AGN Chair, supporting gender responsive climate action is a key strategy aimed at addressing identified inequalities.

“We support gender responsive climate action in all thematic areas. It is an open secret that women do not only suffer the most from climate vagaries but are also very committed when you get them involved in the climate discourse processes,” said AGN Chair, Ephraim Mwepya Shitima.

“It is against this background that as a negotiating block, we welcome initiatives aimed at empowering women and girls to be actively involved at both the negotiating table and implementation of activities in their communities,” he added.

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