28 Nov 2018 Press release Cities and lifestyles

Implications of Emissions Gap report for Africa: Incentivizing climate action uptake

28 November 2018 - The United Nations Environment Programme released this week its annual Emissions Gap Report. The report showed that world’s original level of ambition needs to be tripled to stay within 2°C warming and increased around fivefold for the 1.5°C scenario. A continuation of current trends will likely result in global warming of around 3.2°C by the end of the century, with continued temperature rises after that.

In the same vein about two months ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the latest state of the science report on climate change showing the globe is headed for a 1.5℃ warming sooner than was earlier projected. A 1.5℃ warming scenario is the threshold set by the Paris Agreement as best insurance against an unravelling climate change impacts projected to spell doom for Africa. Key among them, a devastating 75% shrinkage of economic productivity in developing countries - most of which are in Africa. 

This latest science sends an unequivocal message of the urgent need to ratchet up actions across the entire globe.

Writing on the wall

Africa cannot afford to slack as action and only action can turn the tides of climate impact already being felt by many across the continent. We therefore need all hands on deck, with non-state climate action rapidly gaining traction globally, as a goldmine for enterprise opportunities that grow economies while combating climate change. Africa cannot be left behind. As the African proverb goes “wood already set alight, is not hard to set alight”, Non-state climate action has proven that it is coming of age across the globe. Africa has demonstrated significant aptitude in tapping into this lucrative area. What we now need, is strategic level economic alignments, that will rapidly upscale this paradigm like wildfire across the continent.

Practical steps for Climate Action in Africa?

Non-state climate action in Africa should be premised as a catalyst of enterprise opportunities that solve priority socioeconomic challenges that accost this continent. The core of adversities Africa faces are economic. Economic productivity in the continent is up to 20times less than that of developed regions who are Africa’s competitors in global and regional markets. This is primarily due to lack of value addition to commodities for which the region holds a comparative advantage.

With this, manufacturing has stagnated, accounting for an average of just 10% of GDP since the 1970s.This adverse scenario is amplified by the fact that as the youngest continent with escalating youth unemployment, Africa needs to create no less than 1million jobs every month. It also presents an opportunity for non-state climate actions to provide solutions to, and by this, create country & continental demand for their upscaling. For example, ensuring proceeds from the Nigerian green bond worth about $628 million, are invested in decentralizing clean energy, a climate action – but strategically to power value addition in the cassava value chain – for which Nigeria holds the global comparative advantage as the largest producer, could see the country earn an extra 255 billion Naira ($701 million dollars) and save up to $3.5 billion of its foreign reserves currently expended on wheat importation by maximizing on cassava bread. This is in addition to creating up to 3 million jobs along the cassava value & supply chain.

Similar targeting in the continental agro-value chain will see the continent convert the current loses into $83 billion worth of income, job & food security opportunities every single year. This is how the 1million jobs urgently needed in Africa will be created and non-state climate action can be the driver. This is a billion-dollars’ worth of incentives to scale non-state climate action in the long run. 

Non-state actions will remain elusive to the continent unless practical implementation is fostered. The role of policy cannot be overstated. Implementation needs non-state actors from various sectors to divest from operating in their sectorial silos to forge collaborative actions that deliver impactful solutions. For which harmonizing policy implementation stands out as a key trigger. Policies derived from different sectors must be implemented coherently and in synchrony, to enable non-state actors at the operational level to similarly harmonize their operations and deliver impactful solutions.

Kenya is already demonstrating the strength of such complementary policy actions in catalysing operational collaboration among non-state actors that delivers impactful solutions. The convergence of finance, clean energy & ICT policies enabled non-state actors in telecommunications & clean energy to work collaboratively and create an enterprise – M-kopa that is driving climate actions simultaneously with socioeconomic needs of bridging the energy gap.

To scale this harmonization in policy, the UN Environment is supporting countries across Africa establish policy harmonization taskforce that convene policy makers across complementary ministries - including environment, finance, energy, agriculture among key ministries, to work collaboratively in implementing country NDCs. By this, similarly align non-state actors in these sectors to work collaboratively in tapping enterprise opportunities in energy, agriculture & finance among others. 

Leveraging on Africa’s sovereign capital, its people, and especially the over 200 million strong youthful population, and the skills, talents, energy, passion and entrepreneurial spirit, as a key constituency through which non-state climate actions can be significantly upscaled. Rather than premising fiscal resources to upscale non-state actions. The 200 million strong youthful population represents a significant non-state actor to drive climate actions that has been overlooked over the years. Now is the time to engage them. And the only premium to engage them is their skills Not upfront financing always. And this is a key strategy by which the key non-state constituency that is Africa’s youth will be engaged to scale up climate actions. 

Africa’s and indeed the global response to climate change will heavily rely on the actions of non-state actors. So ambitious actions by non-state actors is an urgent need of our times. The three entry points highlighted offer strategic level alignments to rapidly entrench non-state actions across the continent.

For more information, contact:

Richard Munang is UN Environment’s Africa climate change Coordinator,

Mohamed Atani, Head of Communication and Outreach, UN Environment, Africa Office   - Tel: +254 (0) 727531253.