Strengthening Africa’s Climate Change Negotiation Skills

By Tsim Mavisi

“Science tells us that Africa is the most vulnerable continent, yet it has contributed the least in terms of emissions. Africa’s voice in the global climate negotiations, therefore, becomes critical,” said George Wamukoya, team leader of the African Group of Negotiators Expert Support (AGNES).

It is for this reason, that the group is being supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to enhance its institutional and technical capacity of consolidating and packaging scientific evidence to support African institutions and governments in climate policy processes, decision-making, and implementation.

Prior to 2008, every African country negotiated on its own (unlike, for example, the European Union, which took a common stand on behalf of its member states). A lack of scientific data also hindered negotiations. At the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit (COP15) there was no scientific data available to accurately calculate the cost for Africa to adapt to climate change.

Keenly aware of the lack of coordination between policymakers, scientists and negotiators to provide such evidence, the heads of states under the African Union decided that, following COP15, Africa should have one voice and negotiate as a bloc.

This led to strengthening the African Group of Negotiators with the guidance of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and the AU’s Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change

In 2015, ahead of COP21, IDRC supported the formalization of AGNES with the objective of bringing negotiators, policymakers and scientists together to forge a common African position informed by science.

In November 2017, AGNES played a critical role at COP23 in Bonn, resulting in the adoption of two historic decisions: the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture and the Gender Action Plan.

“In all the positions that we take, we must do technical or background papers to generate evidence guiding that position,” Wamukoya explains. “Ahead of every climate change conference, we convene pre-meetings where scientists and negotiators congregate to discuss the agenda and identify areas that require evidence. The scientists are then able to help negotiators in packaging a common African position that is informed by science.”

The evidence-based science model, the brainchild of AGNES, has been replicated in Asia and in Latin American countries. “I have been told that I must deliuver on agriculture,” emphasizes Wamukoya. “And science-driven policies will be key to implementation in Africa.”

Additionally, AGNES has been running a training initiative to build a pool of well-equipped negotiators. Over the past year, more than 500 professionals in public and private sectors, civil society, and academia from 50 countries in Africa participated in AGNES’ Climate Governance, Diplomacy, and Negotiations Leadership Program. Of these participants, 75% have been young people, and 43% of them were women.

The rising cost of adapting to climate change shocks across the continent is estimated to reach USD50 billion every year by 2050 if the global temperature increase remains within 2°C above preindustrial levels, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reported in 2015 despite the continent accounting for less than 4% of global emissions.

Delivering a good outcome every year at COP is therefore imperative. Backed by AGNES, the African Group of Negotiators has been making a case at COP27 for adaptation, doubling adaptation finance, creating greater prominence for loss and damage discussions, increasing mitigation measures, and institutionalizing agriculture in the climate change negotiating process.

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