Africa climate negotiators to take a common position informed by science at the upcoming COP27

The upcoming COP27 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Egypt, starting on 6th November, will be coming towards the end of a year that has witnessed multiple extreme weather events across every continent. The need for strong negotiations and for evidence-based science has never been greater in the discussions on global warming.

“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,” states Dr. George Wamukoya, an experienced lead coordinator for G77+China (134 countries) on agriculture, and team leader of the African Group of Negotiators Expert Support (AGNES) which is supported by the International Development Research Centre. “We are proud to say that Africa is now recognized as the strongest agriculture negotiating group and that others are adopting our model.”

In just this year alone, super-charged tropical storms, intense flooding, and more prolonged droughts have resulted in billions of dollars of damage to infrastructure, millions of people made homeless and untold damage to agriculture and food security. There is not a place in the world that is not being impacted by climate change but the most vulnerable are in the Global South. The adverse impacts of the climate crisis such as increased food insecurity, water scarcity, reduced crop yields, and disruption of food systems have taken a toll on African households and the continent’s economic growth; seven out of 10 of the most climate-change-vulnerable countries are from Africa.

Failed rains and rising temperatures have hit crops yields hard source:CIAT/Neil Palmer

And yet, prior to 2008, each African country negotiated on its own, unlike 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.

Negotiating with one voice

Aware of the lack of coordination between policymakers, scientists and negotiators to provide such evidence, the heads of states under the African Union decided in 2009 following COP15 that Africa should have one voice and negotiate as a block. This led to the strengthening of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) with the guidance of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).

In 2015, ahead of COP21, IDRC supported the formalization of AGNES with the objective of bringing together negotiators, policymakers and scientists to forge a common African position informed by science. It was during COP21, that the Paris Agreement on Climate Change highlighted the attention that the agriculture sector required in the wake of climate change, by “recognizing the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

Drought has caused crops to fail across Africa Source:Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville/IFRC

“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.”

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

The evidence-based science model – the brainchild of AGNES – has now been replicated in Asia and Latin American countries. In addition, to build a pool of well-equipped negotiators, AGNES has been running a training initiative, “Climate Governance, Diplomacy and Negotiations Leadership Program”, for the last year. So far, the training has involved over 500 professionals in public and private sectors, civil society, and academia from 50 countries in Africa, with 75 percent being youth and 43 percent women.

The cost of adapting to climate change shocks across the continent is estimated to be US$50 billion every year by 2050 if the global temperature increase remains within 2°C above preindustrial levels, according to research by United Nations Environment Programme. This is despite the continent accounting for less than 4 percent of global emissions.

Delivering a good outcome at COP27 is therefore imperative. The AGN is ready to make a case for adaptation, doubling adaptation finance, creating greater prominence for loss and damage discussions, raising mitigation ambition, and institutionalizing agriculture in the UNFCCC process. “I have been told that I must deliver on agriculture,” emphasizes Wamukoya. “And science-driven policies will be key to implementation in Africa.”

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