Paris was chosen to be the host the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21. The events will begin a day earlier than planned, on Sunday, November 29, at Le Bourget, north of the French capital. They will last until December 11, despite the security challenge. The stakes are enormous: setting up major renewable energy projects, clean-up targets, and above all reaching an agreement. But Africa is also at the heart of many problems.
Scientists are unanimous: we need to reduce our global greenhouse gas emissions from 40% to 70% by 2050, and bring them down to near zero by the end of the century. Africa contributes the least to greenhouse gas emissions but paradoxically would suffer the most from the impacts of climate change: according to GreenPeace, more than 180 million people in sub-Saharan Africa could die from climate change by the end of the century.
France’s repeated objective remains to reach a treaty capable of limiting global warming to below 2° C by the end of the century. According to the Greenpeace association, France must demonstrate an “unshakable political will” and COP21 gives President François Hollande “the opportunity to assume the role of defender of the climate to which he claims”.
None of the 140 heads of state who were to attend the Conference withdrew. A show of firmness that gives these discussions a chance. And Africa’s role will be more important than ever. It would appear that the countries of Africa have chosen to be united on the negotiating table and have decided to speak with one voice. The continent has appointed a common spokesperson for all the states represented: former Malian trader Seyni Nafo. The challenge is of course financial: to obtain financing to develop renewable energies, to combat deforestation, to promote intelligent agricultural practices… But countries will also seek to obtain technical assistance, notably through the transfer of skills.
Many African countries are now setting good examples in the fight against global warming. This is first and foremost the case of Ethiopia, which is committed to developing without further pollution with international support. For example, the country has set up the most powerful wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa, while its Ministry of Energy estimates that the country needs to increase its electricity production by 20-25% per year. With renewable energy, Addis Ababa has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 64% by 2030. This is the most ambitious objective presented in the context of COP21. Recall that the “national contributions” that set out states’ efforts to reduce emissions for the period 2020-2030. Likewise, Morocco is also doing well on its climate commitments. Of the other African countries that have submitted copies, most are considered to be insufficient.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius toured India, Brazil and South Africa from 20 to 22 November to secure the support of the so-called emerging powers. “South Africa is a major player in COP21, both because of its own importance, its position within the African Union and also because it is at the head of the G77,” he said in Pretoria. The “G77 + China” brings together 133 developing countries plus China. But the continent’s largest economy, and its most populous, Nigeria, did not tell the world what it had promised.
What will come out of COP21? A Binding Deal or Another Disillusion? One thing is certain: more and more innovative African economic actors are already moving the lines to scale.