African countries at COP28: several big wins and a united voice


African countries entered the recent COP28 negotiations on climate change in high spirits. Before this conference, in September, African government leaders, policymakers, activists and other groups from the continent met at the African Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. The African position and expectations for COP28 were shaped at this summit by the adoption of the Nairobi Declaration.

Africa’s main agenda at COP28, hosted by the United Arab Emirates, was to convince global players that they must show more altruism in financially supporting targets to reduce global emissions. For African countries, COP27, hosted by Egypt, was largely deemed a failure for the continent, and they hoped that COP28 would be more successful.

Africa is the region that has been most affected by climate change since 2010, even though the continent is one of the lowest greenhouse gas emitting regions in the world. More than half of the African population faces one or more impacts of climate change. These include drought, rising temperatures, land degradation, flooding, coastal erosion, desertification, and changes in rainfall patterns. This makes it especially important to analyse what gains Africa made at COP28 as a negotiating bloc.

From my perspective as a political scientist, whose field is environmental and energy politics, I believe that Africa gained much from taking a strong position in several negotiations at COP28.

Many gains

For instance, I view the COP28 Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action, which aims to reduce emissions and create food security for Africa, as a win.

Agriculture, forestry and other commercial or industrial uses of land are the most significant sources of emissions in Africa. The continent also faces a food security crisis that is worsened by climate change. This declaration shows new thinking in global climate governance, aiming to transform the global food system into a food-secure, yet decarbonised system. With 152 signatories and an early financial commitment of US$7.1 billion, there is potential for African agriculture and food systems to be boosted.

The COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health was also a milestone for Africa. Climate change increases the continent’s disease burden. The US$1 billion funding raised at COP28 for transforming health systems to cope with climate change induced illness and protect vulnerable populations will be very useful for Africa.




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Hundreds of millions of dollars pledged to Africa

The governments of Germany, France and Japan, along with philanthropic organisations and African and global institutions, pledged over $175 million to the Alliance for Green Infrastructure in Africa to build new green infrastructure.

A lake in the Seychelles and several wind turbines next to it.

African governments secured funding pledges for green infrastructure at COP28.
Eyes Wide Open/Getty Images

Africa has committed to net-zero emissions, and this pledge to stimulate Africa’s US$10 billion private capital agenda towards a just and equitable energy transition on the continent drives home the vision. With more funding and good execution, the Alliance for Green Infrastructure in Africa could help the continent maximise development opportunities in climate change mitigation.

Many African countries link their development agenda to climate diplomacy. COP28 offered a platform for several bilateral and multilateral development agreements. Nigeria signed an important energy deal with Germany to shore up its energy deficit. Rwanda also signed an innovative Memorandum of Understanding with Singapore to enhance its carbon market. Kenya signed deals worth US$4.48 billion to develop seven important green projects in the country.

African bloc well prepared for tough negotiations

COP28 was Africa’s most vocal climate summit. The African bloc sought to speak to its expectations with one voice. It was no surprise that African leaders communicated their positions on various issues at COP28 vehemently. For example, the African Group of Negotiators strongly demanded “fairness and differentiation” towards Africa in the global drive for energy transition.




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The continent was also vocal in its demand for the Global Goal on Adaptation at the conference. The Global Goal on Adaptation was proposed by the African Group of Negotiators in 2013 and established as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement. It calls for collective commitment to helping states improve their resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change. The boldness with which African leaders pursued the agenda is commendable. This sets the African agenda for future climate summits: the continent is becoming assertive in its environmental diplomacy.

The demand for a loss and damage fund has been on the table in many COPs. Its eventual operationalisation at COP28, with an initial US$400 million in pledges, is a victory for Africa – the continent is one of the regions most acutely affected by loss and damage. For example, the destruction caused by Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in southern Africa in 2019 remains one of the worst cases of climate change loss and damage. It left Beira City in Mozambique with 95% destruction in the world’s first case of climate-induced destruction of a city.

Maximising COP28 gains for Africa

African countries need to build on continental and country-specific gains from COP28. To achieve this, Africa needs to increase its assertive climate diplomatic voice and stature.

African countries also need to develop the capacity to access various climate finance opportunities opened at COP28.

Lastly, the continent needs to implement the lessons it learned at COP28 on sound environmental governance. This way, COP28 will not be a diplomatic jamboree, but a serious platform that advances development for many countries on the continent.



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