A view of Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by: Babak Fakhamzadeh / CC BY-NC

NAIROBI — Cooperation between countries and the private sector will be key to the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change in African nations, panelists at Africa Climate Week held at the United Nations Office at Nairobi said.

Africa is the most vulnerable continent to the impacts of climate change but accounts for the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the face of climate change, the continent is threatened with extreme temperatures, droughts, and flash floods, which work to heighten food insecurity, experts say.

The majority of African nations have signed and ratified the Paris Agreement. Under the agreement, countries have crafted Nationally Determined Contributions plans, which outline their strategies for cutting emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. The international community is expected to finalize the guidelines for how countries will implement the agreement at the end of this year at COP24, hosted in Poland. Article 6 of the agreement encourages cooperation in order for countries to achieve these strategic plans.

During Africa Climate Week, various stakeholders, including African government representatives and the private sector met to discuss how they will go about integrating cooperation into these plans. This included ensuring strong policy frameworks and cooperation within African regions.  

“Carbon market mechanisms are the mechanisms for cooperation. They are the mechanisms for doing things together between countries, between businesses, between businesses and the government,” said Tomasz Chruszczow, COP24 special envoy for climate change, during the conversations. “This is the way to do more with less. This is the way to maximize the effects of policies.”

Public and private cooperation

Public finance is expected to play a role in both investing in renewable energies, but also in leveraging private finance toward these efforts. But first, investment needs to be de-risked, which includes the creation of strong policy frameworks, said panelists.

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Mobile technology has been used in efforts to spread renewable energy throughout Africa’s rural populations, such as pay-as-you-go solar home systems for off-grid electricity. In order to create an enabling environment for the creation and scaling up of these types of technologies, governments should work to incentivize market entry and create a friendly regulatory environment for these tech companies, said Erick Donasian, managing director of Off-Grid Electric, during one of the panel discussions. This should be coupled with digital literacy, so that the continent’s growing youth population will be able to harness and scale these innovations.

The best way to get a clean, low-carbon grid, is to have a robust network of microgrids that can absorb intermittent solar and wind power, said Sam Slaughter, chief executive officer of PowerGen Renewable Energy.

Key to this are national policy frameworks on grid integration and the setting of tariffs, as well as a streamlining of the permitting processes for renewable energy projects, he said. There also needs to be an understanding that the private sector will not be able to sell power through microgrids in rural areas at the same price as the national grid, meaning public support is needed.

“Rural electrification has always been done, in every country throughout the history of the world, with public sector support. It’s always been done with concessional capital,” he said. “There is no miraculous commercial solution for energy access. There is no rural distribution network around the world that has been built with commercial capital alone.”

Regional cooperation

But it will be difficult for policy frameworks to be effective if there is a patchwork of policies throughout regions. This means there needs to be consistencies around taxations and regulations that exist regionally, said El Hadji Mbaye Diagne, lead negotiator for markets at AGN Senegal.

Regional economic blocs like the Economic Community of West African States and East African Community already serve as a unifying force to bring nations together for these discussions, so they can also be used to set standards and facilitate cooperation around the Paris Agreement. If one country sets their domestic carbon pricing at a country level, or implement taxes, there will be competition amongst countries, he said.

“If a country applies a specific provision in terms of reducing emissions and the other neighboring country doesn’t do so, we are going to have an unfair competition between the countries and enterprises will be reluctant to apply these provisions,” he said.

The West African Alliance on Carbon Markets and Climate Finance, which was established during COP22 in 2016, is an example of this type of cooperation. The alliance is working to create a long-term strategy for West African countries to participate in international carbon markets and access climate finance. The alliance is working with Nigeria and Togo to build capacity around implementing the agreement. It hopes to expand this to other nations in the region.

About the author

  • Sara Jerving

    Sara Jerving is a global health reporter based in Nairobi. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vice News, and Bloomberg News, among others. Sara holds a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was a Lorana Sullivan fellow. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in 2018, part of a Vice News Tonight on HBO team that received an Emmy nomination in 2018 and received the Philip Greer Memorial Award from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2014. She has reported from over a dozen countries.