View(s) from Africa: What does Africa need most from COP28?

African Arguments, 16 November 2023

A panel of African climate experts identify the continent’s key priorities at the UAE climate talks.

From 30 November to 12 December, an estimated 70,000 delegates will descend on Dubai for the UN’s annual Climate Change Conference. Almost every country in the world will participate in negotiations over how to address the climate crisis, limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, and support vulnerable communities to adapt.

As ever, the agenda at COP28 will be jam-packed. Issues up for discussion will include the Loss and Damage Fund, climate finance for developing countries, the phaseout of fossil fuels, plans to accelerate just energy transitions, the Global Goal on Adaptation, and much more. This year’s talks will also see the first Global Stocktake of how much progress (or lack thereof) countries are making in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

What does Africa, a continent disproportionately affected by the impacts of the climate crisis, need most from these negotiations? We asked a diverse panel of African experts what the continent’s priority should be at COP28.
Mohamed Adow: Get lifesaving climate funding flowing, not just for emissions reduction and loss and damage but adaptation

They say money makes the world go round and, for Africa, the issue of money at COP28 will determine whether Africans will be able to respond to the climate crisis.

Rich, high emitting countries in the Global North promised to deliver a paltry $100 billion in climate finance by 2020, but that deadline was missed. We need COP28 to be the place where we start to see the money flowing to African communities who are on the front line of climate breakdown.

Rich countries try to ignore an important aspect of climate funding: helping the vulnerable adapt to the impacts of climate change. This adaptation finance is vital for Africa and needs to be given much more prominence. We need to see African leaders working together, with other Global South leaders, to ensure climate finance is split 50/50 between adaptation and emissions reduction.

The other money matter is a separate fund for loss and damage. This new fund was agreed last year at COP27 and is designed to compensate for the loss and damage caused by climate change. Getting the fund agreed in Egypt was a major victory but we need to see money flowing into this fund if it’s going to reach those that need it. We need to see rich countries coming forward with commitments to the loss and damage fund.

If we can get this lifesaving climate finance flowing in Dubai it will be a big win for Africa and the world’s climate vulnerable.

- Mohamed Adow is an international climate activist and director of Power Shift Africa.

- Joseph Nganga: Africa will contribute its vast resources to addressing climate change but needs something in return

We are in a climate crisis that has largely been caused by more industrialised economies, but the most impacted people are the people whose infrastructure is still in development. Africa, a region with a developing economy endowed with abundant natural resources, stands at a crossroads where strategic financial investments can steer its trajectory towards a prosperous climate resilient future.

The narrative from the inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS) and its resulting Nairobi declaration, which has resonated well globally, positioned Africa not as a victim of climate impact but rather a key player in the global climate narrative willing to contribute its vast resources to drive climate-positive growth. In exchange, the world must commit to the right type of financial resources at the right scale as well as innovative technologies to help unlock the raw potential the continent has. This will not only mitigate environmental risks but also stimulate economic growth and create employment opportunities.

The world requires a new quantum of capital to meet its climate challenge, which must be governed by its climate priorities and not by shareholding interests. The investments must be driven by the impact on climate and not by underlying economic factors. This requires a collaborative approach from governments, private sectors, and international entities as demonstrated at the ACS. The global community must take their commitments and pledges and turn them into real outcomes to drive climate positive growth on the continent while unlocking solutions for the world.

- Joseph Nganga is Interim Managing Director at the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) and served as CEO of the inaugural Africa Climate Summit.

- Lorraine Chiponda: COP must agree the phase out fossil fuels, justly

At the Africa Climate Summit, leaders reaffirmed an ambitious target of increasing renewable energy’s installed capacity from 56GW to 300 GW by 2030. This was motivated by both climate action and alleviating energy poverty. However, this is not enough to fight the global climate emergency. As scientists have repeatedly found, this will require the fast and fair global phase out of fossil fuels. At COP27, we heard justifications for the dash for gas in Africa under the false premise that it will bring prosperity for the continent. Yet the dash for gas has been for export and external consumption. It undermines Africa’s climate action and will leave the continent with stranded assets as the world transitions towards clean alternatives.

Finance and technology are part of the key levers that can facilitate a fossil fuel phase out. However, justice – as well as feminism and decoloniality – should be at the core of the transition. As we heard towards COP28, countries in Africa and the Global South should demand a just transition that requires historic polluters to pay reparations. As it stands, Africa receives a meagre 3% of the total global climate finance and African countries still play a marginal role in the global finance system, making it a mammoth task to obtain funds for renewable energy investment. Rich polluting nations should also be challenged to rapidly reduce their emissions to a real zero and reduce levels of consumption so we avoid further devastation of the environment and the imminent climate catastrophe that Africa is already experiencing.

COP28 should not be another show of global leaders sipping coffee but provide real solutions that address communities already living through the crisis. False solutions that give polluters the license to pollute whilst placing the burden on Global South countries to sequestrate the carbon produced by rich nations should be placed in the dustbins of history. They are colonial and do not mitigate the climate crisis. COP28 discussions should transform our relationship with nature and with each other from a system that is exploitative, destructive, and extractive to one that centres care and interconnectedness.

- Lorraine Chiponda is a Coordinator of the Africa Movement Building Space.

- Grace Mbungu: Africa needs adaptation solutions based on what people really need

The stakes for current and future generations are too high. Africa needs serious and sustained climate adaptation action. But first, the world needs to get out of the thinking that there are quick and easy fixes. We have dug too deep. Climate change is affecting every aspect of life. In Africa, the climate crisis is entangled in social and economic underdevelopment, inequalities, and an energy poverty crisis.

To address these challenges and improve the realities of Africans, adaptation solutions proposed at COP28 must move closer to the people and address what they need, want, and value. That means adopting adaptation policies and implementation strategies that address climate change impacts and vulnerabilities, while at the same time providing sustained and secure livelihood opportunities and wellbeing conditions, for current and future generations.

To this end, the locally-led adaptation (LLA) approach provides an important opportunity. These examples show that communities are leveraging local and indigenous knowledge and resources to implement innovative solutions to climate change impacts. The aggregate of these context-specific solutions can result in collective, effective, and sustained climate action. The LLA approach could also provide entry points and ownership for other climate actions, such as mitigation.

At COP28, delegates must explore how to document, measure, scale, and harness support for local adaptation solutions and strategies. This requires tapping into and providing significant investments that prioritise strategies, initiatives, and practices that are rooted in local and indigenous knowledge.

- Grace Mbungu is Head of the Climate Change Programme at the Africa Research Policy Institute (APRI).

- Olivia Rumble: Climate finance is again a rightful priority


As has been the case for many years, climate finance will remain a rightful priority for most, if not all, African delegations at COP28. African countries are working hard to change global perceptions about investment risk, while also pushing for fundamental changes to the global financial architecture more broadly, and championing the implementation of the Paris Agreement’s finance provisions.

This year at the African Climate Summit, countries were united in their call for a series of finance reforms that would have a meaningful impact on their fiscal and policy space to address climate change. These include a reduction in borrowing costs and risk premiums; debt management, restructuring and relief; scaling concessional climate finance from multilateral developments banks (MDBs); and reforms to the global tax regime. While these proposals can be progressed in various multilateral fora, COP28 and its global stocktake present an opportune moment to capture and respond to the scope and depth of these reforms and configure how they might be implemented.

African countries will also have their eye on a new target for the provision of climate finance post-2025. They will want the target to be informed by actual needs and available science, and plotted against a burden sharing agreement, instead of whatever developed countries elect to pledge. To build trust, developed countries will also need to make good on their promise to double adaptation finance by 2025. Following the climate finance findings of the latest UNEP Gap Report, which was subtitled “Underfinanced. Underprepared”, the sentiment around this issue is likely to start off poor.

- Olivia Rumble is a climate change legal and policy expert, and a director of Climate Legal.

- Elizabeth Wathuti: COP must help Africa’s young leaders realise their vision

COP28 has a clear agenda: urgent climate action, global cooperation, and inclusive solutions. For Africa, these priorities are not just talking points but the pathways to our future. Africa stands resolute, knowing that COP28 is pivotal in our fight against climate change. We recognise that climate action isn’t a choice but necessary for our survival and prosperity.

At the heart of Africa’s vision stand Africa’s young leaders and young minds who envision a world where clean air, thriving ecosystems, and economic prosperity are within reach. The success of COP28 is pivotal to realising their dreams and aspirations.

Our continent has vast renewable energy resources, sustainable agriculture, and resilient communities. COP28 is an opportunity for Africa to shine, seeking support for green investments, empowering our youth, and championing climate justice.

Together, we can chart a formidable path toward a sustainable, equitable, and promising future for Africa and the world, where climate action is not just a promise but a forceful reality that benefits all.

- Elizabeth Wathuti is a youth activist and the founder and executive director of the Green Generation Initiative

Saliem Fakir: Concerns of the Global South must be not only heard but addressed

This year, COP negotiations must engage in candid discussions, acknowledging historical responsibilities concerning emissions and climate finance. The Negotiated Outcome and Action Agenda of the Global Stocktake must meticulously identify the implementation gap, directly linked to the climate finance deficit, and formulate solutions that refrain from unfairly burdening African nations with mitigation efforts. The concerns of the Global South must be not only heard but actively addressed.

Africa has highlighted its fervent commitment to achieving a robust global mitigation outcome, steering towards a 1.5 degree future. The continent’s aspirations include widespread energy access, harnessing renewable energy potential, and substantial investments in related infrastructure and grids. Beyond endorsing one of COP28’s proposed goals – tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 – African nations boldly declared their intent to increase it six-fold within the same timeframe. This, however, necessitates policy autonomy and finance that doesn’t exacerbate existing debt burdens.

Africa seeks measures facilitating the primary processing of raw materials on the continent, aligning with dual climate and development objectives. Essential to this vision is securing adequate, predictable and purposeful finance. With that, Africa calls for integrated support packages, such as the Just Energy Transition Partnerships, to expand into sectors beyond energy.

COP28 must allow frank discussion about unilateral trade measures, particularly the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), which is well overdue. This should not be a side note but a focal point in discussions on response measures permeating multiple work steams.

Lastly, the issue of loss and damage requires decisive action for Africa. COP28 should build on the recommendations of the Loss and Damage Transitional Committee, sharing a purpose-fit fund. Crucially, the existing text should incorporate firm obligations on African countries to contribute quantified and time-bound commitments. COP28 must serve as a pivotal platform for catalysing finance pledges to operationalise this fund.

- Saliem Fakir is the Executive Director of the African Climate Foundation.