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From commitments to action to fight climate change in Central Africa

New policy brief calls for more realistic climate goals in the region
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Until now, the climate change debate in Central Africa has focused on the forest sector. CIFOR/Axel Fassio

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The 2015 U.N. climate change conference was a historic moment in which the world agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Through the Paris Agreement, parties consented to a long-term pathway of climate-resilient development.

At the heart of the achievement of these long-term goals are Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Entirely voluntary, they are founded on the principles of shared and differentiated responsibility: each country makes its commitments based on its own circumstances, capacities and development priorities.

As active parties of the Paris Agreement, long engaged in international climate negotiations, the countries of Central Africa have made ambitious commitments. The region’s NDCs take into account development needs of countries but seek the most resilient and low-carbon way forward. However, considering the insufficient progress made towards their implementation, experts question their feasibility and call for their revision.

A new policy brief, published by the Central African Forest Observatory (OFAC), analyses the challenges faced by Central African countries to turn these commitments into action, and provides recommendations for their improvement.

“The NDCs were rapidly formulated during the Paris summit,” explains Richard Eba’a Atyi, coordinating author.

“However, now all countries in the region acknowledge that they need to be revisited to make them more accurate and achievable,” he adds. The parties of the Paris Agreement are obliged to submit new NDCs every five years, thus the Central African countries have the opportunity to reformulate and strengthen their commitments in 2020.

The first challenge, the experts highlight, is the lack of intersectoral coordination. Climate change remains an issue restricted to the environment ministries, which limits the policy and political instruments available for the implementation of the NDCs.

“The organization of the state apparatus makes it difficult to formulate and implement climate commitments at a national level,” says Denis Sonwa, co-author of the brief and expert on climate change. “A focal point within a ministry is not enough to achieve the transformational changes required by climate transition.”

Second, there is a lack of funding. Together, the countries of Central Africa require $117.9 million to implement their current NDCs, and a significant proportion of this funding depends on international aid.

The most ambitious countries, Chad and Democratic Republic of the Congo, require around $26 million each, a sum beyond the states’ means. “Countries expect significant financial contributions from the international community to enable them to realize their ambitions,” Eba’a Atyi said.

Third, there is a limited understanding of the contribution to climate change by diverse economic activities. The authors of the brief analyzed the NDCs of the 10 countries of the region and found that all of them included adaptation and mitigation commitments related to the forestry sector.

Energy, industry and territorial planning are also largely present. However, key sectors such as agriculture and livestock, infrastructure, transport, or education are neglected by most of the countries.

“The debate on climate in Central Africa has until now focused on forestry,” Sonwa said. “However, if we want real impact, we need to pay more attention to the multiple sectors that contribute to climate change.”

PROPOSING SOLUTIONS

For the question of funding, there are diverse options available, according to the experts. For example, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) can support the countries to convert the NDCs into concrete policies. Though its Project Preparation Facility, the GCF can also help building national capacities to establish a portfolio of effective projects that can help attract other funding. “The GCF is can serve as a rapidly available tool to kick off initiatives and accelerate the implementation of the NDCs,” Eba’a Atyi said.

However, to obtain international support, the policy brief warns, the Central African countries must prove their engagement and stand ready to highlight the actions financed by their national budgets. “For a convincing case, the countries must provide concrete evidence of the efforts made to improve inter-sectorial coordination and demonstrate that the NDCs have been successfully taken on board at all levels,” Eba’a Atyi said.

To promote inter-sectorial coordination, the brief calls for more political leadership and responsibility. “There is a need for a greater involvement of planning, finance, and other key departments, even the prime minister and president offices,” says Sonwa. “They must move from a monitoring role to actually contribute to planning and implementation of the NDCs.”

The brief also proposes the revision of the national development plans of each country, to ensure that they are aligned with the NDCs and that the different strategies and policies aimed at promoting economic growth and reducing poverty take into consideration adaptation and mitigation measures.

Finally, Central Africa has an intergovernmental organization formed by the 10 countries of the region, which is entirely dedicated to promoting regional cooperation on forests and environment, the Central Africa Forest Commission (COMIFAC).

The COMIFAC has the capacity to facilitate regional exchanges at all levels to formulate, revise and implement the NDCs and to bring transboundary issues to the table. “The countries must exchange information more effectively. This will lead to greater integration and prevention of risks when new projects are set up, as well as stronger capacities for adaptation,” Eba’a Atyi said, adding, “We need a coordinated climate risk management in the region.”

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This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.
This research was supported by the European Union.
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