African leaders laud Climate Summit

New initiatives to address agriculture and renewable energy agreed upon

By: Dan Shepard

African leaders have welcomed the Climate Summit held at the United Nations in New York in September 2014, and say it increases the likelihood that a meaningful global climate agreement will be reached in Paris in 2015. The summit was hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to mobilize support for a strong climate agreement and to catalyse climate action.

Announced at the summit were a range of new initiatives regarding agriculture, renewable energy, forests, and South-South cooperation in Africa. The spokesperson for the African Group negotiators who represent African countries at the UN, Seyni Nafo, said the summit sent a strong political message — that a global climate agreement was needed. It allowed leaders to come together to express their commitment to an agreement in Paris.

“This is very important to us. The last time world leaders came together to discuss climate change was in 2009 in Copenhagen, which did not produce the best souvenir,” said Mr. Nafo.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, speaking for the African Group, said the summit “afforded us with a unique opportunity to put our minds together and deliberate on the way to save this planet from disaster and advance on green pathways. It was very opportune.”

Many African leaders emphasized that while Africa is suffering from the consequences of a situation it did not create, they were committed to taking action that will set the continent on a sustainable course. But they stressed that greater international cooperation is necessary, including more financing and technology sharing.

Significant announcements

Most importantly, the summit was the platform for a number of significant new announcements, including the introduction of the Africa Clean Energy Corridor (ACEC), a regional initiative to transform Africa’s energy mix through the development of renewable resources and the creation of a clean 5,000-mile electricity transmission grid from Egypt to South Africa.

The aim is to support the sustainable growth of Africa’s energy needs. Endorsed by the countries of the Eastern Africa Power Pool and the Southern African Power Pool, the ACEC will accelerate the expansion of renewable energy by using a coordinated, regional approach to energy planning and development.

Cooperation on renewable energy deployment in the region could reduce generation costs by 4% and nearly triple electricity supply, transforming the current energy mix of a large portion of the African continent.

“Africa’s surging economic growth can be fuelled by an energy mix that emphasizes the development of its vast renewable energy resources,” said Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairperson of the African Union. “Low-carbon economic development powered by renewable energy can help meet the challenge that climate change presents while improving the livelihoods and economic well-being of people all over Africa.”

About 80% of all electricity in Eastern and Southern Africa is currently generated from fossil fuels like gas, oil and coal. Regional demand for electricity is expected to at least double over the next 25 years.

New climate-smart agriculture

Another initiative launched at the summit, the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance, will help about 25 million farming households across Africa to practice climate-smart agriculture by 2025. Set up by the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and five nongovernmental organizations (World Vision, Oxfam, CARE International, Concern Worldwide and Catholic Relief Services), the alliance demonstrates how governments and civil society can work together towards a common goal.

The initiative is part of a larger global effort to protect 500 million farmers from the effects of climate change, while increasing agricultural productivity. More than 20 governments and over 30 organizations and companies announced they would join the newly launched Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture. These countries represent millions of farmers, at least a quarter of the world’s cereal production, 43 million undernourished people and 16% of total agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

At the summit, China announced that it would contribute US$6 million for South-South cooperation on climate action.

Saving forests

A number of African countries, including Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Uganda, signed on to the New York Declaration on Forests, which calls for slashing the rate of natural forest loss by half by 2020, and totally eliminating it by 2030. More than 105 major companies also joined the initiative, promising to sustainably source products from forest regions.

Liberian foreign affairs minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafaun said the summit elicited “concrete commitments from the global community on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other measures aimed at achieving sustainable development.”

SOURCE: Africa Renewal