Climate Change

African cities call for local climate action, adaptation finance

The Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa encourages local authorities to make a political commitment for access to energy, climate mitigation and climate adaptation

 
By Kapil Subramanian
Last Updated: Monday 28 October 2019
Water crisis in Cape Town. Photo: Getty Images
Cape Town in South Africa ran out of water this summer. The Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa has called for capacity building of local institutions to align climate actions at all levels of government. Photo: Getty Images Cape Town in South Africa ran out of water this summer. The Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa has called for capacity building of local institutions to align climate actions at all levels of government. Photo: Getty Images

In recent years, there has been much focus on the climate actions of cities, provinces and other sub-national entities. It is due to the realisation that national actions will, alone, not be sufficient — neither for limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (or even 2°C) by the end of the century nor for adequate adaptation.

Thus, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres, in his opinion piece, after the Climate Action Summit in September, applauded the fact that 100 cities had committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

While the recently concluded C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen had representation from 94 cities on all continents, there are few such initiatives focusing on the global south.

One exception is the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa (CoM SSA), which was founded in 2015 with the aid of the European Union and is part of the Global Covenant of Mayors on Climate and Energy.

It presently has about 180 signatory cities and municipalities from:

  • Benin
  • Burundi
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Comoros
  • Cote d'Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guniea-Bissau
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritus
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

The covenant encourages local authorities to make a political commitment that contributes to its three pillars, namely access to energy, climate mitigation and climate adaptation.

The covenant conducted the Climate Chance Summit Africa in Accra, between October 16 and 18, 2019. Besides the sharing of cities’ experiences, the key theme of the summit was “Towards the Institutionalisation of Local Climate Action and Access to Finance”.

Chairing the opening of the first day’s sessions, Jean-Pierre Elong-Mbassi, secretary general of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa called for more adaptation finance for Africa.

“Africa is the region of the world with the lowest access to energy and the least equipped to face extreme climate events brought about by climate change,” said the President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo in his opening address.

Further, the Ghanaian Minister for local government Hajia Alima Mahama pointed to the imbalance between mitigation and adaptation finance, stating that the international community had committed to $600 billion for the former and only $200 billion for the latter.

On these lines, the declaration at the end of the summit noted that African climate priorities must focus on adaptation and access to energy, though mitigation could also be addressed in the process through initiatives such as clean energy.

Besides an emphasis on finance for adaptation, highlighting the importance of localism in climate action was key on the agenda. The declaration called on African national governments to enable actions by local and regional governments.

It also called for the Green Climate Fund to set up a dedicated window for local and regional governments and for more local climate funding from the African Development Bank.

It further emphasised the importance of a bottom up approach to the revision of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) through the formulation of locally determined contributions (LDCSs) to feed into the NDCs.

Calling for capacity building of local institutions to formulate such plans, it argued that accelerating the ownership of the climate agenda by all stakeholders would align climate actions at all levels of government, while at the same time complying with the Katowice rulebook of the Paris Agreement.

The declaration called for Ghana to champion this approach at the upcoming 2019 UN Climate Change Conference, or COP25, at Santiago and at next year’s COP 26 at Glasgow.

Calls were also made for designating the summit in future years as a “pre COP” for non-state actors and local governments to be called the Accra Climate Dialogue.

In addition to the fact that it is a regional initiative bringing urban perspectives from the global south, CoM SSA and its summit are significant initiatives in their emphasis on adaptation and on local ownership that goes beyond just local action.

It is also significant in not restricting itself to showcasing efforts by cities but also calling for action by national and international actors, whether it is on adaptation finance or on the formulation of NDCs.

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