What will Cop23 mean to African countries?

As the Cop23 climate change summit draws to a close in Bonn, African states and organisations are putting pressure on developed countries to commit to more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Children asking world leaders to "Save the world" in  Bonn this month
Children asking world leaders to "Save the world" in Bonn this month Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay

The African continent will probably be affected the most by climate change, with almost two-thirds of its population living directly off the land and many coastal areas likely to be swallowed up by the oceans.

The Cop23 is part of the followup to the Cop21 Paris climate agreement, in which most of the world's countries agreed to carbon emissions cuts to address climate change.

While participants did not expect the summit to provide all the answers, there was agreement for more action on the ground, because the African continent has to deal with the consequences of global warming.

Floods, droughts, hurricanes

"It's global now, when you look at the hurricanes, floods, droughts, all the heat waves... It's devastating much of the world," says Gebru Jember Endalew, the chair of the Least Developed Countries group.

This year was one of the warmest-ever years recorded and this has reduced the ability of countries to adapt to the effects of climate change.

"But when it comes to a lot of countries in Africa, for example, they're highly vulnerable so they can easily be affected by any shock," Endalew comments. "But for them to really be able to absorb the shock more actions need to be done on the ground, especially when it comes to adaptation, we need real aggressive approaches."

African discontent

But, for some, this Cop did not address the real issue.

Augustine Njamshi from the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) -- a continental coalition of civil society organisations -- says participants need to be more honest.

"In general, Africa has not gotten what it wanted at this Cop23," he says. "Because the discussions that matter to us, things that matter to us have been relegated to the background and all that we're hearing is what the developed countries want, and that is not in the interest of Africa."

Njamshi says that, if things have not changed by Cop24, Africa will be starting to lose and will go on to lose greatly.

"Africa has not contributed to this problem, yet it's bearing the consequences in a great way, in a massive way and we don't have the luxury to adapt to the climate change consequences, as well as we don't even have the means to do any mitigation," he warns.

Some place their hopes in younger people who have understood the need for local change, for a greater global good.

"The other thing we need to look at is vulnerability, we need to be more prepared to the changes in weather, especially when it comes to agriculture, water supplies," according to Yunus Arikan of the local governments sustainability group, ICLEI.

"We need to acknowledge the fact that Africa is the heart of solar and renewable energies, which can lead to replace fossile fuels," he says. "Africa has a huge role to play in upcoming partnerships, both in adaptation and mitigation."

Finance challenge

But the main issue remains money.

ICLEI member Manuel de Araujo, who is mayor of Quelimane in Mozambique, says it is time for developed countries to put their money where their mouth is.

"There is the issue of knowledge, there is the issue of technology, but more important than those two issues, is the third, which is, the financial burden that these new struggles will bring, so that's the biggest challenge that developing countries face," he says.

"But also there is a kind of reluctance from the developed countries to provide adequate fundings in spite of the fact that in the past, they made some pledges and some commitments. But the point is that we may be talking a lot but if we don't have the fundings to implement what we plan to do, then this whole exercise might be worthless."

De Araujo says that the world is full of good initiatives, good ideas, but we need money to implement these good ideas. The knowledge, the technologies are already there, but financial resources are needed to move on.

Bleak future

Augustine Njamshi, though, says at the end of the day, what is in the Paris agreement is "mitigation for everybody, adaptation for everyone, and finance for no one".

"African countries have made commitments, and these commitments are linked to support from developed countries, financial, technology and capacity wise. These discussions here [in Bonn] have not been putting that on the table."

Njamshi says that if we don't have a clear vision of where the finances for the implementation of the Paris agreement will come from, and if we are not even discussing that, we are just 'chasing the wind'.

"Africa has proven that they have good faith, Africa has proven that they believe in science, Africa has proven that they are serious," he insists. "But, for instance, five African heads of states were present in these negociations, the African position has been very clear from the onset, they have put options on the table but these are not palatable to mostly developed countries. They don't want to discuss that and what can we do? At the end of the day, the continent is suffering and will continue to suffer, so the future is bleak."

On the one hand, some people in Bonn believe there has been progress.

But others, like Augustine Njamshi, remain sceptical and demand that more help  be provided to the African countries that need it the most.

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