Analysis: #COP27: Can African Countries Meet Their Climate Change Pledges?

By Akintunde Babatunde, Chukwumerije Okereke, Daniel Whyte

Africa is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to climate change. With its far-reaching and devasting impact on the natural and human ecosystems, climate change is wreaking social and economic havoc on Africa. The recent flooding event – one of the worst in human memory is a poignant example of the devastating impacts of climate change in Nigeria and other African countries. Africa’s vulnerability to climate change suggests that their governments should take join the rest of the world in taking ambitious climate action to increase the continent’s resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change. At the same time, most of Africa’s economies are poor, heavily dependent on natural resource exploitation, and struggling with heavy debt burdens. Therefore, globally and within countries, poorly thought-out climate action can compromise economic growth prospects and bind the continent to poverty.

Based on the encouragement from international development partners, several African countries have recently made ambitious pledges on climate action through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), Long Term Visions and Strategies (LTV/LTS), and more recently by way of net-zero announcements. These would, on the surface, seem encouraging. However, a major question remains whether Africa can meet their ambitious climate pledges. There is widespread apprehension about the feasibility of African climate pledges. There are concerns that the ambitious climate goals being set by African countries are not in alignment with the political and economic realities in these countries and that these may result in a huge implementation and credibility gap in the coming years.

With a focus on three West African countries – Nigeria, Ghana, and The Gambia – The Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development has coordinated major research to explore the feasibility of the climate pledges made by West African countries under the leadership of globally recognised professor of climate change, Professor Chukwumerije Okereke. Our team of researchers sought to ascertain the forces that led to the setting of these targets, the likelihood that the targets will be met, the barriers that inhibit action, and some options for driving credible and context-sensitive climate action in West Africa.

Extensive research has shown that the ability of countries to implement ambitious climate policies to drive the transformation towards low-carbon economies depends on a number of specific dimensions of ‘feasibility’ and ‘enabling conditions’, which operate across multiple scales, including political, socio-economic, technological and institutional factors. To date, these dimensions of feasibility and related enabling conditions have not been systematically applied to assessing the practicality of climate policy in Africa and the steps needed to enhance progress. Our research aims to fill this gap.

Drawing from the above background and conceptual framework, the chapters have provided a short overview of the key social, political, and economic facts of the case study countries, provided a sketch of the climate policy in the case study countries, with emphasis on the events after the Paris Agreement – when NDCs were submitted, when they were revised, whether there are Long Term Strategies (LTS’), and crucially assessed the feasibility of climate pledges in the case study countries.

In assessing the feasibility of the climate pledges in the case study countries, we focused on political, economic, social, and institutional dimensions. For the political dimension, we are focused on the extent to which the political situation and processes in the country make it more or less likely that countries will fulfil their pledges. For financial feasibility, we focus on the likelihood that countries have the financial resources to fulfil their pledges. With many African countries struggling with debt, more so after the economic downturn following the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to carefully consider the financial implications of the climate pledges being made and the sources of finance for achieving them.

With respect to social dimensions of feasibility, the emphasis is on the extent of climate change awareness in the case study countries and the degree of agitation and mobilisation for strong climate action by citizens and civil societies. Lastly, we have considered the institutional feasibility that focuses on the nature and quality of institutional arrangements for climate action in the case study countries. This includes the presence and quality of the countries’ environment and climate change ministries, the presence or otherwise of climate change laws to impel action, whether there are overarching bodies within the Presidency in these countries that are supervising climate action or whether there are systems for inter-ministerial coordination on climate action. Equally vital is whether there are dedicated public bodies supported by consultative mechanisms for implementation.

All the chapters end with subject assessments of the authors on how each case country ranks in the above measurement criteria – political, economic, social, and institutional feasibility – with scores ranging from low, medium to high. For each ranking, the authors provide justification for their assessment. Our research finds that in the three countries studied, existing dire socio-economic realities hamper the feasibility of lofty ambitions announced by the respective governments. For one, rising debts are a big challenge to raising the needed financial resources to support mitigation and adaptation plans. Secondly, the populations in these countries already battle poor living conditions, hence balancing economic growth and climate ambitions is a serious challenge for them.

Looking at Ghana, we find that notwithstanding the high percentage of conditional policy actions, Ghana has performed admirably in the past with regard to its climate pledges and has largely created realistic climate pledges situated within the context of government policy. Social and institutional factors support Ghana’s climate pledges, while economic and political forces pose a threat. Ghana’s new climate goals are largely realisable based on advancements made in the social and institutional variables.

In The Gambia, we find that there will be grave difficulties in implementing the country’s ambitious NDC as a nation that is dealing with significant economic difficulties and is dependent on donor funding to carry out its development programme. The Gambia has been successful in creating national climate policies that would aid in the execution of her NDC, yet, the nation’s economy is entirely dependent on agriculture. According to the research, having ambitious climate policies without concrete action would impact how well these NDCs are implemented in nations like The Gambia.

In Nigeria, we find that implementation is very slow and poorly coordinated despite the lofty ambition expressed in the NDC and net-zero targets. The research suggests that weak financial, economic and social and institutional conditions in the counter cast severe doubt on the likelihood that Nigeria will accomplish its climate pledges.

This report is essential to providing quality information to the public and members of the climate community in order to mobilise and demand realistic and effective actions from the respective governments as we approach COP27 later this year. While it is important to raise climate ambitions, when they are not backed by requisite action or where there is a lack of wherewithal to implement them, they become unfruitful.

This report was launched on Thursday, 27th October 2022. To access the report, please follow this link.

We would like to thank the Ford Foundation for their funding of the climate change project at the CJID, which made the research possible, also advancing many thanks to the authors; Gideon Ofosu-Peasah, Obasanjo Joseph Oyedele, Onu, Kingsley Osinachi and Fatou Jeng for the over 9 months of extensive research.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *