Genuine collaboration critical for African cities to combat devastating climate change

Published: 29 Nov 2023
Access to Energy Adaptation Climate Finance Events General Mitigation
Genuine collaboration critical for African cities to combat devastating climate change
Opinion piece by Yawo Winny Dogbatse, Mayor of Kloto 1, Togo, and Chair of the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Mayors Forum

We need to take a long, hard look at the state of our planet and map a better course for our future. We need genuine collaboration, true inclusivity and authentic commitment to decrease the significant gap between promises and climate action.

The recent Africa Climate Summit and UNFCCC Africa Climate Week, together with the Global Stocktake Report, highlighted that there is an urgent need to scale up a rigorous all-of-economy, all-of-society approach which leads to significant climate action this decade in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

The Nairobi Declaration, delivered at the Africa Climate Summit, will form the basis of Africa’s negotiating position at COP28. Amongst a range of demands, it specifically calls for sweeping changes to the global financial system – new financing mechanisms to restructure Africa’s crippling debt, unlock climate funding and unblock investment in clean energy.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023  demonstrates that failure to mitigate climate change is ranked as one of the most severe threats in the short term and is also the global risk we are seen to be the least prepared for.

It’s not the first time we are hearing this. And it will not be the last. Africa is ready to contribute to global decarbonisation efforts and already has many of the solutions. But for us to ensure that our African cities can combat the devastating impacts of climate change, genuine collaboration is needed – collaboration across scales and sectors, undertaken in a spirit of innovation and inclusivity, with a solution-oriented mindset and transparency.

Africa is the fastest urbanising region in the world
Africa’s future is the world’s, with 25% of the global population expected to be African by 2050. Sub-Saharan Africa is already experiencing widespread losses and damages related to climate change. With 60% of Africa’s population expected to live in cities by 2050, often in informal areas and slums that are extremely vulnerable to climate change, current challenges will be further exacerbated. 
About 600 million people lack access to electricity and 970 million people lack access to clean cooking across sub-Saharan Africa. Coupled with this, it is estimated that there will be up to 86 million internal climate migrants in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050.
The climate battle will be won or lost in cities
Although the need for climate resilient development across Africa is increasingly acknowledged, there is still a disproportionate emphasis on tackling it at the national policy scale, and related to international climate change commitments. It is cities, though, that are at the frontlines of the climate change battle.
An integrated, multilevel governance approach is essential when it comes to tackling the climate crisis, and raising the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which if implemented as they currently stand would lead to around 4oC temperature rise by 2100, spelling disaster for millions of Africans. Multilevel governance, which increasingly involves both governmental and non-governmental actors, offers us an opportunity to course-correct, by ensuring that local knowledge and actions are scaled for transformative impact, and that finance is channelled to where it is needed most – the local level.
African cities only receive around $3 billion a year in climate finance, amounting to less than 1% of global urban climate finance. The public sector accounts for most of this financing, and we urgently need all sectors to play their part in unlocking the $2.8 trillion Africa needs by 2030 in order to implement its NDCs
EU-Africa collaboration
I have had the privilege of seeing first hand the real difference that an EU co-funded initiative is having on the continent, when a genuine, inclusive and context-sensitive collaborative approach has been taken. 
The Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is a regional chapter of an international alliance of cities, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, has been a major catalyst for local climate action in the region over the past decade. The initiative supports cities to develop evidence-based sustainable energy and climate action plans, and access finance to implement these plans.

As an EU action that supports the external dimension of the European Green Deal, it recognises that the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation require a global response, but that solutions need to be context-specific, inclusive and innovative. With 27 million Euros currently invested by co-funders, a further funded phase was announced by the EU at Africa Climate Week.
COP 28 and beyond
As we move towards COP28, subnational governments are making their voices heard loud and clear. We need increased finance for climate action, we need multilevel governance processes to be mandated for the revision of NDCs, and we need subnational governments to have direct access to climate finance for scaled local action. African cities are ready, but climate action needs climate finance. And this needs genuine collaboration.

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