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COP23: What did Africa achieve?

Ineke Mules
November 17, 2017

This year's climate conference has squarely put the onus on wealthy, high-carbon emitters. African delegates continue to call for less rhetoric and more action for the sake of smaller, high-risk nations.

A gigantic globe is seen in a park in Bonn
Image: Getty Images/A. Rentz

AsCOP23wraps up for another year, African nations are beginning to reflect on what they have achieved over the past two weeks in global negotiations to tackle climate change. Many representatives and observers have expressed their frustration at the lack of clear means of implementation in order to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. 

African delegates largely used their attendance at the conference to put pressure on wealthy, high-carbon emitting nations to swiftly take measures to ensure emission reduction targets are met as soon as possible.

Fiji's COP23 presidency intended to highlight the struggles of smaller nations at risk of the effects of climate change and frame the conversation around how wealthier nations could help. Despite being a low carbon emitter overall, Africa potentially has the most to lose from the adverse effects of climate change in the coming decades.

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Africa "in trouble"

The overall outcomes of the summit seem to have fallen short of expectations despite the high number of African delegates attending COP23. 

Speaking at a press conference on the gains and losses for Africa on Friday, a spokesman for the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) expressed disappointment with this year's negotiations, claiming that developed nations have not done enough to ensure the proper implementation of the Paris Agreement for the sake of developing states.

"We regret the slow progress and limited flexibility exercised by developed nations, during a COP which is presided over by one of the countries heavily impacted by climate change," he said. "We are deeply disappointed at the lack of substantive package[s] on the means of implementation aimed at enhancing the pre–2020 ambition. [This] may result in the inefficient implementation of the Paris Agreement."

Muawia Shaddad from the Sudanese Environment Conservation Society (SECS) added that this outcome is unfortunately not dissimilar to previous climate change summits.

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"I have followed these negotiations for a long time, and every time Africa is at a loss," he said. "We are not getting the means of implementation, we are not getting the [financial assistance] that we want, we are not even getting the support that we expect, or the commitment."

The coordinator of the Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN), Robert Chimambo, echoed these concerns, warning that Africa is "in trouble" and in danger of "being pushed off the precipice." 

"From now on we want quantifiable means of implementation, not just words and figures," he said. "The quantification must start from our countries. And that is the mandate we shall give our heads of state to give to our African negotiators."

"Africa needs to take a stand. If there are no clear means of implementation, we are out of this."

Less talk, more action

Nigeria's Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, offered a different take on the COP23 proceedings. He told DW that he was encouraged by the assurance of some members of the international community that they will stick to the goals of the Paris Agreement, despite the controversial withdrawal of the US earlier in the year.

"I think Africans achieved a unity of purpose and a sense of direction to [achieve] what would be the best for Africa," he said.

"We are encouraged by the commitment made by key players, particularly from the German and French governments in wanting to move ahead with the European Union (EU) to ensure that whatever gap is left by major players who decide to pull out is not felt."

But Jibril agreed that it is time for the long discussions to end and implementation of the Paris Agreement to begin.

"We have talked for the past 20 years and I believe those talks should have ended in Paris [at COP21]. That was the most successful COP we have had, so now it's time for action. But I believe that with the sense of purpose and commitment shown by the African bloc, we will be able to push ahead and ensure that those who ought to do better will do better."

Clare Doe Mvogo
Hundreds of African delegates attended the climate conference. Image: DW/Maximiliano Monti

Showcasing local initiatives to the world

Outside the negotiation rooms, African nations and NGOs set up their own areas in the pavilion area of the Bonn Zone to showcase the various local, regional and national initiatives undertaken to tackle the impacts of climate change.

'Adaptation' and 'sustainability' were the buzzwords in many African pavilions – which included, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, South Africa and the Congo Basin – alongside a focus on harnessing the continent's growing youth population.

"In Cameroon we have so many young people and they represent 60 percent of the population," Marita Muafu Nkom told DW at the Congo Basin pavilion, "You can see that most of these youths have jobs and now we are speaking about green jobs."

"The real challenge is for people to understand what we are discussing here and to be able to connect that to the reality that they are facing, like the lack of energy, the poverty issue [which] brings a lot of problems."

Monikie Kpedeh also stressed the importance of involving women in African sustainability projects.

"For me, it is mainly about the participation of women, how to involve women in the management of the forest because women play key roles in the forest use" she told DW, "In each country we have a main activity. In Rwanda for instance, we are trying to transform the bamboo to make some kind of new material which we can sell. In Cameroon we are also transforming bamboo and making jewelry. We have many activities with women on the ground." 

eco@africa — The Environment Magazine

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