As the world gears up for COP28 in Dubai in a few weeks, there’s a buzz of anticipation surrounding the critical role that Africa and its leaders will play in shaping the discussions within the conference’s Blue Zone. But this isn’t your typical “let’s talk about the developing world’s challenges” narrative. Instead, it’s an exploration of how African nations are not just passive recipients of climate change consequences, but proactive architects of their destinies and, in doing so, shaking up the landscape of emerging markets.
Exploring the Blue Zone: What Makes It COP’s Focal Point for African Nations?
The previous COP, hosted by Egypt (COP27), marked a turning point in recognizing the continent’s significance in global sustainability dialogues. Now, the international community eagerly awaits the African perspective to be further integrated into the COP conversations.
The Blue Zone at COP conferences is what I’d refer to as the ‘heart of the event’, where negotiators, policymakers, and experts converge to deliberate on key global climate issues. In this space, decisions are made, commitments are solidified, and actions are planned. Africa being a continent that is disproportionately affected by climate change can be poised to be a central voice in these discussions. We are expecting African leaders to bring to the table the unique experiences and challenges faced by African nations, from extreme weather events to food security concerns, which underscore the urgency of collective climate action.
By actively participating in COP28, African leaders should aim to ensure that the continent’s priorities are heard and incorporated into the global agenda, highlighting the need for equitable solutions that address the diverse impacts of climate change across regions.
Past Pathfinders: Africa’s Climate Initiatives of Significance
Before we talk about the expected areas of discussion by African nations, let’s take a quick peek at some current African climate initiatives and see how they fit into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
- The African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI): Launched at COP21, the initiative aims to promote renewable energy in Africa and is linked to SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).
- The Great Green Wall Initiative: While not directly initiated at a specific COP, it aligns with the objectives of various COPs focused on climate change and is closely related to SDG 15 (Life on Land) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).
- The Africa Adaptation Initiative: Initiated by the African Union, this initiative is closely related to the outcomes of various COPs and contributes to SDG 13 (Climate Action).
- The Pan-African Renewable Energy Program (PAREP): This initiative aims to accelerate renewable energy development in Africa and is linked to SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).
- African Circular Economy Alliance: Once again while not initiated at a specific COP, it contributes to the broader goals of sustainable development, including SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).
COP28 Foreseen: Africa’s Agenda for a Sustainable Tomorrow
Last but not least, given the challenges and opportunities in the continent, I am expecting five potential topics of discussion where our African nations can actively engage at COP28:
- Climate Adaptation and Resilience Building: Africa is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with increasing droughts, floods, and extreme weather events. Discussions on adaptation strategies, resilient infrastructure development, and climate risk management are vital for the continent’s sustainable future.
- Renewable Energy and Electrification: Africa has abundant renewable energy resources, including solar and wind power. Encouraging investment in renewable energy projects, expanding access to clean and affordable electricity, and fostering regional cooperation in energy infrastructure are crucial topics for discussion.
- Biodiversity Conservation: Africa is home to a rich and diverse range of ecosystems and wildlife. Preserving biodiversity, combating wildlife trafficking, and promoting sustainable land and water management are essential for both ecological balance and economic development.
- Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security: Agriculture is a cornerstone of many African economies. Discussions around sustainable farming practices, access to modern technology for smallholder farmers, and mitigating the impact of climate change on food production will be central to addressing hunger and poverty.
- Water Management and Access: Access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental human right and key to sustainable development. Addressing water scarcity, promoting efficient water management, and ensuring equitable access to water resources are vital components of Africa’s sustainability agenda.
This continuous inclusion of Africa’s perspective in the United Nation’s yearly climate convention is not just symbolic; it is an essential step towards fostering global solidarity and achieving sustainable outcomes in the fight against climate change.
This is the beginning of an inspiring journey to share, open a new chapter for the continent, and a future to embrace – we’re discussing sustainability after all!
This article was first published in Arabian Business on 13th November 2023.