Here is what African CSOs want at COP28

By Ndi Eugene Ndi

African Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) will head to the 28th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (COP28), in Dubai later this month with one voice on climate action. Their united voice is contained in a common position paper outlining seven vital demands on issues of Climate Adaptation and Loss & Damage that was launched last week.

The launch of the position paper on November 15 followed the release by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) of its Adaptation Gap Report of 2023 that shows global underfinancing and lack of preparedness by countries to initiate adaptation actions.

According to the UNEP report, countries require an estimated US$387 billion per year to implement domestic adaptation priorities but the CSOs regret the absence of tangible progress in adaptation and climate finance post-COP27, despite the establishment of the loss and damage fund.

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, COP28 President-Designate. Photo by Raconteur

Ongoing disputes over Loss and Damage funding, governance, and eligibility further cast uncertainty over COP28 outcomes.

Over 200 CSOs had earlier written to the COP28 president, imploring him to champion a resilient climate adaptation agenda and push for unwavering commitment to its delivery.

The seven bold demands

In what the CSOs have termed “Seven Bold Adaptation Demands for COP28”, they are asking for the operationalisation of the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA). They demand a comprehensive framework for the GGA at COP28 which must be clear, quantitative, and have holistic targets to facilitate adaptation action and enhance parties’ ability to respond to adverse climate impacts.

The African CSOs are also demanding the strengthening of transformative adaptation priorities, calling on COP28 to prioritises support and implementation of national adaptation plans, ensuring alignment with the Global Goal on Adaptation and African needs.

The CSOs are also demanding an increase in reliable and quality adaptation finance from COP28. They say COP28 must address global and African adaptation finance gaps – demanding the fulfilment of commitments to double adaptation funding, setting new targets, reforming the financial system, and prioritising quality, and accessible finance. They stress the need to incentivise financing options favourable to Africa, such as debt relief, tax waivers, and grants.

Still among the key demands by the CSOs is the demand to operationalise Loss and Damage (L&D). The CSOs insist that COP28’s success hinges on funding and operationalising the Loss and Damage (L&D) fund. They call for the launch of technical assistance through the Santiago Network on L&D and ensuring effective governance for the L&D fund, serving both the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement.

Besides the increase in adaptation finance, African CSOs also demand that the Global Stocktake (GST) course corrects climate action and respond decisively to the IPCC’s findings. They highlight the urgent need to prioritise closing the adaptation finance gap and doubling adaptation finance while recognising the link between adaptation, sustainable development and acknowledging Africa’s vulnerability highlighted in the IPCC report.

Environmentally friendly trees planted at the Minawao refugee camp in Far North region of Cameroon to fight against the impacts of climate change

Also, the African CSOs are asking for the integration of Climate Adaptation and Resilience into Just Transition Work Programme: They say just transition for adaptation is essential in Africa and must integrate the principles of equity, increased focus on social vulnerability, and dimensions of justice into the programme. They call for social protection programs to include adaptation to reduce vulnerability while promoting justice and equity.

Lastly, the CSOs are demanding progress towards resilient and just food and agriculture systems saying COP28 must address climate change impact on food systems at all levels. They emphasise the vital need to shift to farmer-led, rights-based models, promoting gender equity, agroecology, food sovereignty, and protecting Indigenous knowledge.

What they said

In unison, the African climate advocates are passionately calling for decisive actions and commitment at COP28 to address the disproportionate vulnerability of the continent to climate change. They cite the recommendations presented in the common position paper as a reflection of a collective call for a sustainable, just, and resilient future for Africa and the global community.

Amy Giliam Thorp, Senior Climate Adaptation and Resilience Policy Advisor at Power Shift Africa said the common position of the African CSOs calls for COP28 to establish a robust framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation with clear ambitious targets fostering adaptation action.

“It emphasises key recommendations to ensure that the goal is ambitious and effective, developing and agreeing on a strong overarching target. Importantly, this target would be a way to signal political will and investment in people, livelihoods, ecosystems, and increased finance. The recommendations of the position paper provide a roadmap for COP28, emphasizing urgency and collective action to address climate challenges,” said Thorp.

Lina Ahmed, Policy Advisor for Climate Loss & Damage at German Watch said the position paper comprehensively addresses recommendations for the Loss and Damage fund, stressing the critical need for substantial capitalisation.

“When it comes to the food system agenda, the African CSO position paper challenges the status quo,” said Bridget Mugambe, Programmes Coordinator at Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa. She added that: “While the prevailing system appears regressive in the face of climate change, the paper champions agroecology”.

A refugee family sits under a tree in the Minawao refugee camp in Far North Cameroon where the temperature is usually very high

Jane Lumumba of UN Climate Action said empowering African resilience demands agile policies, seamlessly integrating climate adaptation into existing sectors. “The private sector’s pivotal role in providing crucial financial backing for adaptation efforts cannot be overstated. Let’s not just chase new trends; let’s fortify and mobilise for lasting impact”.

According to Mwandwe Chileshe, Director for Food Security, Agriculture and Nutrition at Global Citizen, adaptation demands a large amount of financing, and that financing is not being met, which impacts food and food systems.  

“The adaptation finance gap keeps widening. If we leave it to grow, we will find ourselves in a position where we are unable to fill up this gap. Our actions to address this gap as stated in the position paper also demand that the process be as transparent as possible. There is a need for change in the global financial architecture so that Africa is not stuck in the cycle of debt and transforms into a bed basket,” said Chileshe.

Also reacting to the African CSOs common position, Dr. Darlington Sibanda who is part of the African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI) at the University of Cape Town said it highlights the need to acknowledge the significant scale of costs related to loss and damage associated with climate change in developing countries.

“It calls upon parties to decide on the full operationalization of the loss and damage fund designed as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the convention. COP28 should leverage the Global Stocktake to align Climate and Biodiversity Action,” said Sibanda.

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