What is missing? . . . Climate action is not going anywhere outside national development agendas

Pablo Vieira

Sub-Saharan Africa is on the front lines of climate change. Droughts, water scarcity, and extreme weather events confirm some of the devastating impacts of climate change on the development of the region.

But, despite the inextricable link between climate and development, these two agendas are often addressed separately. For real change to occur, climate action and sustainable development must be fully intertwined. We have accomplished a lot. Internationally, the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) have laid the groundwork for our shared future. We have already seen evidence of these global ambitions at work in the region. The Southern African Power Pool, for instance, has succeeded in promoting cross-border cooperation in energy distribution, leading to a substantial reduction in energy losses and increasing the stability of networks. Mali is developing climate compatible sectoral development plans. In Uganda, a system has been designed to track expenditures and resource needs for climate-related projects. And in Namibia – a country which embraces environmental protection so strongly that it is even written into the Constitution – national planning for the Paris Agreement is now getting underway.

Besides planning and creating policies, African governments have started to implement. Mali, Cote D’Ivoire, and Morocco are working with the Adaptation of African Agriculture Initiative to develop Climate Smart Agriculture investment plans to enable food security. Through the Moroccan Centre for Climate Change Competence (4C Maroc), for instance, they are sharing lessons learned on financing climate-related projects with government counterparts throughout Africa.

Namibia now has sectoral policies related to climate change: Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) have increased energy production and reduced dependence on imports; while renewable energy sources are improving energy access in rural areas. Policies that protect forests are helping Namibia to adapt to the effects of climate change, while preventing further environmental damage and creating jobs.

Then what is missing? 

As Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” To solve the global and complex challenge of confronting climate change, we need a paradigm shift – one that fully recognizes climate and development action as twin goals.

It is no longer enough to consider climate only as an item on the environmental agenda; climate must be regarded today in every aspect of national planning. Once action becomes truly interdisciplinary, cases such as those above can be expanded to fit into a national strategy that allows the broader population to thrive.

This is especially true in Namibia and its neighbour countries. As one of the driest sub-Saharan African countries, Namibia’s development is highly vulnerable to climate change. The livelihoods of over half of the Namibian people depend to some extent on agriculture, livestock, and fisheries. These forms of living are sensitive to climatic shocks and stresses, key examples being droughts and flooding. Namibia’s rich biodiversity and ecosystem services are also threatened by climate change.

In consequence, climate change is likely to deepen inequalities that are already prevalent and reduce societal welfare. Accordingly to Namibia’s NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions to climate action, under the Paris Agreement), climate change could result in an annual decrease of GDP of 6.5 percent.

Namibia developed ambitious goals under its NDC, aiming to reduce 89 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to business-as-usual levels. It seeks a future of economic growth accomplished through low carbon emissions and sustainable development. To achieve such ambitions, implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals must join up with NDC implementation in alignment with national development plans – like Namibia’s NDP5 and the Harambee prosperity plan hope to do.

In order to support the alignment between these agendas and their implementation, the NDC Partnership is working with its member countries and institutions throughout the region. We are matchmaking, building bridges, and connecting dots to set sub-Saharan Africa on a path for real action. We are sharing our expertise with one another across sectors and across agendas. This is what has been missing – but together, we will go farther.

Pablo Vieira is Global Director of the NDC Partnership Support Unit, which is responsible for leading efforts to assist countries in advancing their climate goals by facilitating access to analysis, tools, expertise, financing, and other resources. The NDC Partnership is a global coalition of 62 countries and nine international institutions working together to mobilize support and achieve ambitious climate goals, while enhancing sustainable development.

October 2017
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