What Africa should do to achieve the Nairobi declaration goals

Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde waves to the participants as President William Ruto introduced them during the Africa Climate Summit closing ceremony.  [Silas Otieno, Standard]

What difference will the African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action make in the fight against the climate crisis? The declaration, adopted at the end of the inaugural Africa Climate Summit on September 6, 2023, is undoubtedly a symbol of our leaders’ collective commitment to preserving the health and well-being of our planet.

Adopted by African heads of state and government in the presence of global leaders, intergovernmental organisations, and a diverse array of stakeholders, the declaration underscored the urgency and complexity of the climate challenge.

Among other things, the summit committed to developing and implementing policies, regulations and incentives aimed at attracting local, regional and global investment in green growth and inclusive economies; focusing economic development plans on climate-positive growth; strengthening actions to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, deforestation, and desertification; advancing green industrialisation across the continent by prioritising energy-intense industries and finalising and implementing the draft African Union Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.

But the question remains: Will the Nairobi climate summit achieve tangible results or will it end up being just another talk-shop? This is an important question because the last few years have been characterised by a glaring gap between the ambitious commitments countries set in global climate agreements and their fulfilment. This is the very essence of the challenge known as the “effectiveness trilemma”.

The effectiveness trilemma is a delicate balancing act, comprising three fundamental dimensions: Ambition, equity, and compliance. In the context of climate action agreements, these dimensions represent the pillars upon which our global climate governance stands.

The first dimension, ambition, emphasises the necessity of setting ambitious climate targets. While ambition is crucial to effectively mitigate climate change, we must ensure these targets remain both feasible and considerate of economic and social consequences. The declaration contains several ambitious targets such as redoubling efforts to boost agricultural yields through sustainable agricultural practices.

The main goal of this commitment is to enhance food security while minimising negative environmental impacts. African states must ensure that this commitment is feasible and considerate of the economic and social consequences.

The second dimension, equity, revolves around the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”. It acknowledges that developed nations, bearing the historical burden of emissions, must shoulder greater responsibilities and extend support to developing nations in their climate efforts. Achieving a fair balance in responsibility-sharing and financial support is paramount. The declaration has indicated that African states will build effective partnerships between Africa and other regions, to meet the needs for financial, technical and technological support, and knowledge sharing for climate change adaptation.

The third dimension, compliance, underscores the vital need for nations to uphold their commitments. Climate agreements can only serve their purpose if nations adhere to their obligations. Compliance mechanisms such as transparent reporting, peer reviews, and penalties for non-compliance are essential tools to ensure nations remain accountable.

To achieve the goals enshrined in the Nairobi Declaration, we must harmonise ambition and feasibility. This involves encouraging all key stakeholders to set achievable targets and for signatories to provide the necessary financial and technical support to facilitate their achievement. Such support should be transparent, predictable, and consistent with the pledges made in the declaration.

Upholding compliance and accountability are equally pivotal. Signatories to the declaration must strengthen transparency and reporting mechanisms, ensuring regular, standardised reporting on progress toward the agreed-upon targets. Additionally, we can consider implementing a robust peer-review system where nations evaluate each other’s efforts transparently. The African Union Commission has been tasked to develop an implementation framework and roadmap for the Nairobi Declaration. The roadmap will serve as a compass point to ensure that the commitments and targets are achieved timely.

Although the declaration may not explicitly outline penalties for non-compliance, we must collectively recognise the consequences of failing to meet our climate commitments. Clear consequences should be established for nations consistently falling short of their obligations, potentially involving reductions in financial support or participation restrictions in international climate initiatives.

Engaging non-state actors is yet another avenue towards success. Private sector firms can be incentivised through measures such as carbon pricing, tax incentives, and preferential procurement for sustainable practices. Civil society, indigenous communities, youth, and the public can actively contribute to ensuring governments and corporations prioritise climate action.

As we prepare for COP28 scheduled for November 2023, let us seize the opportunity presented by the Nairobi Declaration to build on the lessons of the past. Let us forge a path forward that harmonises ambition, equity, and compliance that recognises the evolving roles of both State and non-state actors in our global climate efforts. It is only through our collective commitment to sustainable and climate-resilient practices that we can secure a future for our planet and generations yet to come.

The writer is a Governance, Risk and Compliance Specialist and the Chief Legal and Compliance Executive at CEO Academy Africa. momanyideborah@ ceoacademyafrica.com