Global leaders at the 2021 Africa Climate Week have pledged their increased support to climate action initiatives to mitigate the environmental crisis that the world and Africa faces. The leaders also underscored the urgency of dealing with the environmental emergency and called for a whole of society approach to the problem. Hosted by the Government of Uganda in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN and multilateral agencies, this year’s Africa Climate Week was held virtually between 26 -29 September 2021 in advance to this year’s United Nations 26th Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26).
About the 2021 Africa Climate Week
The 2021 Africa Climate Week was hosted by the Government of Uganda and organized in collaboration with UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank Group. Regional partners such as the African Union, the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) also supported.
The 2021 Africa Climate Week sought to provide information on the UN’s Race to Zero and Race to Resilience campaigns, while ensuring that regional voices are heard in the multilateral climate processes.
The three key areas of focus at ACW 2021 were:
- Integrating ambitious action in key economic sectors into national planning.
- Adapting to climate risks and building resilience.
- Seizing transformational opportunities to put the region on a low-emission and highly resilient development pathway.
During the weeklong deliberations, UNDP led deliberations on integrated approaches for climate-resilient development, while the World Bank led discussions on national actions and economy-wide approaches, and the United Nations Environment Programme led deliberations on seizing transformation opportunities.
Fighting climate change requires global solidarity
Stakeholders showcased climate action milestones and shared progress ahead of COP26 on the submission of stronger national climate plans – Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – under the Paris Agreement. Complemented by the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), NDCs include commitments to build resilience to the inevitable impacts of climate change including severe frequent floods, storms, fires and droughts.
Hon. Beatrice Anywar, Uganda’s Minister of State for Environment, said winning the war against climate change requires global solidarity. “Climate Change effects have taken the globe by storm. This has been evident with the existing floods and drought that we have been witnessing. We are here to share what has worked for us but also learn from other countries because this is a war we can't fight alone as a developing country. Together with partners we are critically looking at how we can build capacity toward climate change mitigation and adaptation,” she said.
Citing Uganda’s designation of its own national decade of ecosystem restoration and revising its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement, Anywar reiterated the Government of Uganda commitment to work with partners toward climate action.
On her part, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa of UNDP observed that human activity is now the dominant activity shaping the planet causing disturbing effects, noting that “In recent months, Africa has witnessed devastating floods, an invasion of desert locusts and now faces the looming spectre of drought.”
COP26 must offer solutions for Africa
She urged conference participants to focus on finding solutions to complex development challenges. “Africa Climate Week is about solutions. I know that we can dig deeper and emerge on the other side with rich and context relevant pathways for Africa. The road to Glasgow must offer solutions for Africa. So, let us work together for a successful outcome, for people and planet,” she said.
Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa also explained that through its climate promise, UNDP supports 119 countries globally to respond to climate change through bold national pledges and responses, integrated national financing frameworks which help in mobilizing public, private, domestic and international financing sources of which 70% of UNDP’s finances are prioritizing, Energy, Climate Change, Gender equality and social protection.
UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Elsie Attafuah underscored the vulnerability of Uganda and many other developing nations to the climate change impacts.
“While Uganda’s contribution to climate change is negligible accounting for only 0.099 percent of global emissions, it is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts given its low coping capacity. Climate change effects such as frequent and prolonged dry spells as well as erratic and poorly distributed rainfall amplify the level of vulnerability experienced by many of Ugandans (68 percent) that are dependent on rainfed agriculture as their source of livelihood,” she said.
Commitments to save people and planet
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa commended Uganda for hosting the ACW 2021 and for its leadership on climate change. Uganda is the first African country to develop a National NDC Partnership Plan to implement their NDC through collaboration with more than 15 partners.
During the ACW deliberations, leaders pledged more commitment towards climate action, including Al Hamdou Dorsouma, Acting Director of the Climate Change and Green Growth Department at the African Development Bank, who pledged the Bank’s commitment to “Deploy its resources to save people and planet and generate wealth for our continent”.
Mr. Hafez Ghanem, Vice President for Eastern and Southern Africa at the World Bank Group revealed that “Over the next 5 years, 35 percent of World Bank Group financing will directly contribute to climate action. These plans support national action and economy-wide approaches to align planning and policy with action to achieve a sustainable, low-carbon and resilient future".
Other speakers emphasized the climate emergency that Africa has to deal with Dr. Vera Songwe, the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) observing that “No issue is more fundamental for African countries than climate resilience. How we address it will define sustainable development”.
About the Regional Climate Weeks
The ACW is part of Regional Climate Weeks organized annually in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Pacific and Middle East and North Africa as platforms for government and non-Party stakeholders to address climate issues under one umbrella and unity of purpose. They seek to bring together diverse stakeholders from the public and private sectors to address complex climate change challenges.