African leaders are poised to convene in Nairobi from September 4th to 6th, 2023, for the Africa Climate Summit. This landmark gathering marks a critical juncture for the continent as it is set to provide a unified position on several climate change challenges to be negotiated by African leaders at COP28 in Dubai later this year
By Nciko wa Nciko and Dr. David Ngira
African leaders are poised to convene in Nairobi from September 4th to 6th, 2023, for the Africa Climate Summit. This landmark gathering marks a critical juncture for the continent as it is set to provide a unified position on several climate change challenges to be negotiated by African leaders at COP28 in Dubai later this year.
The Paris Agreement expects that “[states] should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote, and consider their respective obligations on human rights.”
However, states’ implementation and compliance remain part of the major challenges, which require the attention of African leaders at this summit.
Wealthy industrialized states have caused and/or continue to accelerate climate change.David Ngira and Nciko wa Nciko
Wealthy industrialized states have caused and/or continue to accelerate climate change. They also have greater economic and technological tools to address it.
The Paris Agreement therefore places more obligations on them. They must reduce emissions faster and provide climate finance, capacity-building, and technology transfer to enable developing countries decarbonize and adapt to the effects of climate change. However, so far, wealthy states’ climate action in this regard has not been ambitious enough to tackle climate change or enable poor countries to adapt.
Until last year, there was no fully operational implementation mechanism to monitor the compliance of states with their obligations under the Paris Agreement. However, at COP27 – in November 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh – states adopted the rules of procedure of the committee to facilitate implementation and promote compliance referred to in Article 15, paragraph 2, of the Paris Agreement. These rules made the Paris Agreement Implementation and Compliance Committee (PAICC) fully operational by allowing it to perform two functions. First is the “compliance” function, which the PAICC can trigger on its own, without state consent.
Through this function, the PAICC is to monitor compliance with the few obligations under the Paris Agreement that require all states to submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) every 5 years, and wealthy states to provide information on the mobilization of climate finance. This function does not entrust the PAICC with any power to require states to ensure that such submissions are consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goals. Second is the “implementation” function. It is facilitative in nature. Here, the PAICC may provide substantive recommendations to a state to guide it towards the implementation of its NDCs. However, this “implementation” function can be triggered only by the consent of a particular state requesting support on how best to implement the commitments taken under the Paris Agreement. This is a fundamental weakness of the implementation mechanism.
The international climate change regime contains within itself a bottom-up approach to climate action, which has historically contributed to the lack of implementation of the provisions of the Paris Agreement. Under this bottom-up approach, states were left free to set their own targets for emission reductions, choose adaptation measures, and, for wealthy states, decide their own contribution to climate finance.
This approach to climate action is embedded in the PAICC’s “implementation” function. The PAICC is to perform this function by leaving states free to engage with it as and when they see fit on how best to implement the commitments taken under the Paris Agreement. Further, the PAICC allows them to voluntarily decide whether the recommendations it provides them with should remain confidential; yet, the Paris Agreement expects that the PAICC functions in a transparent manner. Therefore, embedding the bottom-up approach to climate action in this implementation mechanism undermines its effectiveness. The risk of the PAICC not delivering climate justice is looming large because states are free not to engage with the PAICC and not to act upon its recommendations as and when they see fit.
To potentially succeed to bring about compliance with and implementation of the Paris Agreement, African states should continue using every available means to achieve climate justice.David Ngira and Nciko wa Nciko
To potentially succeed to bring about compliance with and implementation of the Paris Agreement, African states should continue using every available means to achieve climate justice. Together with climate justice movements, they are already advocating and agitating for increased finance from wealthy states for climate adaptation and for loss and damage. They should consider whether the PAICC can be an additional direction for their efforts. The Africa Climate Summit should serve as an opportunity for African states to jointly reflect on their engagement with PAICC. This engagement should focus on how inadequate financing hinders their ability to implement and comply with their adaptation and loss and damage needs as outlined in their NDCs and National Adaptation Plans. In solidarity with African states and other developing countries, climate justice movements in wealthy states should advocate for their governments to engage with the PAICC to arrive at equitable and just climate action and implement the PAICC’s recommendations. Such tactics will transform the PAICC into a critical tool to deliver climate justice and advance the respect, protection, and fulfillment of human rights in Africa and beyond.
This opinion piece was first published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation.
Tags: Africa, Global, Human rights.