What if the climate issue now becomes the priority of the African Union?

Home » Economy » What if the climate issue now becomes the priority of the African Union? February 12, 2022

The fight against global warming is an opportunity to finally make a single voice heard within the African Union, of which Mr. Sall has just taken over the presidency for one year. In other words, his mandate could help lay the foundations for a continental energy transition based on the balance between vulnerability to climate change and the need to maintain sustained economic growth, which is essential for African countries.

How has it been so far?

The African Union has tried so far – and not without difficulty – to focus its efforts on conflict prevention, the defense of human rights and even health.

In most of these areas, the divisions of the African Union have reduced the scope of its decisions and prevented the emergence of a common position on crucial subjects. The weight of dissension has thus removed the thorny issue of Western Sahara from the agenda of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union. Its refusal of interventionism multiplies the silences on certain extremely serious crises, thus creating an impression of “immobility” de facto.

Likewise, its lack of courage in the face of the multiplication of coups d’etat undermines its legitimacy. How indeed can the suspension of Mali and Guinea from the work of the AU be justified when these two states are currently led by military juntas, which is also the case, even if there has been no bloodshed, from the Chad of Mahamat Idriss Déby, who remains a full member of the AU?

Being one of the rare subjects on which a consensus could be found, the fight against climate change should allow the emergence of a common pan-African voice. Should President Macky Sall therefore commit the AU to solving this delicate equation which is how the continent can begin its energy transformation without weighing down its socio-economic development? In short, to pursue its growth while adopting a “low carbon profile”.

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Africa highly vulnerable to climate change

According to the most recent data, the African continent was, between 1751 and 2017, only responsible for 3% of CO2 emissions on an international scale. A share that collapses, if we only consider sub-Saharan Africa cut off from the Nigerian and South African giants, to 0.34% of global emissions.

scientific studies, including the very recent multi-agency report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization, highlight the continent’s very high vulnerability to global warming and the seriousness of its consequences for populations, particularly in terms of agriculture and access to water. In addition, the continent’s lack of infrastructure weakens its ability to adapt to climate change.

However, this reality in no way erases the aspiration – and the obligation – of African countries, whose greenhouse gas emissions are following an upward trend concomitant with the economic development of the continent, to also reduce their carbon impact. . . Academic Mark New, Director of the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town, paints a prospective picture taking into account the changing demographics of the continent in which, without reversing the trend, the carbon footprint per African will increase until 2050, before stabilizing until 2100.

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“Committing a common but differentiated struggle”…

President Macky Sall has endeavored in recent months, and in particular on the UN platform, to draw the outlines, even if he was not yet President of the African Union, of an African model of energy transition, based on a resolutely cross-border approach, on the natural wealth of the continent and on the economic potential it can bring. Its strong support for the African Great Green Wall, which provides for the reforestation of a territory stretching from Senegal to Djibouti to combat desertification while promising 10,000 local jobs, is an eloquent but symbolic example of this.

But it is above all on the most structural aspects of the fight against global warming that President Macky Sall has made himself the herald of the fight against global warming, as he had successfully defended the extension of the moratorium on debts Africans last year.

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By engaging in a “common but differentiated” fight against global warming, he reminds us that Africa is first a victim of global warming before being guilty of it. A posture that he already adopted in 2018, defending the effective application of the Kyoto Protocol of the polluter-pays principle, which aimed to make the major powers understand the need to bear the costs that will weigh on Africa. . A relevant approach, if we consider that the rich countries have not sufficiently helped the continent which has polluted the least, which should pollute the least tomorrow and which remains the most exposed to climate change.

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… in a true partnership logic…

His defense before the UN of shared-benefit trade agreements, intended to avoid policies of predation on the continent’s natural resources, also promises to be one of his main battles at the head of the African Union. Next, his call for the mobilization of continental partners and international donors in favor of the Fund for the Electrification of Africa, which he had already called for during COP21 in Paris, is a pledge of good will to to achieve an Africa partially free from extractive industries. energies. Actions that aim to complement those already implemented, at sub-regional or continental level, by ECOWAS.

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… which does not burn the stages

The issue of extractive energy exit remains fundamental. It’s hard to prove Macky Sall wrong when he tells the Senegalese diaspora that the continent’s energy transition cannot take place without the massive use of gas – with which Africa is richly endowed – as transition energy towards a renewable energy future. . and that the growing refusal of Western countries to finance it could become a brake on its socio-economic development. Especially since in terms of renewable energies, the continent is not to be outdone. Different scenarios evoke a 67% share of renewable energies in the overall mix of sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

The emergence of a common African voice on an issue as central as the climate would make the African Union all the more credible to position itself on those it is struggling to resolve, such as crisis prevention and conflict management. The new mandate of President Macky Sall is a unique opportunity to make this voice heard. This unique opportunity should not be missed.

* Jean Lévy is a former French ambassador, former adviser to François Mitterrand. He teaches at the School of International and Political Studies (HEIP).

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