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African voices at COP23
November 26, 2017, 2:48 pm

African states and organizations made the most of their presence at the recently concluded COP23 Climate Change Conference, which was held in Bonn, Germany, from 6 to 17 November.

The high-profile conference saw Africa jointly voicing its concerns and ideas, and using their combined influence to pressure developed nations to commit to more ambitious reduction targets for the sake of poorer, more vulnerable regions.

Africa, where more than two-thirds of the population make their living off the land, will probably be impacted the most from any climate change effects. So it is only understandable that from the very first COP meeting in Berlin in 1995, African states and organizations have been very vocal and proactive in the interactions. 

“Increasingly, African leaders and climate change advocates are arriving at COP meeting not just to listen, but to speak and offer their solutions and expectations. They have become integral part of unfolding discussions, and are not just sitting outside the fence listening, said Yunis Arikan, the head of Advocacy and Development of Local Governments for Sustainability, formerly the International Council for Local Environmental Issues (ICLEI).

Part of this increased involvement comes down to a change in attitudes towards climate change, as well as a larger young generation who are concerned for their futures.

"For many years sustainability and urbanization were not considered a big priority for Africa. But there is a huge influx of people going to cities in Africa, as there is a young generation emerging who would like to be connected to the world and who want to be a part of the global movement," said Mr. Arikan.

The Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a coalition of civil society organizations from diverse backgrounds across Africa, said that part of the organization's mission at COP23 was to push industrialized countries to set more ambitious goals to reduce their carbon emissions so that African states do not have to contend with the adverse effects of climate change.

"Our frustration, as a coalition of African countries, is that there is no strong signal of something being done," said the Secretary-General of PACJA, Mithika Mwenda. "It's like a jamboree where people come, make proclamations, and after two weeks they go back to their normal lives. We are insisting that it is no longer business as usual. We need to acknowledge the expectations of poorer states and ensure that we are taking action."

Effects of extreme climate disproportionately impact small-scale farmers, pastoralists and fishing and forest communities around the world who still provide the bulk of the planet’s food. Supporting these communities with innovative solutions both to reduce their emissions and protect their communities is crucial.

Some of the discussion at COP23 was also centered around the decision earlier this year by US President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. With Syria announcing its plans to join the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the United States will effectively become the only outlier among the international community opposed to the pact.

For many countries in Africa, the US's withdrawal represents a dangerous disregard for poorer states that are more likely to be at the receiving end of the worst effects of climate change — a scenario made even more troubling by the fact that the majority of C02 emissions are generated by wealthier, industrialized nations like the US.

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