During COP 27, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) called on governments to strengthen their national climate plans’ targets for 2030. The states are expected to revisit and update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by the end of this year. The UNFCCC’s insistence on more discipline is a sign of the current state of the NDCs and their inability to implement the Paris Agreement.
The NDCs form the centre piece of the international agreement. In 2015, a total of 191 countries agreed to implement self-set climate action plans to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts (UNFCCC, 2021). The Paris Agreement (Article 4, paragraph 2) requires each party to prepare, communicate and maintain successive NDCs that are intended to meet the objectives, and to elaborate systems to control and verify their progress (UNFCCC, 2021).
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (2022) highlighted that the average annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2010 to 2019 were higher than ever before in human history. Curbing climate change in Africa, one of the most vulnerable continents to climate impacts, requires the reshaping and reframing of NDCs in a way that enables local buy-in and participation. The way the NDCs are currently framed reduces the likelihood of achieving the desired objectives (Cooper, 2018): they are determined by policy-makers on the macro level with only selected sectors becoming subject to certain reduction goals. Most decisions are made using limited consultation with local communities despite the latter’s critical role in the implementation of climate action (Broock, 2019).
As a result, NDCs remain largely unknown to local communities. For instance, in Côte d’Ivoire, most affected regions are prompt to engage in the NDC programme. However, the local governments of less impacted cities struggle to get local actors involved because the necessity of the NDCs is not immediately obvious (NDC Partnership, 2019). Local actors and communities, with their lack of understanding of mitigation strategies, are often drivers of climate change rather than climate action actors.
Stakeholders, at the local level in particular, need to be meaningfully engaged through their local government. Enabling the local participation of communities and leaders can contribute significantly to reducing global warming. Through consultation and knowledge sharing, communities may engage with policy-makers to establish a common understanding of climate actions as solutions. A shared belief that these are opportunities to sustain and improve the livelihoods of all for the long term is essential. Ultimately, local communities are key actors in implementing climate action. On their shoulders rests the task to realise the objectives set out in local mitigation strategies.
Since NDCs’ implementations are orientated towards the macro level, there is a fundamental need to adapt it to include local perspectives. This is necessary to make the agenda accessible to all stakeholders, from both urban and rural communities, following an inclusive and participatory approach. A shift to a bottom-up approach with technical support and backing of institutional partners is a must to develop a sustainable and realistic programme of action on the path towards achieving the Paris Agreement.
The United Nations encourages such an approach through its campaign “Making Cities Resilient 2030” (MCR2030). The initiative provides guidance and support to cities aiming to enhance their understanding of and improve their strategic planning for risk reduction and resilience. Within the framework, there is room to integrate so-called Locally Determined Contributions (LDCs) into the NDC implementation process. According to Cooper, regionally and locally determined contributions “are a set of commitments and accomplishments made by sub-national governments in reducing GHG emissions” (2018, p. 1).
The LDCs are based on the need and the capabilities of the community to which they belong.
At the same time, the implementation of climate initiatives requires good coordination between stakeholders. At the local level, local governments can bring all stakeholders to the decision-making table to define the role of each in achieving the desired objectives.
Developing LDCs does not undermine the importance of NDCs, rather LDCs are meant to complement and enhance their implementation. For instance, Kampala understood the risks and vulnerabilities that affect the city and its communities. Accordingly, they elaborated the city development plan on integration of disaster risk and climate change mitigation. In doing so, they relied on the support of several partners, including the United Nations, World Bank, French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement), politicians, academia, government ministries, departments and agencies, and representatives from the private sector and various vulnerable groups (Devex, 2021).
Inclusivity is necessary to enable success. There is a need to make sure that all stakeholders are on board and have a voice and can participate in the development and implementation of such strategies. Local actors may leverage LDCs to become active and dynamic participants in the implementation of NDCs.
Adama Bamba (Africa Youth Advisory Board on Disaster Risk Reduction under the African Union Commission) is a policy analyst working on disaster risk reduction and climate resilience. Kossi Lorimpo Adjah is a climate change and agriculture specialist for the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL). Rodas Melaku Negusu (Ethiopian Airlines Foundation) works on the role of local stakeholders in sustainable development and climate change. All participated in the BMZ African-German Leadership Academy at IDOS.
The European Union had many plans for the summit with the African Union in February, especially in the area of energy transition. But apart from a new investment package, few results followed. When it comes to the climate-energy nexus, relations are strained because of European plans for a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism. Here, African partners feel that they are being treated unfairly and that their own interests are not adequately represented in the partnership. Thus, the European Union must reflect on whether it is an attractive partner for African countries.