When Morocco hosted the first climate change summit since a global emission reduction deal was struck in Paris a year ago, the country was determined to make the COP22 summit one that reflected the priorities of the African region.
During the November summit in Marrakesh, some of the world’s most vulnerable countries led on delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement. Morocco acted as an advocate for other African countries, who walked in with clear demands.
These countries called upon world leaders to put agriculture at the core of the climate debate, including agreeing on concrete plans to support Africa’s smallholder farmers. Despite having the lowest emission rate world at barely 3 percent of the global total, Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change.
High exposure to desertification in the Sahel region and to flooding in coastal cities in west Africa are just two examples. With warming of 1.5 to 2°C, drought and aridity will make an estimated 40 to 80 percent of agricultural land unfit for growing maize, millet and sorghum by 2030-2040.
But Africa is also vulnerable because of its low adaptive capacity, compounded by poverty and lack of infrastructure.
At COP22 discussion of erratic weather patterns, floods and droughts - which have plagued developing countries at an increasingly alarming rate, as demonstrated by the severe droughts throughout southern Africa in 2016 - fed into debates on topics including agriculture, economies, traditional farming ecosystems and deforestation.
Mobilising finance remains an absolute priority. African nations need sufficient predictable financial flows to adapt to climate change, and support to develop their infrastructure on many fronts. This includes data collection, climate diplomacy and research. Aid money can only go so far.
While donations from the US, UK and Germany were forthcoming, the trends of those contributions have yet to match the commitment developed countries made in Paris to provide $100bn yearly of climate adaptation funds to least developed countries, starting in 2020.
These funds are supposed to flow to vulnerable island nations and the poorest nations in Africa to protect agriculture, shore up coastal defenses and spur renewable energy.
Despite these challenges, the overwhelming consensus on the need to carry forward the Paris Agreement goals on carbon reduction was clear. Last year in Paris, almost 200 countries agreed to limit global warming to “well below 2°C” while aiming for a safer guardrail of 1.5°C.
Each country submitted a climate plan (a Nationally Determined Contribution or NDC) to stay below this target. However analysts say there is still a substantial gap between these plans and the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement.
There are also concerns that a new US administration under Donald Trump, a climate sceptic, will not honor environmental commitments made by the Obama administration. This could in turn affect the resolve of other major polluters such as China, which was a positive force during COP22 and has shown itself more open to tackling climate issues in recent years.
Nevertheless all countries at the summit sent out strong political signals about raising ambitions while getting on with the job of cutting emissions. However, clearly one year since the Paris Agreement is not long enough for governments to bring forward tougher carbon cuts.
The more realistic focus at COP22 was on reinforcing existing plans. Countries agreed that 2018 will be the next major meeting under the Paris Agreement, and also that they will get the rulebook for it ready that year too.
At NEPAD, as implementing arm of the African Union and its member countries, our work builds on Marrakesh outcomes to reinforce programs on climate finance, capacity building and development. We will focus particularly on the region’s youth, land restoration and agriculture productivity.
The key is to find creative ways of reducing emissions while not jeopardising economic growth, poverty eradication or food security.
The 4 per 1000 Initiative, for example, demonstrates that maintaining soils through smart agriculture can play a crucial role in food security in high climate risk areas.
The fight against global warming has so far largely focused on the protection of forests and reforestation. In addition to forests, we must encourage more plant cover in all its forms to store more carbon in the soil.
A 0.4 percent annual growth rate in soil carbon can significantly contribute to limiting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. and achieve the long-term objective of limiting the average global temperature increase to the 1.5°C to 2°C threshold.
Just as resilient cities require a holistic approach, so does climate resilience. As the world strives to limit global warming, we need to prepare for significant changes to communities and economies.
We need, in parallel, a continuous high-level dialogue and implementation of tangible actions. Globally the trajectory is to shift to low-carbon, resource-efficient, socially just and green industrialisation.
Africa, as a latecomer to industrialisation, can determine its own path. The region can leverage lessons from past industrial transformations while tapping into new technologies in order to develop a model for low-carbon development that can inspire the rest of the world.
By IBRAHIM ASSANE MAYAKI
Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, a former Prime Minister of Niger, from 1997 to 2000, is the Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Concern that U.S. President Donald Trump's reform agenda could be slowed down, and that Trump himself could even face the threat of impeachment, added to disappointing U.S. economic data on Wednesday to hit the dollar and spur a pullback from richly valued stocks.
Reports that Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to end a probe into his former national security adviser have raised questions over whether obstruction of justice charges could be laid against the president.
This follows a week of turmoil at the White House after Trump fired Comey and then discussed sensitive national security information about Islamic State with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
So far, broadly upbeat global growth has underpinned risky assets and supported the multi-year lows in measures of market volatility.
But the retreat in the dollar, which has now given up all the gains it made following Trump's presidential election win in November, and a pull-back from record highs for world stocks points to investor unease about this week's headlines.
"The Trump issue seems to come in waves, and now we have another wave," said Hans Peterson, global head of asset allocation, at SEB Investments.
"I have been asked if he is going to be impeached. I think that is the type of discussion some (investors) are having," Peterson said, pointing out that institutional clients are turning cautious.
U.S. stock futures were off 0.5 percent, though they were still close to record highs.
At nearly 18 times forward earnings, the S&P 500 trades at a significant premium to its long-term average valuations of 15 times, according to Thomson Reuters data.
More attractively valued European stocks slipped slightly, although the region's brighter economic outlook and better-than-expected corporate profits continue to draw investors.
Upbeat growth prospects and signs of stronger integration also spurred flows into regional bond markets, narrowing the gap between U.S. and German government borrowing costs to its tightest level in over six months.
This has started to partly reverse a trend that began during the euro zone debt crisis of 2011/2012, where the single currency bloc and the United States' economic paths appeared to diverge.
This reversal was also evident in currency markets, with the euro climbing to its highest since Nov. 7 - just before the U.S. presidential election - against the dollar.
Recent U.S. data, which includes softer-than-expected retail sales and inflation, has raised concern about the strength of consumer sentiment.
Meanwhile, the euro zone economy started the year with robust growth that outstripped that of the United States and set the stage for a strong 2017.
"At the moment everyone is focusing on the political relief in Europe and the political unrest in the U.S.," ING's senior rates strategist Martin van Vliet said.
In commodity markets, safe-haven gold hit a two-week high, climbing 0.6 percent to $1,243.31. The precious metal has risen for five straight days.
Data showing an increase in U.S. crude investors hit oil prices as concerns about oversupply despite efforts by top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia to extend output cuts once again weighed.
Brent crude fell 0.3 percent to $51.53 a barrel while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude slipped 0.6 percent. By Vikram Subhedar (Additional reporting by Marc Jones and John Geddie; Editing by Hugh Lawson) -Reuters