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Africa: Keeping Climate Ambition Alive – Challenges Remain but Signs of Progress Abound

Washington DC — For those of us in the international climate action community, 2020 isn’t ending the way we expected when we rang in the new year. Even before 2020 dawned, countries were hard at work planning for their first updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in line with the Paris Agreement’s five-year NDC revision cycle. NDCs are official statements, prepared by countries themselves, outlining the commitments they are making to reduce national emissions and adapt to climate change’s impacts. They are at the heart of putting the Paris Agreement into practice and pursuing action on a global scale.

We were thrown a curveball, however, as an unexpected and devastating global pandemic shifted national priorities toward public health and economic recovery. And even though we faced one of the hottest years on record–in which the impacts of climate change were seen and experienced in wildfires, floods, hurricanes, droughts, and other adverse events–countries’ domestic agendas were forced to deal with pandemic-related topics.

Still, the imperative to act has not disappeared. In fact, it is more critical than ever. Fortunately, while work to support and enable countries to increase ambition in their enhanced NDCs was delayed in some cases, it was not derailed. The work has had to forge ahead through significant and unforeseen obstacles, but it has continued. And the NDC Partnership has played a significant role in keeping action on the agenda and keeping results within reach.

The NDC Partnership is a global coalition of countries and institutions collaborating to drive transformational climate action through sustainable development. While nations signal their Paris Agreement commitments with NDCs, the NDC Partnership brings together countries, institutions, and resources in new ways to accelerate implementation and enhance ambition over time.

We have seen significant progress in the implementation of national climate commitments during the four years since we were founded to support developing countries in achieving their commitments under the Paris Agreement. We grew to more than 180 members, including developed and developing countries as well as major international institutions and non-state actors. We mobilized and disbursed more than a billion dollars through multiple member-managed NDC financing facilities. And through an innovative Climate Action Enhancement Package launched just a year ago, a total of 65 countries now receive support to enhance NDC quality and raise climate ambition. A great deal of this work was accomplished despite the challenges of a global pandemic.

Our success was made possible by the impressive commitment of our members and their shared conviction that by working together, we can be more than the sum of our parts. And as we finalize our second work program to guide us from 2021-2025, we aim to build on our early successes to drive still more ambitious action on climate change and sustainable development. While countries are finalizing their five-year NDC revisions, our second Work Program will support the transition from planning to implementation, and once again into planning for higher ambition. And it comes as we face a stark reality, that global action on climate change still lags well behind what is needed.

More effectively engaging youth in climate action is one way the Partnership has driven ahead with bringing a whole-of-society approach when developing and implementing climate solutions. In our first years, 17 countries requested support related to youth engagement. As a result, our Steering Committee called for a Youth Task Force (YTF).

Despite the pandemic, the YTF led a consultative process this year with youth from around the world to identify priorities and obstacles for youth engagement in climate action and make recommendations for the Partnership to meaningfully engage youth. Moving forward, as we implement the Youth Engagement Plan (YEP), youth will have a seat at the table with processes, projects, capacity, and engagement mechanisms all built specifically with this audience in mind.

While COVID-19 presents monumental challenges, it also presents opportunities to integrate green recovery as countries rebuild their economies. In June, the Partnership launched an Economic Advisory Initiative to deploy economic advisors to prepare green recovery plans and packages in response to COVID-19. Our drive to put climate at the heart of COVID-19 recovery plans is driven by country needs captured in our survey of 68 developing countries at the onset of the pandemic. Our unique coordinating role and responsiveness means we have already deployed advisors to planning and finance ministries in 33 countries, with support from 13 of its members. A virtual Thematic Expert Group and a Green Recovery Network have also been established to enhance the economic advisory support and facilitate ongoing learning. This level of responsiveness and coordinated support is exactly what we need to keep climate action relevant and in sync with the global state of affairs. Five years after the Paris Agreement’s signing, actions like these are keeping it alive.