African Countries’ Engagement with China in Addressing Climate Change: March 2017


Climate change remains a key challenge to Africa’s sustainable development efforts. This is despite Africa being an insignificant polluter and contributor to global warming. The region’s over-reliance on a climate sensitive sector i.e., rain-fed agriculture, further compounds the problem making it the most vulnerable and with least adaptation capabilities. This vulnerability is further being exacerbated by escalating cost of adaptation and mitigation. Rapid deforestation, increasing desertification, reduced soil productivity; pollution and the depletion of freshwater sources are worrying trends that the continent is grappling with. The recent effect of El Nino in the Horn, East and southern African countries is a great testimony.

Climate change is an international challenge that no individual, community, country, region or sector can afford to act alone to   address it. The Global call for action against climate change encourages partnerships and collaborations as the only possible way to address the climate crisis. Goal 17 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) encourages partnerships and collaborations in the implementation of all SDGs, including Goal 13 on climate change. Agenda 2063 of the African Union also views partnerships among countries, regions and sectors as a sure way to address multiple challenges. The Paris Agreement is considered as a breakthrough in multilateral efforts to address the threat of global Climate change. The Paris agreement has squeezed the gaps in attitudes of the global community on the climate change threats and the responses to be taken.  It provides a legal framework for countries globally to develop action plans at a national level to deliver the promises of addressing climate change, through adaption and mitigation efforts.

H.E. Dr Gemedo Dalle, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ethiopia, Making

Opening Remarks at the climate change in Africa and the role of China event,

11 April 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Africa’s Partnership on Climate Change


For a long time, Africa’s efforts towards addressing climate change issues were fragmented and not well coordinated. This meant that Africa’s voice was hardly visible in international climate change discourses. Upon realising that acting individually was too insignificant when dealing with matters of climate change, the conversation around a “common front” intensified ahead of the COP15 in Copenhagen. Prior to the Pre-COP15, several formations approaching climate change issues existed. They included: the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and the African Group of Negotiators (AGN). Africa also belonged to several groupings such as Group of 77&China, Least Developed Countries and the Small Islands States. These diverse groupings, however, came with their own challenges. Most of the times, African countries found themselves pulling in different directions as the different formations advanced different positions.

Mr. Apollos Nwafor, Oxfam International’s Pan Africa Director, Making Opening Remarks at the climate change in Africa and the role of China event, 11 April 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

In the run, up to COP21, African countries united around a ‘Common Africa Position’, which emphasised the need to get an agreement which is fair, equitable and favourable to Africa. An agreement that would address issues of loss and damage, prioritise adaptation, and provide adequate finance, science and technology for adaptation. Current African partnerships on climate change include: Climate and Development Programme for Africa, a flagship programme that brought together AUC, UNECA and AfDB; the African Group of Negotiators, which brings together African Diplomats under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); and the Committee of African Heads of State and Governments on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).  There are also other Sub-regional efforts coordinated by the regional blocs and Civil Society efforts. These partnerships are expected to: 1). Improve integration of climate change/desertification/deforestation issues into African national and regional development strategies and in Africa-EU development cooperation; 2). Concretize initiatives to build Africa’s capacity to adapt to and mitigate adverse effects of climate change; and 3). Strengthen Africa-EU dialogue on climate change, linked to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

Challenges Towards Tackling Climate Change in Africa

China and other development partners are playing a significant role in industrialising Africa. This partnership is of critical importance to Africa’s development. However, there are apprehensions over environmental and climate change implications brought about by industrialisation efforts and massive infrastructure investment on the continent. Weak capacity in carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment coupled with weak policy responses by African governments and weaknesses in existing policy and legal frameworks to ensure foreign firms operating in Africa are acting responsibly and complying with standards on environmental management further puts Africa at risk.

Efforts towards tackling climate change in Africa are also constrained by inadequate knowledge on adaptation, the unpredictability, intensity, and magnitude of the accompanying risks of climate change. This lack of knowledge leads to poor planning, adaptation, and mitigation strategies. Weak/non-existence on coordination and collaboration among different actors and within government sectors working on climate change is a challenge resulting in duplication of work. The private sector has also not been effectively engaged on climate change issues including financing.  Complexities around the criteria and procedures of accessing the international climate financial resources have made funding climate change work in Africa difficult. Capacity building and technology transfer necessary to tackling climate change related issues have not received the necessary attention and funding support. Africa, for a long time, continues to be dumping site for obsolete technology as opposed to green technology.

The Role of China in Financing Climate Change in Africa

There are various finance regimes for climate change. They include both UNFCCC and Non-UNFCCC Financial Mechanisms. UNFCCC financial mechanisms include: The Green Climate Fund (GCF), Global Environment Facility (GEF), Least Developed Countries Fund (LCDF), Special Climate Change Fund (SCF), and the Adaptation Fund (AF). Non-UNFCCC financial mechanisms include: Bilateral channels, multilateral Channels i.e., Multilateral Agencies, Development Banks, and Regional and National Climate Funds.

Previously, China did not have a clearly articulated climate change strategy during its decades of development. Environmental concerns as well did not form a significant part of the discussion in the early years of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). China started giving special attention at both national and international level after experiencing the impact of climate change. The 2006 FOCAC incorporated an agreement for both sides to “intensify cooperation in environmental protection, share experiences and boost sustainable development.” In 2007, China developed a working structure named, “a regime of climate change in China”. Consequently, China also took a milestone in developing a clear strategy to finance regimes for climate change.

From left to right: Mr. Gedion Jalata, H.E Dr Gemedo Dalle, Ms Mayling Chan, Mr. Apollos Nwafor, H.E. Ambassador Kuang Weilin, Mr. Désiré Assogbavi and MsOlusholla Olayide

Based on the Paris Agreement, China established financial mechanisms within and outside of UNFCCC. The Chinese president launched China South – South Climate Cooperation Fund of US $3.1 billion to support other developing countries improve their capacity on combating climate change by providing fund, facilities, technology and capacity building. China also launched China South-South Climate Cooperation 10-100-1000 program, which has 10- low carbon Pilot projects, 100 mitigation (including climate disaster monitoring and warning systems, water resource management, ecological survey assessment, degradation monitoring and evaluation and agriculture adaptation to climate change) and adaptation (including promotion of energy saving and renewable use products, and climate friendly technologies) programs and 1000 training opportunities. Moreover, China signed a memorandum of understanding with 27 developing countries for 47 projects from 2012-2016.

Chinese initiatives on climate change have not been bereft of challenges. For instance, China’s industrialisation in Africa is flaring fast and gaining advantage over Africa’s low Financial Capacity to import Greener Technologies (the capacity and equipment gap to deal with the demand from the side of the African countries) and China’s less attention to discharge Social responsibility. (Obsolete and outdated technologies are being moved from China to African countries. There are growing concerns to consider, i.e., the shift of environmental footprint of manufacturing as labor and resource intensive manufacturing moves from China to Africa, weak environmental governance, the capacity and equipment gap to deal with the demand from the side of the African countries; and other environmental challenges associated with the ever-growing ties between Africa and China. While several Chinese climate financing mechanisms exist, there is a lack of information on how African policy actors and stakeholders can tap into these financing. A disconnect also exists on how to coordinate Chinese climate change financing with the existing multilateral initiatives.

Concluding Remarks

Responding to climate change is a justice issue. China and other development partners must remain committed to supporting Africa in combating climate change. In addition to the bilateral support that it extends to countries, it should also collaborate and work with (including financing) the African Union, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the Private Sector in addressing climate change related issues in Africa. The private sector has an important role to play in climate finance and making their own commitments to decrease their carbon footprints. This multi-stakeholder approach is likely to generate more dividends than acting individually. Financing green industrialization, technological transfer, capacity building and prioritization of adaptation rather than mitigation is also timely and pertinent for Africa.

Upcoming Events and Seminars

  • Africa-China Dialogue Series:  A Seminar on Prospects for SADC Regional Integration through Industrialization and the Role of China, 20-21 April 2017, Jo-burg, South Africa. Organized by Oxfam International’s – Africa China Dialogue Platform (ACDP), UNECA, Southern Africa Office, and University of Johannesburg (Confucius Institute).
  • A High-Level Dialogue and Think-Tank Forum to Learn from the Experience of Poverty Alleviation in China and Africa. The African Union Leadership Academy and the Zhejiang Normal University. 21 June 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • Symposium – High Time for a Common Integrated African Policy on China.  Africa-China Reporting Project (the Project) at Wits Journalism, the Institute for Global Dialogue and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung on July 20 in the Senate Room at Wits University, 20 July 2017, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • Africa-China Dialogue Series:  A pre- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit Seminar on and a research report Launch on New Actors, New Models…New Outcomes?  African Countries Engagement Strategy with China and Other Development Partners in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 Study on SDGs/ Agenda 2063. 2-3 August 2017, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • Africa-China Dialogue Series: Media Workshop on Africa-China Partnership. ACDP in Collaboration with Wits University (Africa-China Reporting Project), 23-25 August 2017
  • Africa-China Dialogue Series: Special workshop on the selected thematic areas of ACDP (agriculture, climate change and SDGs and Agenda 2063 including on emerging powers), October/November 2017. ACDP in Collaboration with African Union (TBC).






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