Published: 14:18, December 8, 2020 | Updated: 08:52, June 5, 2023
China set to boost Africa's climate fight
By Zhu Weidong


The opening of the China-Africa Environment Cooperation Center in Beijing in late November was a landmark in Sino-African cooperation on environmental protection, not least because the center will implement such flagship projects as the "China-Africa green envoy plan" and "China-Africa green innovation plan", which will boost the global fight against climate change and other environmental ills.

Indeed, China and Africa are committed to deepening cooperation on environmental protection. And although Africa's contribution to the total global greenhouse emissions is low (about 4 percent), the impacts of climate change on Africa have been proportionately very high-and they could worsen in the future. In fact, many studies suggest Africa as a region is most vulnerable to climate change. For instance, six of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa.

The rising risk of undernourishment

According to the UN Environment Programme, a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius will put more than 50 percent of Africa's population at risk of undernourishment. Projections show climate change-induced annual GDP loss in the region could be 2-4 percent by 2040. And even if global efforts succeed in keeping global temperature rise to below 2 C, the continent would still need US$50 billion per year by 2050 to adapt to climate change.

Among the common climate-induced events across Africa are droughts, floods, desertification and land degradation. Research shows climate change has had and will have huge impacts on agriculture, food security, human health, water availability and infrastructure in Africa, not to mention that it has already led to forced migration from (even conflicts in) some parts of Africa, threatening the region's political and economic stability and undermining its sustainable development potential.

As a message from Donald Kaberuka, president of African Development Bank Group, said: "We have two challenges, fighting global poverty and fighting climate change. Fail the one, fail the other."

Both mitigation and adaptation to climate change are essential to address the problems. In this regard, China has been making concerted efforts to improve Africa's capability to mitigate and adapt to climate change so African countries can sustain their development.

The efforts to build a Sino-African community with a shared future and the synergy of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative with the African Union's 2063 Agenda and the national strategies of the African countries create more opportunities for China and Africa to strengthen their fight against climate change. China has already implemented many climate change cooperation programs with African countries in accordance with its Africa policy and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation's Action Plans.

For example, China's first Africa policy paper published in 2006 said China will deepen scientific and technological cooperation with Africa to strengthen the fight against climate change. And its second Africa policy paper released in 2015 said cooperation on climate change is one of the six areas that China's assistance will focus on.

In 2009, China and African countries agreed to include their joint fight against climate change as a field of cooperation under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation framework. Since then climate change cooperation has been included in all action plans adopted at FOCAC ministerial meetings.

Sino-African cooperation on climate change focuses mainly on financing, infrastructure and capacity building, and the development of green and renewable energy for African countries.

In September 2016, for instance, President Xi Jinping committed 20 billion yuan (US$3.1 billion) to China's South-South Cooperation Climate Fund. And while addressing the 75th session of the UN General Assembly via video link in September this year, Xi announced a US$50 million donation to the China-UN Food and Agriculture Organization South-South Cooperation Trust Fund (Phase III).

Deepening climate involvement in Africa

Since 2013, China has been building climate infrastructure, including weather stations and satellite data processing centers, in African countries such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Namibia and Cameroon, and launched weather satellites for Nigeria, Algeria and Ethiopia. It has also implemented projects on green and renewable energy in Sudan, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Morocco and South Africa. And while more than 700 personnel from African countries have attended the training courses on weather technology in China, the Chinese government has awarded scholarships to 200 African students to study meteorology in China since 2002.

Being developing economies, China and African countries shoulder common but differentiated responsibilities on climate change under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. And their common position on climate change makes it easy for them to better cooperate at global conventions and meetings on climate change.

However, to deepen cooperation on climate change in the long run, China and Africa need to strengthen the multilateral, regional and bilateral frameworks and better coordinate on policymaking. And that can be done through the newly established China-Africa Environment Cooperation Center, as it is likely to become a new, powerful platform for broad environmental policy dialogue, information exchange, capacity building and deeper cooperation on green development.

To better fight climate change, many African countries have started regional initiatives, and China may consider taking part in them. As a matter of fact, China-Africa Renewable Energy Cooperation and Innovation Alliance, a coalition of financing institutions, smart grid providers and core manufacturers, signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation with Africa Renewable Energy Initiative way back in August 2017.

China is also likely to discuss with the participants to the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment ways to deepen cooperation on climate change. The AMCEN has helped strengthen Africa's participation in global negotiations and meetings and facilitated the inking of agreements on environmental protection.

As for bilateral cooperation on climate change, China has signed bilateral agreements on Complimentary Supplies for Addressing Climate Change with Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar and Nigeria, with more such pacts expected to be signed in the future.

Moreover, China and African countries are also likely to exchange views on their respective laws on climate change.

That China has pledged its carbon emission will peak before 2030 and the country will achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 shows its determination to strengthen the global fight against climate change. China has also passed strict domestic laws to better protect the environment and boost the global fight against climate change.

On the other hand, African countries have a tradition of protecting the environment, with some of them even implementing specific laws on environmental protection. Which means both China and Africa are set to better combat climate change with stricter laws and more concerted efforts.

The author is a professor at and director of the Center for African Laws, China-Africa Institute.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.