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Visit of the Science Counsellor of the EU delegation to the AU, and other EU member states to Jimma University (Ethiopia) to discuss opportunities for cooperation in research and innovation. Photo: EU delegation to AU

Afro-European Green Diplomacy? A review of the Africa-EU bond on climate adaptation

Africa and Europe face a future of climate risks, and the two regions need to reach new diplomatic heights to adopt adaptation measures.
Africa and Europe face a future of climate risks, and the two regions need to reach new diplomatic heights to adopt adaptation measures.

The African continent is witnessing the worst impacts of climate change in years. These impacts are recurrent floods and extreme droughts, tropical storms, biodiversity loss, and rising sea levels.

The United Nations reports that Sub-Saharan Africa has recorded increased climate variations over the past decade, and warns of severe consequences to the region, if the global temperatures rise past 1.5 degrees celsius. 

The African Development Bank indicates that despite the fact that the continent contributes the least to global climate change and has the lowest rates of emissions, seven of the world’s top ten countries that are most vulnerable to climate change are African nations. 

Climate concerns growing in Africa and Europe

Equally, Europe follows a worrying climate change trajectory. A scientific report released in 2020 by the EU initiative Copernicus indicated that the continent is heating up faster than the rest of the world. A new climate adaptation strategy released by the European Union in February 2021points towards the need for a more resilient framework of operation

Africa and Europe are increasingly harnessing synergies to address the growing need to combat climate change as a common problem. This is proven by the growing diplomatic bond between the two regions in the last and current decades. 

The European Union and the European Investment Bank are jointly the largest funders of climate change interventions in developing nations, most of which are found in Africa. The European Union provided 23.2 billion euros towards supporting public climate finance in 2019. 

Nurturing Afro-European strategic collaborations

In the quest to achieve the global goal of zero net emissions by 2050, Africa and Europe have fostered strategic relationships towards climate change mitigation. This partnership also aims to halt climate change-related biodiversity loss and human suffering.

Africa’s leading institutions, the African Union and the African Development Bank are devising mechanisms to deal with climate change in the region. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the entities are leveraging on mutual ties with the European Union to address the challenge. The EU-Africa partnership on climate change and sustainable energy, and the Kenya-Netherlands ties have resulted from the growing bond between Europe and Africa.

The Great Green Wall of Africa

The Great Green Wall, a project backed by the African Union, is an ambitious climate adaptation plan that seeks to restore 8,000 kilometers of degraded landscapes across the continent.

The initiative is a representation of a promising climate diplomacy between Africa and Europe, as the European Commission funds it. Coordinated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the fund was launched in 2016 under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) to support six countries: Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Gambia. 

The European Commission funded the FLEUVE section of the Green Wall between 2014 and 2019, which costed about seven million euros. 

The President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, addresses the One Planet Summit 2021 on the great green wall of Africa. Photo: EU delegation to AU.

Afro-European diplomacy in Kenya and the Netherlands

The Africa-Europe relationship is trickling down to individual countries. On the margins of the Climate Adaptation Summit 2021, Kenyan Ambassador to the Netherlands H.E Lawrence Lenayapa revealed that the Dutch water boards and Kenyan water providers are currently collaborating. 

The partnership focuses on improving water management, service provision and operation and maintenance of the water companies. 

“The two countries hold a strong collaboration on agriculture aimed at enhancement of food security through the development of concrete, innovative and mutually beneficial solutions that will contribute to a strong agri-business climate,” noted Lenayapa. He added that there are discussions on extending the collaboration to include waste management

The Netherlands pledges for increased public climate support

During the climate adaptation summit, Ms Sigrid Kaag, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands was the host of a Summit’s event. The event discussed accelerating Africa’s adaptation to climate change. Speaking on the future developmental agenda of the Dutch Ministry of foreign affairs, Ms Kaag said the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a perfect opportunity to reshape the future.

“We have done things that we never did before. The world has never set aside 17% of the global gross domestic product towards relief and recovery packages. If we use that money well, towards reducing emissions and enhancing resilience growth, we can actually achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. So this is a one in a lifetime opportunity,”  Kaag said. 

Kaag also stressed the need to create green jobs. These jobs shall focus on water, agriculture, and resilient growth as the pathway to engage youth to achieve climate adaptation. During the discussions, the participants noted that as a youthful continent, Africa needs to include young people’s interests in its adaptation strategies.

The EU-AU Youth Hub, a platform that focuses on youth to test new approaches in African Union-European Union partnerships Photo: European External Action Services.

Need for grassroots-focused relations

Theresa Aoko, the co-founder of Angaza Siaya Initiative working in Siaya and Homabay counties on environmental issues. Aoko is also the youth representative in Kenya’s Technical Working Group on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) Project. She believes that the Africa-Europe relationships need to become stronger in order to achieve impactful change.

According to Aoko, the Africa-European climate adaptation partnerships are often imbalanced. And this results in a low rate of positive contribution to conservation at the grassroots level. 

“African countries often overlook the environment for economic gains, meaning any interventions from Europe on conservation have little positive impact. On the flip side, sometimes European support to Africa emphasizes conservation of nature over livelihoods of local communities. Africa and Europe should work with one another and not for the other,” Aoko concluded.