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Parliamentarians Dialogue at the ACS 2023

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The Parliamentarians Dialogue was held on 4 and 6 September 2023 during the Africa Climate Summit to explore the role and potential contribution of parliaments to climate action. It also served as a platform for parliamentarians to discuss various implementation pathways from the perspective of legislatures for the delivery of the commitments made during the Summit. Beyond legislative avenues for climate action, the Dialogue also sought to explore avenues for partnerships and collaborations between diverse stakeholders to expand African renewable energy and develop innovative green growth and climate finance solutions. The Dialogue culminated in the passing of the Chairpersons Summary or Outcome Statement of the Parliamentarians Dialogue at the Africa Climate Summit.

The Outcome Statement urges Parliamentarians to hold their governments to account for the commitments made on climate action and to ensure follow-through. It strongly advocates for the transition to renewable energy and for policies that encourage and accelerate the transition to clean and sustainable energy sources that align with Africa’s unique circumstances and respect the continent’s development agenda. The Outcome Statement signals the establishment of a African Parliamentarians’ Working Group on Climate Adaptation underscoring the importance of adaptation in the climate agenda.

The Outcome Statement recognises the important role of youth in shaping climate discourses. Ms. Nakeeyat Dramani Sam, CVF Youth Ambassador, urged participants in the Dialogue to make the voices and ambitions shared by young people heard, and to lead Africa towards a fair, sustainable and green future. She called on rich polluters to “stop climate cheating”. In other words, by ignoring disparities between States, such as historical emissions, when setting climate targets, developed countries are cheating developing ones such as Ghana. Therefore, she urged for enhanced actions to tackle the crisis as vulnerable nations are already experiencing the effects of climate change, despite being less responsible for emissions than many other countries. Unless these rich countries alter their climate targets to do their fair share, the 1.5°C limit set out in the Paris Agreement could be breached by 2030.

The Dialogue also heard from Hon. Sahar Albazar, Member of the Parliament of Egypt and Deputy Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Egyptian House of Representatives, who stressed about the nations’ sense of responsibility in ensuring a liveable planet for future generations. She spoke of the need for the international community to adjust the financing of the fight against climate change, given that heavily indebted countries will be making the transition to a green economy. In her statement, she mentioned the Ubuntu initiative for Climate Financing launched by young parliamentarians from lower middle-income countries including Ghana, Senegal, Egypt and Indonesia. She also highlighted the importance of more debt-for-climate swaps, with an emphasis on adaptation, the immediate suspension of IMF surcharges, which are additional costs over and above interest rates and create an unfair burden for countries, and the importance of creating a common framework for lower middle-income countries, similar to the G20 framework for low-income countries.

Distinguished speakers graced the Dialogue including Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Moses M. Wetang’ula, EGH, MP, Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya, Prof. Dr. Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, Mr. Amjad Abbashar, Chief of the UNDRR Regional Office for Africa, Ms. Gauri Singh, Deputy Director-General of IRENA, Hon. Bärbel Höhn, Chair of GRC, former MP of the German Bundestag and acting Commissioner for Energy Reform in Africa for the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, and Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Member of Parliament and Chair of the Presidential Initiative on Climate Change, Renewable Energy and Food Security of Sierra Leone.

Referring to the changing climate in Africa and across the globe, Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Moses M. Wetang’ula, EGH, MP, Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya, urged for innovative solutions and for Africans to think differently, moving “from being a continent of despair to a continent of hope because the future is here in Africa”. He also referred to the experiences and knowledge of vulnerable people who conclude that climate change is happening now. Reports from villages on the alteration of water bodies, forest cover and irregular rainfall indicate that the climate has changed for the worse. Stating that “we live as if there is no tomorrow and pollute as if we have in abundance’’, he underlined that human activities are a major contributor to climate change. Finally, he pointed out that as legislators, parliamentarians have the power to influence the appropriate allocation of resources for adaptation and mitigation in their respective jurisdictions. The crisis must be dealt with fairly and equitably, because we cannot suffer the collateral damage and misconduct of others.

Prof. Dr. Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), emphasised the potential of parliamentarians to be the architects of change and the adaptation advocates that the world needs. Underlining the need to focus on the adaptation agenda, Prof. Verkooijen stressed the need to invest more in this sector, and in doing so, the people of Africa will remain steadfast. Referring to the journey of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) over the last 12 months, he acknowledged the leadership of President of Kenya, H.E. William Samoei Ruto, in launching the largest adaptation program of the world. He welcomed the establishment of the African Parliamentarians Network for Climate Change Action (APNCA), which aims to strengthen the capacity of African parliamentarians to ensure effective oversight of the implementation of climate action, and assured the GCA of its full support for its parliamentary colleagues. He also envisioned for the largest nature-based GCA office to be built in Kenya which would epitomise the adaptation agenda. He concluded by stating that “if Africa invests in adaptation and if you parliamentarians make this your top priority, not only Africa is unstoppable but also people of Africa who you represent will be unstoppable”.

Mr. Amjad Abbashar, Chief of the UNDRR Regional Office for Africa, referred to climate change as the largest social and economic threat in the world. Highlighting that climate-related disasters have doubled over the last 20 years, he shared the efforts of the UNDRR, as the custodian of the Sendai Framework, in tackling the crisis through, inter alia, the implementation of national resilience mechanisms and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) strategies. He underscored the importance of engaging legislators and ensuring enough resources are allocated to build global and national capacities in averting and minimising loss and damage. Indicating the Midterm Review of the Sendai Framework, he emphasised the necessity of developing course-correction mechanisms and multi-hazard early-warning systems to increase global access to disaster data.

Ms. Gauri Singh, Deputy Director-General of IRENA, mentioned that, in recent years, renewables have not only become the most cost-effective way of producing power but have also been noted as the source from which approximately 83% of new additions in the global power mix originate. This shows that renewable energy is increasingly becoming the dominant method of powering energy systems. With the Ukraine crisis, energy security assumed a more significant role in the energy transition narrative. Previously, energy security was not as dominant, but now it is emerging as a prominent aspect of how countries seek to ensure their future, with renewable energy being able to play a crucial role in this regard. In its latest world energy transition outlook, IRENA has highlighted that the annual deployment of renewable energy must be tripled, in order to maintain the 1.5-degree pathway agreed upon by the international community in Paris. Parliamentarians can play a key role in shaping the energy transition of their respective countries. She concluded by stating that Africa has the potential to develop a strategic response capable of positioning local and regional economies at the forefront, demonstrating to the world the attainability of sustainable growth and development.

Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and the situation in Ukraine, Hon. Bärbel Höhn, Chair of GRC, former MP of the German Bundestag and acting Commissioner for Energy Reform in Africa for the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, highlighted the supply-chain disruption issue, which has impacted global energy and food prices. She applauded the collaboration between parliamentarians during this Dialogue. She declared that “now” is the time for change, and it can be accomplished with legislators’ support. A better life for African populations, for the people on the ground, must be sought and striven for.

Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Member of Parliament and Chair of the Presidential Initiative on Climate Change, Renewable Energy and Food Security of Sierra Leone, congratulated Kenya in becoming the leader of the global climate agenda: “Kenya at 92% renewables in the energy mix can speak truth to Germany, to the United States, to China”. While major emitting countries are the primary contributors to the climate problem, Africa is taking a leading role in addressing these challenges and working towards solutions. He reported that Brig. Rtd. Julius Maada Wonie Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, is very pleased with Kenya’s accomplishments, as he continued: “We have to do what Kenya has done”. Inspired by the President of Kenya and the Kenyan Climate Envoy, Dr. Kandeh stressed the need to change perspectives, from being a victim of climate change to a fighter against this global problem.

At the Dialogue, legislators committed to participate in the inaugural Accountability Summit for Parliamentarians at COP28, which aims to oversee progress and facilitate enhancements in line with the commitments made during the Africa Climate Summit.

For African parliamentarians, the Dialogue has clarified the importance of their role and their understanding of the subject, and has undoubtedly helped to strengthen their action and enthusiasm for climate governance and its processes. The Dialogue has deepened an important conversation on the role of parliaments, a momentum which should be continued in the climate negotiations at COP28 and beyond. It culminated with the adoption of an Outcome Statement, which highlighted key actions and findings of the Dialogue, while reaffirming parliamentarians’ commitment to climate action, promotion of international collaboration, and pledge to increase accountability and monitoring.

The session was attended by around 300 participants from organisations with a keen interest on parliamentary issues, Members of Parliament from across the African continent, including Benin, DRC, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, the East African Legislative Assembly and Members of both the Senate and National Assembly of the Kenyan Parliament and their staff.

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