The EU and the African Union should align in the flight against climate change

The best way forward when it comes to EU-African Union relations is cooperation on climate change. To align our agendas and find compromises, it is crucial to listen to our partners’ needs and vision
The EU-African Union Summit in February 2022 | Photo: Alamy

By Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (Renew, SP) is Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the Pan-African Parliament

21 Feb 2023

If Europe and Africa are to move forward in their partnership to meet the global challenges and common objectives of today and tomorrow, they must do so as equals. The long-awaited EU-Africa Summit, which was held last February after being repeatedly postponed, was a good first step in this direction. However, it was quickly overshadowed by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine later that month.

We should ask ourselves how the European Union can best approach relations with the African Union. When doing so, we must also be critical and question whether the bloc is effectively responding to the legitimate concerns of African states.

Climate change is a shared priority for both the EU and the African Union. However, the vision on how to address it differs in many ways.

While the EU has agreed on the Green Deal as its roadmap, complete with specific targets to reduce investments in fossil fuels, the African Union-approved Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy for 2022-2032 calls for a just transition that supports the right of African Union members to develop their economies, including by leveraging their fossil fuel reserves.

In the past, Europe and Africa have shown the willingness and capacity to align their agendas; the fight against climate change and biodiversity protection should not be an exception. For this reason, it is important to listen to our partners’ needs and vision in order to find compromises.

In the past, Europe and Africa have shown the willingness and capacity to align their agendas; the fight against climate change and biodiversity protection should not be an exception

We must remember that Africa is the continent with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, producing only four per cent of the global total according to some estimates, but also the most vulnerable to its impacts. The continent is currently facing the consequences of human-induced climate change including the loss of its biodiversity, decreasing water supplies and food insecurity. Combined, these phenomena threaten to aggravate conflict and displacement.

The historic decision to establish a loss and damage fund at COP27 last November represents a long-awaited acknowledgement of the need to provide financial assistance to vulnerable countries suffering from the effects of climate change. Nevertheless, the decision on how to operationalise both the fund and the new funding arrangements was postponed to the next climate summit, COP28, in the United Arab Emirates.

The EU must stand up to the challenge and publicly recognise this climate injustice while also underlining the important steps it is taking to address it. One such step is the recently announced Team Europe Initiative on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in Africa, which has been allocated a budget of over €1bn, including €60m for loss and damage.

In its partnership with Africa, the EU should tap into the knowledge of African civil society, including its youth and women, in regard to climate resilience and adaptation.

By 2030, young Africans are expected to make up 42 per cent of the world’s youth; this figure will surely include an important share of women entrepreneurs and innovation leaders. With this in mind, supporting gender-transformative approaches, investments in resilient infrastructure, climate-adaptive agriculture, and digitalisation should be some of our joint priorities.

We are in a critical moment to revive our association with the African Union and come together to fight the consequences of climate change and biodiversity loss worldwide. We should not miss our chance.

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