France targets African renewables projects for climate finance

Fishermen on a tributary of Lake Chad. [Ben Allen/Flickr]

African countries are among the world’s smallest emitters of CO2, but are on the front line of climate change. France has pledged additional funding for climate adaptation, amid accusations of recycling old money. EURACTIV France reports

The Climate Challenge and African Solutions summit took place in the side-lines of the COP21 on Tuesday (1 December).

Presided over by French President François Hollande, the summit was also attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the leaders of 12 African countries, the Commission of the African Union president, and representatives from a number of international organisations, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

Hollande said he hoped that COP21 would lead to “the realisation of concrete projects in Africa, aid the adoption of a low carbon development model and support adaptation to the climate change the continent is undergoing”.

>>Read: Least developed countries set the standard for climate action ahead of COP21

He reaffirmed to the African leaders the French commitment to provide €2 billion of finance for renewable energy projects in Africa between 2016 and 2020. This represents half of France’s aid to Africa over the last five years.

The French leader also stressed the importance of mobilising these finances as quickly as possible. The World Bank had announced a €15 billion action plan to help Africa fight the effects of climate change ahead of the COP21.

Meant to be seen as a positive step, this announcement failed to impress NGOs. “This is not new money, but the implementation of what was already announced at the UN General Assembly in September,” said Romain Benicchio, the spokesperson for Oxfam France. “Unfortunately, the financial commitments made so far by France under its draft 2016 budget are far from reflecting these promises.”

The French pledges are a long way from fulfilling the COP21 draft agreement, which foresees a fund of €28 billion of adaptation aid for the most vulnerable populations by 2020.

For Oxfam, the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) is “the best opportunity for France and its European partners to generate significant additional funds to respond to this challenge and to appear credible on the question of climate finance for the African countries present at the COP21”.

A highly vulnerable continent

Africa is responsible for only 4% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, but is already feeling the effects of climate change, with desertification becoming an increasing problem in certain areas.

In this continent of over a billion inhabitants, more than 600 million people still have no access to electricity. The implementation of large scale energy access projects with the lowest possible greenhouse gas emissions is a major priority for aid providers. This objective is shared by the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, supported by the African Union, whose projects could benefit from French funding.

>>Read: The plan to electrify Africa takes shape

Another priority is to halt the progress of desertification. Africa’s deserts are growing, and many people who can no longer feed themselves have been forced to leave their homes.

Desertification is not only increasing the number of climate refugees, but is also threatening the livelihoods of around 65% of farmers in the affected regions, with knock-on effects for food prices.

>>Read: COP21 will end a decade of failed climate finance

Several projects, like the Great Green Wall, have been launched to rein in this phenomenon. First raised at a desertification summit in Chad in 2002, the idea is to plant a wall of trees on the southern edge of the Sahara, to slow the advance of the desert. But despite the support of the African Union, this project still needs additional funding to fully take shape.

The climate and terrorism

The Climate Challenge and African Solutions summit also focussed on the preservation of Lake Chad, a pivotal issue for both the fight against climate change in the region and terrorism.

“When we think about Chad, we think about Boko Haram,” a French government source told RFI. “We are involved in a military campaign against this group, but we have to prepare for the future by bringing development to the area.”

The poverty caused by desertification often pushes young people into the arms of the militant group, or prevents them from leaving the regions under its control.

>>INFOGRAPHIC: Financing climate change and development

Government of France

Subscribe to our newsletters