1. Briefing: Paris Agreement, global climate negotiations and carbon budgets
Nick Dunlop, Secretary General of the Climate Parliament, and Brice Roinsard, Senior Associate at the European Climate Foundation, introduced this briefing with a reminder of why the Paris Agreement is our main framework for hope to tackle climate change. It was adopted in 2015 after many years of climate negotiations, with the objective of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The Climate Parliament has developed a new initiative, ‘Parliamentarians for the Paris Agreement’, seeking to bring together Members of Parliament from all nations to work towards strengthening commitments to the Paris Agreement. At the global level, the initiative will bring together MPs at the annual climate COP. At the regional level, the focus will be on cross-country collaboration on objectives that cannot be achieved by a single country such as grid interconnections, creating sustainable transport routes, etc. At the national level, MPs will play a stronger role in overseeing their country’s NDCs and encouraging their government to be more ambitious.
The MPs discussed a number of possibilities to achieve this. Hon. Emmanuel Marfo MP, Ghana, suggested focussing on financial commitments to programmes indicated in the NDCs, as MPs have control over budgets, a mechanism to hold their governments to account. For that oversight to be successful, a dedicated committee or caucus should be created, and MPs should be well versed in their country Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), thus able to appreciate the commitments made and interrogate progress. Hon. Rebecca Yei Kamara MP, Sierra Leone, raised the issue of transparency. She mentioned that governments sometimes think of themselves as superior to the MPs and refuse to share with them important facts and information on what they are doing or not doing, how much money they receive from development banks or multilateral organisations, and so on. But when you leave out the MPs, who are the representatives of the people, you also leave out the voice of people who are suffering directly from climate change. MPs need transparency, information, and capacity building on climate issues to be able to engage efficiently with their governments and other relevant international stakeholders. Former Kenyan Senator and Climate Parliament Trustee, Abshiro Halake, highlighted the role of parliamentarians in creating an effective narrative, understood by their constituents, to push back against populist arguments denying climate change.
Julian Popov, Fellow of the European Climate Foundation, explained that the green transition should always be framed as an economic opportunity. Despite European politicians talking about a “burden share”, climate action actually offers incredible economic opportunities, in particular for Africa and South Asia where renewable energy resources are extremely abundant. Green hydrogen for instance, produced through electrolysis with clean energy, has the biggest potential in Sub-Saharan Africa. The European Union recently adopted a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), a tax on imports from the most polluting sectors, including steel and aluminium, requiring companies to respect EU environmental standards. This creates an incentive for steel producers and exporters around the world to decarbonise their production and operations, as Europe is the world’s largest trading bloc. Thanks to the potential of green hydrogen in Africa, many countries could have an immense competitive advantage in becoming major suppliers of zero-carbon steel and fertilisers to Europe.
In his closing remarks, Brice Roinsard put forward several suggestions aimed at strengthening the role of MPs in overseeing the implementation of the Paris Agreement. He proposed the introduction of a formal mandate to encourage countries to enhance the power of their parliament, which could include rewards for doing so. He suggested establishing 'schools' dedicated to building the capacity of MPs and their teams on NDCs. He also recommended increasing the power of MPs to oversee not only the national budget, but also the allocation of funds from international stakeholders.
2. Briefing: Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in Africa
Introducing this session, Chantal Naidoo, Founder of the Rabia Transitions Initiative, explained that NDCs are an essential component of the Paris Agreement, but they are also a crucial decision to protect the lives of future generations. Each country that has ratified the Paris Agreement is required to submit its NDCs, outlining efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Firstly, by setting out targets, policies, and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, NDCs provide a clear roadmap for countries to follow. Secondly, they create accountability: countries are making a public commitment to take action on climate change, and they are accountable to their people and to other countries for meeting these targets. Finally, they enable benchmarking and a mechanism to track progress: as they regularly update and revise their NDCs, countries can evaluate the advancements they have made and identify areas where they need to do more. In summary, NDCs are essential for promoting global action on climate change, creating transparency and accountability, tracking progress, and promoting international cooperation.
Building on this statement, Deputy Secretary General of the Climate Parliament, Sanjay Kumar, highlighted the urgency of taking action now, noting that the remaining carbon budget to stay within a 1.5°C global warming is only 360 gigatonnes. At our current rate of emissions, this budget will be exhausted within only 9 years. MPs have a moral role to play in supporting the implementation of the NDCs to make sure we hand over a safe planet to our children. As Sanjay pointed out, NDCs are not just a government document but a country document, reflecting the collective commitments of the nation as a whole. Each moment of the parliamentary work is important, as the breaking down of NDCs into tangible action will depend on national plans, laws, and budgets that legislators can draft and vote into action. Even though the Global North and Global South don’t share the same responsibility for climate change, everyone will be affected by it and should act, with differentiated responses depending on their capabilities.
During the discussion that followed, MPs proposed potential courses of action to support and oversee the implementation of NDCs in their countries. As Hon. Emmanuel Marfo MP, Ghana, suggested, knowing the NDCs is the starting point. Every MP should know what their country NDCs are and what targets their country has committed to, in order to be able to monitor the progress of their governments. He suggested that parliaments develop an NDC implementation monitoring framework, looking at programmes and different sectors covered under the NDCs, the budget allocated to each programme to make sure enough resources are put on the table to achieve the targets, and finally looking at output, the concrete actions taken within a specific time frame. He pointed out that this task should be conducted by an ad hoc caucus, as climate change is cross-sectorial and does not sit within one particular committee. Hon. Biyika Lawrence Songa MP, Uganda, mentioned that the Committee on Climate Change that he is chairing works not only with other committees in parliament, but also with ministries, departments and agencies, civil society, academia, and the private sector. Hon. Gladys Ganda MP, Chair of the Budget Committee in Malawi, suggested that this caucus should include members of the Climate Parliament network as well as all the chairpersons of all the relevant committees in parliament. Bringing all the relevant stakeholders together can catalyse faster action and bring technical knowledge into an accessible format, with tangible indicators, that MPs will be able to understand and follow up on.
3. Briefing: Green Climate Fund (GCF) readiness funds and proposal for national parliamentary capacity building in Africa
Our session on climate finance featured Eduardo de Freitas, Regional Manager at the Green Climate Fund. Eduardo works with 29 English and Portuguese-speaking African countries on planning their long-term investments and accessing readiness funds to help catalyse climate finance. As he explained, GCF offers a great deal of opportunities for countries to advance their climate agenda and NDCs targets: each year, every country can apply for up to one million USD in readiness funds to strengthen their institutional capacities, governance mechanisms, and regulatory frameworks towards an ambitious climate action agenda. They can also request three million in one go with a three year plan. A special grant of up to three million dollars can also be distributed once for a ’National Adaptation Plan’, for countries wishing to upgrade their climate adaptation planning. Since GCF intends to reduce the risk for climate investments, country proposals need to focus on climate finance. It is impossible to dissociate climate and development, as climate hazards have a strong impact on the social and economic situation of a country, but it is crucial to always link these directly to climate change.
The Nationally Designated Authorities (NDAs) of each country, typically the ministries of Environment, of Finance, or environmental agencies, are responsible for requesting these funds after consulting with relevant stakeholders to determine where investments are needed. Eduardo emphasised that the government has control over what funds are realised, since the GCF cannot take a proposal to the board unless the NDA sends a letter expressing interest. However, NDAs are typically very busy people who have to deal with many urgent priorities, and they sometimes lack the necessary capacity to focus on requesting GCF funds. As a result, many countries do not apply for their allocated readiness funds. It is important to note that the money does not accumulate, and is lost if it is not used up in one year. Eduardo mentioned that the GCF has been a complex and obscure institution to work with in the past, but they have simplified the application processes over the last year. Nonetheless, countries have not picked up on this simplification and in 2022, still too many countries have not applied for a single dollar of readiness funds.
Nick Dunlop, Secretary General of the Climate Parliament, pointed out that GCF could be a major source of funding to empower parliamentarians to play a bigger role in their country’s energy transition. The MPs suggested that GCF should encourage governments to include a component to capacitate MPs in creating enabling environments for climate finance, and that they are rewarded if they do so. They also highlighted that the fact that some countries do not apply for the one million USD is in itself a failure of oversight by the parliamentarians. They committed to making sure their countries request as much of the readiness funds as possible and feasible in 2023, and to monitor how this money is spent, since all public funds are subject to parliamentary oversight. Finally, the MPs highlighted why it would be relevant and efficient for these funds to be channelled through an organisation like the Climate Parliament. Climate Parliament engages with all MPs, government and opposition, and forms groups of motivated climate champions across countries who exchange ideas for action. The term of office for parliamentarians is usually five years, but an international network of legislators can make sure there is continuity despite elections and changes of majority.
4. Briefing: Green Grids in Africa and grid modelling
Our session on modelling green grids was introduced with a presentation by Mark Howells, Director of the Climate Compatible Growth (CCG) programme. CCG supports human and institutional capacity on energy modelling and energy planning in Africa, through summer schools and capacity building in universities. They help develop open-source tools for policymakers to speed up inclusive and climate compatible growth in their countries. Energy modelling is crucial for the development of renewable energy, as it can help to identify the best locations for renewable energy projects, but also evaluate the impact of integrating new renewable energy sources into the existing energy system looking at energy supply reliability, grid stability, energy storage requirements. A good energy planning strategy also includes assessing and predicting the impact of policy instruments on the development of renewable energy, such as feed-in tariffs, carbon pricing mechanisms, subsidies and other financial incentives. Energy modelling allows policymakers to make informed decisions about energy infrastructure investments and energy policy, which is crucial information for the deployment of green grids and interconnections.
Moeketsi Thobela, Chief Renewable Energy Investment Specialist at the African Development Bank, continued the discussion on the benefits of a massive deployment of green grids in Africa. Besides helping mitigate climate change, transnational green grids also offer tremendous economic opportunities. While some countries have a surplus of renewable energy, others do not have the resources to meet their energy needs, and grids can enable energy trade between countries and regions to close demand and supply gaps. Trading energy can also help reduce costs and promote regional economic development. Green grids can strengthen energy security by diversifying energy sources and reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and help to reduce the vulnerability of the energy system to external shocks such as fuel price fluctuations, which we are experiencing very strongly today as a result of the war in Ukraine.
Our speakers highlighted that the main challenge we have is to prepare these infrastructure projects for financing. The Africa Working Group of the Green Grids Initiative is currently looking at the different scenarios to finance the ZiZaBoNa project, they concluded that it is crucial that both public and private funds are engaged in the project. Public finance is important because governments and multilateral institutions can bear a part of the risk, provide guarantees, and therefore drive down the cost of interest rates. Private capital is indispensable because a hundred trillion dollars are in the bond market waiting to be invested in such projects, and only the private sector will be able to provide enough funds to make the green transition possible, at the speed and scale required to save our planet.