Jump to navigation

Africa Confidential, December 2023

The 28th UN Conference of the Parties Climate Summit – a users' guide
How to navigate the facts, the figures and the declarations | By Tim Concannon and Jerry Sam in Accra and Caroline Chebet in Nairobi

Print this special report

'There is no future in charging in the footsteps of the polluter. There is opportunity in leapfrogging and leading the world in a new direction.' Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa.

'The world and international organisations, governments must identify and say the issue is a climate crisis.' Shauna Aminath, Environment Minister, Maldives.

'An empty loss and damage fund won't do anything for our people when their livelihoods are dried up by drought, their schools and hospitals are washed away by floods or when the rising sea takes their homes,' Madeleine Diouf Sarr from Senegal who chaired the Conference of Least Developed Countries in September.

'What's going to take place in Dubai is essentially Climate Expo 2023… it's like Davos,' Robert Stavins, Professor of Economic Development, Harvard University, United States.

The United Arab Emirates will put US$30 billion into a new climate fund – Alterra – to speed the flow of finance into projects to cut emissions, especially in the Global South. 'Its scale and structure will create a multiplier effect in climate-focused investment, making it a vehicle like no other,' Sultan al Jaber, Chairman of the UN COP28 Climate summit and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Al Jaber will also chair the Alterra climate investment fund.

'The question is: should we continue to sit back and watch our way of life disappear while those who created the Industrial Revolution continue to enjoy a high standard of living?' Dickon Mitchell, Prime Minister, Grenada.

'It's painful to continue to see that you are asking us to increase borrowing to build resilient infrastructure for something we didn't do, and at the same time you want to also ensure you have a loss and damage fund that doesn't have the adequate means for grant funding to help countries rebuild. It's unconscionable and almost a crime against humanity.' Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, at the UN in September.

The UN's 28th 'Conference of the Parties' – COP28 – to the Paris Climate Accords is being held in Dubai from 30 November to 16 December

African delegates are likely to have three topics at the forefront of their minds: figures, finance, and the 'phase-out' (or, more likely, 'phase-down') of fossil fuels.

  1. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), under the banner of which COPs have been run since COP1 in 1995, is a fusion of climate science and international diplomacy. These are two complex, detailed and massive endeavours in their own right. Fusing them together can make the annual COP Summits very bureaucratic.
  2. The COP process should eventually produce an agreement for a 'just transition' from the current global dependency on oil, gas and coal. Critical aspects of the COP's work are discussed and debated using multiple acronyms and an argot of obscure shorthand. A bubble universe of condensed geopolitics, it can seem at times to be designed to baffle non-initiates – that is those who are not fully invested in the yearly assembly of world leaders and tens of thousands of delegates.
  3. Over 70,000 people are expected to attend COP28, when Expo City in Dubai will become a UN 'blue zone' within which UN officials and experts are granted diplomatic immunity. It will be a small temporary city state within the Arab kingdom with its own armed UN police force. The COP28 Presidency has published a handy guide of things you can't take inside Expo City. It includes roller skates, throwing stars, nanchuckus, brass knuckles, and 'demonstration materials', which are defined as 'flags, clothes and boards, which carry writhing [sic] and slogans with an offensive connotation to countries or organisations or personalities'.
  4. Attending COP28 is not cheap, especially for high-end business brands endorsing it. Corporate sponsors' costs are said to have tripled since last year's summit in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. A gold-plated package including 'partner recognition on the trophy wall' will cost $8 million. The UAE hosts justify the hefty price tag as a way to recoup costs. There are grumbles from big corporate partners that this isn't in the spirit of a summit that's meant to be about saving the planet rather than more efforts to promote Dubai as a conference venue.
  5. Despite the opacity of the process – and the chasm between the resources and carbon mileage being expended every twelve months, and the underwhelming real world outcomes that have been achieved since the 1990s – the stakes at COP28 could not be higher for Africa. It's generally acknowledged that the continent, home to 17% of humanity, has been responsible historically for less than 4% of the greenhouse gases that are creating climate-related disasters across the world on unprecedented levels.
  6. The International Rescue Committee ranks seven African nations among the ten countries most vulnerable to climate disaster (Chad, Somalia, Congo-Kinshasa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Central African Republic).  Five of the ten countries viewed as most affected by climate change in 2019 by the think tank Germanwatch are in Africa (Mozambique and Zimbabwe are numbers one and two, with Malawi, South Sudan and Niger also in the rankings.)
  7. This year has seen a palpable shift in the attitudes of rich countries and Multilateral Development Banks (MDB). They appear to accept that a fundamental rearrangement is, at long last, needed of the 'global financial architecture', a euphemism for opposition to the MDBs offering debt relief to developing economies.
  8. The new World Bank President Ajay Banga has signalled a new approach on climate policy which includes espousing the need for a 'review' of  fossil fuel subsidies. This compares with his predecessor David Malpass, who dodged the question at a forum in New York when he was asked whether he thought climate change was a man-made phenomenon. Banga has broken the mould with his discussion of a review of the $1.25 trillion a year spent on subsidies for fuel, fisheries and agriculture [Africa Confidential, Radical climate finance strategies go mainstream] which in turn cost a further $5-6trn a year in knock-on environmental damage.
  9. What's needed, we have often been told in background briefings during 2023, is a transition to a fairer system that doesn't damage at-risk African nations with unmanageable historic debt to the World Bank et al. It's now acknowledged that vertiginous levels of debt service are preventing Africa from following a cleaner development path.
  10. Within the African contingent at COP28 there will be many different views about how they should collectivise its bargaining power to this end. There are also very different priorities regarding how the development should happen.
  11. Some countries, such as Nigeria, are looking at a future a few decades away where the vast majority of its current petroleum-wealth becomes 'stranded assets' once the oil price falls below a level at which mining it from the ground is no longer cost effective. How will it cope, and can it avoid swapping one 'resource curse' for another?
  12. Other countries – such as South Africa, Morocco and Libya – are looking at their own natural gas and mineral assets positioning their respective regions to become the next UAE, within a similar short timeframe. Kenya, Zimbabwe and other nations with rich forest cover, biomass and coasts are looking to turn their fortunes around through debt-for-nature swaps, biofuels and carbon offsets, although that business has hit the skids violently in the last few weeks.
  13. The incoming COP President for the next year, Sultan al Jaber is also the UAE's Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and CEO of Abu Dhabi's National Oil Company.  The choice of the UAE, the world's seventh largest producer of oil, as host of COP28 was likely to result in accusations of shady deals and malfeasance going on behind the scenes. Before it started civil society activists were ready to write the entire summit off as a betrayal.
  14. What does it matter, critics of the process may ask to lose a year of talk about stopping the atmosphere from heating up? If you don't like the outcome of this COP, just wait a year and there'll be another make-or-break get-together of world leaders.
  15. Cynicism about the COP process, while legitimate in a lot of ways, can obscure the very real opportunities and benefits for Africa of its leaders cutting meaningful deals in Dubai. On the table are trillions of dollars worth of funding. There are also significant opportunities to overhaul physical and social infrastructure in Africa.
  16. Scale is the context for everything to do with the COP. A year lost now can mean multiple years lost in the eventual transition away from fossil fuels. That, in turn, can mean missing opportunities to limit greenhouse gas emissions that would keep the world within a 1.5 °C rise relative to pre-industrial levels.
  17. European business leaders have commented many times in 2023 on the wavering commitments to phase out petrol cars and fossil fuel dependence within the Eurozone. A five year shift from 2030 to 2035 may not seem big, but it has huge implications for them in terms of planning for the next stage of a green industrial future.
  18. Speaking to 'Mining Weekly' recently, SFA Oxford CEO Henk de Hoop, whose company is a leading player in South Africa in producing critical minerals and renewable energy, said: 'green hydrogen initially is not necessarily competitive. It needs lots of scale and consumers. But there's a lot of money available to make the first projects happen and we need to be in the front of that queue.'
  19. Time lost now, through lack of investment in the next generation of energy technologies and corner-cutting to profit in a 'green gold rush',  scales up to greater increments of damage to ecosystems and the climate. This can make it even harder for Africa to cope with coastal erosion, floods and droughts decades further down the line.


  1. COP is a bureaucratic process based on the purely voluntary nature of the Paris Accords: countries present their national plans to cut emissions within timelines of their own choosing. Every year at the COP  there are large volumes of data to process and a new generation of specialist terminology.
  2. The crucial issue for Africa, and for developing countries generally, at COP28 is that the 5-yearly Global Stocktake, a process by which the COP assesses whether it's hitting its own targets, has been published. After synthesising 170,000 pages of documents, 252 hours of meetings and highly technical discussions, it's looking grim.
  3. Within days of the synthesis report's publication, November 17th 2023 became the first day recorded in history when global temperatures went over 2 °C relative to pre-industrial levels.  Hot on the heels of this news and the Global Stocktake came the UN Environment Programme 'Emissions Gap' report which predicts a 'hellish' 3 °C rise by the end of the century based on current activity, and that existing commitments would only shave 0.1 °C off this.
  4. The bleak conclusion of those reports is a wake-up call rather than a shock. The worrying conclusions of the UNEP report and the Global Stocktake alerts the parties to the Paris Agreement  to a brutal reality: that they aren't cutting emissions quickly enough; their resilience planning for climate hazards is inadequate; and rich countries aren't providing enough finance to the hardest-hit countries.
  5. According to the synthesis part of the report, if the parties keep to their existing voluntary pledges (Nationally Determined Contributions, or 'NDCs') then there will be warming of 2.4 °C – 2.6 °C, though it may be possible to cut this to 1.7 °C – 2.1 °C, should existing net-zero targets be met.
  6. The chapter on Africa in the IPCC's sixth and most recent scientific assessment (for COP27) says that: 'Heavy rainfall events are projected to increase over the region at global warming of 2 °C and higher [...] Drought frequency, duration and intensity are projected to increase in Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania.'
  7. As for West Africa: 'The annual number of hot days is projected to increase at all global warming levels with larger increases at higher warming levels [...] Increasing urbanisation concentrates this exposure in cities, such as Lagos, Niamey, Kano and Dakar [...]  The frequency and intensity of extremely heavy precipitation are projected to increase under mid- and high-emission scenarios [...] At 2 °C global warming, west Africa is projected to experience a drier, more drought-prone and arid climate, especially in the last decades of the 21st century.'
  8. A future of more cyclones, flash floods, droughts and dangerous urban overheating across Africa -  even under the more moderate 1.7 °C – 2.1 °C scenarios based on current NDCS – is where we're heading, according to the Stocktake.
  9. The Stocktake is designed to rattle the parties to the COP – called the 'ratchet' principle – to increase their efforts. In the maddening shorthand of the UNFCCC when discussing what Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados, called at the UN recently 'almost a crime against humanity', this is referred to as 'ambition'.
  10. The 194 countries plus the EU who have agreed to the Paris Accords are now tasked with submitting new NDCs by 2025. The UN's COP30 is being held in Brazil in 2025, and President Lula da Silva has announced the venue will be in the rainforest, in the Amazonian city of Belém do Pará. The symbolism of COP30, around the corner, contrasted with the current COP being held in the oil-producing UAE will not be lost on attendees.
  11. COP29 is to be hosted by Azerbaijan after Russia vetoed holding it in an EU country over the bloc's opposition to the invasion of Ukraine.
  12. Although the Paris treaty is legally binding on the states who agree to it, the reporting on greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to counter it, and the reductions are all voluntary. So the next step in response to a bleak Stocktake would be to wait for another round of NDCs in Brazil in 2025.
  13. But COP28 President Al Jabber wants to move fast, right away. He's invited parties to the COP to join a 'pledge' to triple global renewables capacity, double the annual average global rate of energy efficiency improvements between now and 2030 'as well as ending new approvals of unabated coal plants [which] will enable the phase down of demand for fossil fuels and is critical to keeping 1.5 °C within reach,' he has said in a letter.
  14. Look out at COP28 for that word 'unabated', it will come up a lot. It means fossil fuel use that isn't offset somehow: that is the CO2 and other gases aren't pumped into the ground or notionally offset via the UNFCCC-agreed carbon trading system, like forestry investments.
  15. To put these accounting issues in a humanitarian perspective, Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera has asked for help towards $700m needed for reconstruction after Tropical Cyclone Freddy killed more than 1,000 people in March, which is 65% of its annual government expenditure.
  16. There are two other things to mention about the figures which include the scientific projections of the adaptation to climate change, mitigation of current fossil fuel use, and 'loss and damage' that can't be stopped. The African Scientific content in the IPCC report is not what African scientists would like it to be, and the NDC figures may be wildly underestimating the real cost of climate change to Africa.
  17. Africa is going to be hit worse than other regions, based on the science but also the reality of its economic conditions. Only 11 % of the last IPCC report is about Africa, though. Voices in the African scientific and academic communities are growing louder, saying that this imbalance of African content within the unfccc's Scientific reporting process must be addressed.
  18. The Africa Group of Negotiators Experts Support (AGNES) launched a database in November of African experts in climate change to try to close the current gap of Scientific data. The database is expected to collate information from all researchers across the continent and puts together published and unpublished research papers under one database, to ease access and improve networking between the IPCC National Focal Points and climate scientists.
  19. According to Telvin Denje, a research associate at AGNES: 'We have brilliant researchers in Africa that are doing exemplary work but then, doing research is very expensive and this is why there is a need to fund African researchers to do research on issues that affect them.' Publishing a research paper can cost as much as $3000, a figure that few researchers can afford unless they are funded externally. There is good news on this front, the IPCC is listening, it appears: 'We desire to grow our participation as African authors. Increased authorship with references also makes climate negotiations easier,' said Dr Cromwell Lukurito, the Vice Chair of IPCC Working Group II. Good Science costs a lot of money, and improving the African participation in the IPCC's research leads back to the key issue: how tackling climate change is going to be funded?
  20. The second thing to note on the figures is that – due to NDCs being reported voluntarily – there's no consistent system of reporting them across the world, let alone Africa. So the estimates of the commitments of actions to reduce greenhouse gases, and to fund the three categories of action in Africa and elsewhere – adaptation, mitigation, and loss and damage – may be wrong by an order of as much as ten.
  21. According to a Global Centre on Adaptation (CPI) report published this year 'more than 70% of the total needs reported in African NDCs [$408 bn] are not allocated to any adaptation sector. Countries that provided sector-specific data mainly reported adaptation needs for agriculture (25%), water (17%), infrastructure and building (12%), disaster prevention and preparedness (10%), and health (8%).
  22. Data availability on adaptation finance needs varies significantly across African regions.  Central Africa and Western Africa reported the most complete information on adaptation needs. Southern Africa and Eastern Africa have high adaptation needs but current data does not specify where this finance is needed.'
  23. In other words, the African NDCs being considered in the Stocktake are not giving accurate sectoral figures on adaptation. The current African NDC total is $29.5 bn of which 39% ($11.4 bn) goes to adaptation, according to the CPI report. CPI estimates the African adaptation needed annually is more like $100bn. As currently identified in NDCs, adaptation represents 24% of the total climate finance Africa needs annually till 2035 – S$52.7 billion a year (2.5% of African GDP) – though as the CPI reports notes that may be a huge underestimate.
  24. The CPI calculates the real African accumulative adaptation bill at $845 bn to $1.7 trillion for adaptation by 2035. Africa's annual loss and damage bill  – – the cost of impacts of climate change that countries like Malawi had next to no role in – was recently estimated at around $40 bn by Kevin Kariuki of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
  25. An IMF April 2023 note quotes the International Energy Agency (IEA), saying mitigation should be more like $190bn annually till 2030. But the IMF note lowballs the adaptation figure at $50 bn (the tally in the current NDC ledger, or thereabouts) so does that mean – as per the CPI report – that should be doubled too, because the African NDCs are inaccurate?
  26. The best guesses at the real-world figures, of around either $330 bn or $420 bn annually are speculative without consistent NDC reporting criteria. It  works out as Africa getting roughly 9 – 10% of what it really needs till 2035 to keep the planet within 1.5° C warming, based on CPI's crunching of NDC figures.

Africa's climate finance needs

The scale of Africa's climate finance needs based on Global Centre on Adaptation and IMF data


Indian scientists point to inaccuracies of scale in the data about South Asia in the IPCC report, and want their own report. Breaking the scientific consensus of the IPCC would risk unravelling the entire UNFCCC process but it's worth noting that the dissent from African scientists isn't unique.


  1. Another report revealing the scale of the figures was published recently by the US Clean Air Task Force, which in a graphic contrasts the S$4 – 5 trillion needed for all net-zero energy investments between 2035-50 (it's currently at $1.8 trillion), and the $2.2 trillion global defence spending in 2022.


  1. At COP28, there are strong indications that rich countries will finally make good on a promise made in 2009 to pay into a $100 billion annual fund to assist countries in adapting their infrastructure and societies to cope with the new reality of a planet that's rapidly heating up.
  2. The hope is that COP28 can draw a line under the 'loss and damage' funding which has become contentious, agree on adaptation and move onto mitigation. There has long been a 'push-pull' in the UNFCCC between the rich countries who want to concentrate on mitigation. That includes measures to prevent more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere such as converting to net-zero energy, and the need of developing countries for adaptation finance to fund infrastructure.
  3. There are three main funds Africa can draw on for climate finance:
  • The World Bank-administered Adaptation Fund has existed for 15 years and shares the proceeds from the clean development mechanism.
  • The Green Climate Fund is based in South Korea. Established at Cancun in 2011, it is often a subject of reportage around COP meetings because its coffers consistently fall short of the $100 billion a year that rich countries are called to contribute. Its reserves also aren't keeping up with surging inflation. It has also had its own 'MeToo' crisis and as a result the Board now has more women on it, including the formidable Ambassador for Climate Change for Antigua and Barbuda, Diann Black-Layne.
  • The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, was set up at COP26 in 2021 and harnesses trillions of dollars of private sector investment for adaptation and renewable energy. It was the main substantive discussion on the floor at COP26 in Glasgow.
  1. Private sector solutions via the Glasgow mechanism are strongly preferred by rich countries, which in many cases are still dealing with electoral resistance to green policies in the wake of the cost of living crisis, exacerbated by the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
  2. There are dissenters in financial markets, too, with financial industry leaders expressing discomfort at the focus on market-led solutions instead of government initiatives. Speaking on a webinar hosted by Z/Yen with partners in September, Sonja Gibbs, managing director and head of sustainable finance at the Institute of International Finance (IIF), called for a 'whole economy approach' to the global transition to renewables. Gibbs said that achieving net zero goals depended on government policies and was 'not just for the financial sector' to resolve but that the responsibility fell 'across all industries'.
  3. It's a fluid picture as there are also moves in developed countries to up overseas aid. Newly returned to government, former British prime minister and now foreign secretary David Cameron wants to pump billions into green economic projects which tie in with development aid. Activists and developing countries will watch commitments at the COP closely for signs of double accounting, presenting existing aid commitments as 'new' commitments (whereas what is wanted from rich countries is referred to in COP parlance as 'additionality').

Inside the loss and damage fund deal

  1. The focus of the funding debate at the COP is the loss and damage fund, the only substantive agreement to come out of COP27. A proposal was agreed on at the last minute of an unplanned-for fifth meeting of the Transitional Committee mandated by COP27 to set up the fund, which has been discussed within the UNFCCC process since the Nineties as both a compensation and insurance fund for situations such as the one Malawi faces presently.
  2. The impression that loss and damage is now a done deal is misleading as the the question of who contributes to it remains open. The US member of the loss and damage negotiating  committee, John Kerry's representative Christina Chan, walked out after the final text was gavelled. This is not an unfamiliar US negotiating tactic to leave open the possibility of disputing later that there was unanimity (UNFCCC decisions aren't by majority). The US did the same thing last year to try to block the Africa Group resolution to start intergovernmental discussions on a UN tax convention. The US State Department told Reuters 'we regret that the text does not reflect consensus concerning the need for clarity on the voluntary nature of contributions'.
  3. Kerry and President Joe Biden are said to object to the wording that 'encourages' developing countries to contribute to the fund but 'urges' developed countries to pay up, which could be construed as placing a legal obligation on them. Partly with an eye on the 2024 elections, Kerry appears to be positioning America to resist any appearance of capitulation to pressure to pay 'reparations' or for US energy companies to be in any way bound by Law to act on climate change. Kerry initially called on oil companies to voluntarily cut emissions but toughened his position in the opening days of COP28.
  4. When giving testimony to a congressional hearing in July, Kerry insisted the US would 'under no circumstances' pay 'climate reparations' via the loss and damage fund. The Republican-leaning think tank Power the Future calls the new fund a 'global shakedown' and it's definitely 'climate reparations,' according to Larry Behrens, its communications director. Kerry had promised millions for the loss and damage fund – the US announced a $17.5m contribution on 1 December at COP28.
  5. This positioning by the US will be interpreted by many developing countries as both a rebuke to the loss and damage fund and the committee that has drafted the proposal for its 'operationalisation' (another bit of COP shorthand). It may also be a wink to wavering Republican voters that Biden regards the fund as being too 'woke'.
  6. Geopolitics casts a long shadow over COP28. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has already scuppered COP27 happening in Prague next year. Tensions between China and the US have been growing over the status of Taiwan. Resource competition between East and West is agreeing. China has been withholding exports of various Critical Raw Materials which the EU needs for its next green industrial phase.
  7. This year China banned exports to Europe of graphite which is vital for batteries, in retaliation for an EU Commission investigation into China's subsidy of Electric Vehicles including the popular Neo line. Neos outsell German and French EVs three to one. [Africa Confidential, China, Europe and the US mull tariff war amid scramble for Africa's green minerals].
  8. It's believed that Wopke Hoekstra, former Dutch minister of finance and the EU's new Commissioner for Climate, would back an end to fuel subsidies (echoing signals from the World Bank President Ajay Banga) and will stand shoulder to shoulder with the small island states on a 'phase out' date for fossil fuels at COP28. This could split the EU delegation, with central European states more dependent on fossil fuels than their western European  counterpart. There could be another split with the US as the EU's Hoekstra is ready to make a 'substantial' financial contribution to the loss and damage fund.
  9. Waiting in the wings is the advisory ruling from the International Court of Justice, requested from Vanuatu on the legal liability of polluters for climate change that's an imminent existential threat to the small island nation.
  10. An uncharacteristically frank moment in the loss and damage talks in Aswan came when Diann Black-Layne of Antigua and Barbuda addressed the meeting. 'We can just stop talking,' she said. Antigua is part of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) Coalition within the UN climate negotiations  over the Loss and Damage Fund – who should contribute to it and where it should be hosted (the World Bank, the UN or a new independent body – Western states, especially the US, favoured the World Bank).
  11. 'If the World Bank is the only option on the table, let us please not pretend that we are 'negotiating' it [...] AOSIS countries were wide open to any idea that sounded like we can host a really good – excuse my language – kickass fund, that all of us decided on. Because AOSIS countries don't have the expertise of developed countries, we don't have the expertise of some African countries with drought, and you don't have the expertise that we have with sea level rise. And I know the Netherlands have great expertise with those things. What we were hoping for is the fund with the arrangements that can help us do what we're doing now, on our own, a little bit better, and do it together. But if the World Bank is an option that is not negotiable, then stop negotiating it.'
  12. Black-Layne then expanded on the comparative merits of hosting the fund at the Bank or other options. The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has been discussed as one of the alternatives hosts for the loss and damage fund. She went on to call the general approach of the World Bank 'gangsterism'.
  13. The hashed-together proposal before the COP for a Loss and Damage Fund is for a four year try-out at the World Bank, but with a 26 member Board that will set the terms for the relationship with the Bank, including deciding which countries can draw on the funds. Three members of that Board will be from Africa, so the selection will be watched closely in the continent.
  14. The 'eligibility' of recipients may be another fracture line. The EU has pushing a limited expansion of the eligibility criteria, from SIDs and LDCs (Least Developed Countries), the latter being a category that technically excludes middle income states like Libya and Pakistan, which definitely is not able to cope with climate change given its present economy and infrastructure.
  15. China and India have taken most of the climate finance available to date, and are determined that the eligibility of countries to access the new fund should include them as well. India pushed the point home in the negotiations that this broad access of developing countries was in keeping with the letter of the Paris Agreement on which the UNFCCC process is based. The US opposes this expansion of eligibility and was backed in the committee on this by Norway and the EU.

Fossil fuel 'phase out'

  1. It's likely that COP28 President Al Jaber will be successful in his bid to have countries triple their commitments to renewable power. In the case of the US this will lead to the controversial ambition to do it by tripling nuclear power. Nuclear as the fast route to net-zero is written into Ghana's national energy plan, for example, though hardly anyone in Ghana seems to believe that will ever happen. (Africa Confidential Special Report, Radical climate finance strategies go mainstream) That hasn't stopped Todd Abrajano, President of the US nuclear industry council, from lobbying President Nana Akufo-Addo to be Ghana's project partner in building the power plants.
  2. The US nuclear policy will be backed up by an ambitious commitment to accelerate development of nuclear fusion. On nuclear policy, the US makes an odd couple with Russia which has recently announced a nuclear cooperation plan with Burkina Faso. The tripling renewables pledge will no doubt be opposed by Russia, backed up by Saudi Arabia, though. Saudi Arabia has long opposed any move on fossil fuels via the unfccc.
  3. China may also be a problem for this plan since it's an outlier in planned coal-generated power capacity (nearly ten times that of India, the next most coal-dependent country). This could be another potential cause of a split at COP 28. On this touchy subject the split is more likely to between China and its allies in the Group of 77 developing economies.. President Xi Jinping plans the equivalent of two new coal-fired power stations every week. He promises to reach peak production in 2030 and net zero by 2060 (when Xi Jinping would be 107). China has said it would 'strictly control' new coal power, and along with all the states at COP26 agreed to 'phase down' – though not 'phase out' – coal. 'Strictly control' is being pushed in the Chinese diplomatic narrative to mean that China won't invest overseas in coal. This has strong implications for Africa alongside the far bigger issue for the continent of more global emissions that additional coal-power in China will cause.
  4. 'I have made it clear that the phasing down demand for and supply of all fossil fuels is inevitable and essential' Al Jaber announced in the run-up to COP 28. 'We need to collectively cut 22 gigatons of GHG emissions in the next 7 years to keep 1.5 °C within reach. That means working towards an energy system free of unabated fossil fuels by mid-century, with action on coal being a priority.'

Blowing smoke rings

  1. The other key word there is 'unabated'. Critics of Al Jaber's Presidency are pointing to the UAE's involvement in carbon capture schemes in Africa as evidence that the OPEC country means to continue to 'pump every last molecule of oil' (as Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said of his country in 2021) by the sleight of hand of carbon offsets, carbon trading and carbon capture.
  2. An investigation by the Guardian in April reported that Al Jaber's Adnoc has the third-biggest net-zero defying plans of any institution on Earth, with aims to mine oil and gas in future, 90% of which would have to stay underground to meet the net zero scenario outlined by the International Energy Agency. The main OPEC states seem to have the backing of China on pushing carbon capture at the COP.
  3. A carbon trading system that was linked to the Paris Agreement which underpins the negotiations failed in 2014 when the price of carbon dropped from $30 per tonne to $1. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on the sidelines of 2022's COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh that the 'carbon floor' should be around $75 a tonne by the end of the decade, in order for the UN's climate goals to work.
  4. If rich countries form a 'climate club' adjacent to the COP talks, an idea often discussed and already in the in-trays of President Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholtz among others, that could also minimise the risk of investments turning into smoke.
  5. The carbon offset industry works by converting emissions into 'credits' that can then be traded – offsetting pollution in one place with another activity somewhere else such as planting trees, to reabsorb the carbon emitted.
  6. The main criticisms of carbon trading are that it makes middlemen and markets rich – with some traders gazumping credits three times their original value – but not the people on the ground. A credit worth $10 can be traded ten times to make it worth $100. Trading carbon doesn't take it out of the atmosphere, and the ecosystems the markets invest in, like Kenyan and Zimbabwean forests, are fragile. If they catch fire, the carbon is released anyway.
  7. Carbon capture, trading carbon by the tonne rewards bad actors who carry on polluting but it doesn't change bad behaviour in the rich industrial world. The carbon capture industry has been absorbing a recent exposé in The New Yorker which has revealed that Gucci, Porsche, Nestlé, Delta Air Lines and others paid $100m to offset their carbon emissions via a 'worthless' scheme based on deterring locals from cutting down forests around Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe. The scheme was run by South Pole, the biggest carbon offsetting company in the world.
  8. The Swiss entrepreneur behind South Pole, Renat Heuberger said: 'It's not true that to save the climate we will all need to go into perpetual lockdown or stop having fun.' He had promised that 'every ton of CO2' emitted by Porsche cars would be balanced by a verified emission reduction." After Heuberger resigned as CEO from South Pole, the company said it's 'determined to learn from the experience of working with the Kariba REDD+ project'.
  9. A UAE-based firm, Blue Carbon LLC, run by Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum agreed in October to take over millions of hectares of land in its near-neighbour Kenya for a carbon offsetting project. It has also signed similar deals with Liberia, Tanzania, and Zambia. In Zimbabwe, Blue Carbon has agreed to take on management of one fifth of its landmass almost overnight. Sheikh Al Maktoum's company has no previous experience of running carbon offsetting schemes.
  10. Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Togo and Nigeria agreed at COP27 last November in Egypt to cooperate with a new Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI). The renewed carbon market in Africa is currently valued at around $900 bn, more than 20 times the annual cost of climate loss and damage to the continent, as estimated recently by the African Development Bank. This is one reason why some may see it as a viable and rapid way out of a funding hole for Africa's adaptation and remediation needs.
  11. Ahead of COP 28, African nations differed on the whole question of carbon trading and border taxes as a solution. Kenyan President William Ruto called Africa's carbon sinks such as the forests traded to Blue Carbon an 'unparalleled economic goldmine' when he hosted other leaders at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi earlier in September.
  12. South Africa has also launched a voluntary carbon market but Cyril Ramaphosa is opposed to efforts to monetise carbon emissions generally. South Africa is teaming up with India and others to challenge the new EU carbon border tax laws at the World Trade Organization.


Social media to follow


Africa Confidential 

Jo Lo, Climate Home editor joeloclimate.bsky.social

Aruna Chandrasekhar 

Nancy-Wangue Moussissa 

Activists & experts

Hyacinthe Niyitegeka 

Harjeet Singh 

Loss and Damage Collaboration

Dr. Chantelle G Moyo 


The Alliance of Small Island States 

Alpha Kaloga 

Carbon Brief's 'who wants what' guide is very useful for working out where each grouping stands on each topic

Further reading

UN Environment Programme 'Emissions Gap Report'

UNFCCC synthesis report

World Meteorological Organisation 'Greenhouse Gas concentrations hit record high. Again'

IEA 'World Energy Outlook 2023'

The Land Gap Report 2023

UN Environment Programme Adaptation Report 2023

UN Environment Programme Production Gap Report 2023

OECD 'Climate Finance and the USD 100 Billion Goal'

The Lancet Climate and Health Report 2023

CPI, Global Centre on Adaptation 'Accelerating Adaptation Finance – Africa and Global Perspectives'

The African Climate Foundation 'Priorities for an Equitable Reform of the Global Financial System'

OXFAM 'Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%'

Clean Air Task Force 'Getting serious about financing global decarbonization'

The 28th UN Conference of the Parties climate summit – a users' guide
How to navigate the facts, the figures and the declarations | By Tim Concannon and Jerry Sam in Accra and Caroline Chebet in Nairobi


This report was developed with the support of Journalismfund Europe
Journalismfund Europe