Embed a bottom-up approach to climate justice for Africa
African leaders will convene in Nairobi from September 4 to 6, 2023, for the Africa Climate Summit. This landmark gathering is set to provide a unified position on several climate change challenges to be negotiated at COP28 in Dubai later this year. The Paris Agreement (PA) of 2015 obligates states to respect, promote, and consider human rights when taking action to address climate change. However, implementation and compliance are a major challenge, requiring the attention of leaders at this summit. Wealthy states have caused and continue to accelerate climate change. They also have greater economic and technological tools to address it. The PA, therefore, places more obligations on them. They must reduce emissions faster and provide climate finance, capacity-building, and technology transfer to enable developing countries decarbonise and adapt to the effects of climate change. However, so far, wealthy states’ climate action has neither tackled climate change nor enabled poor countries to adapt. Until last year, there was no fully operational mechanism to monitor compliance with obligations under the PA. However, at COP27, states adopted the rules of procedure of the committee to facilitate implementation and promote compliance referred to in Article 15 (2) of the PA. These rules operationalised the Paris Agreement Implementation and Compliance Committee (PAICC) by allowing it to perform “compliance” and ‘‘implementation functions’’. The PAICC can trigger compliance function on its own, without state consent. Thus it can monitor compliance with the few obligations under the PA that require all states to submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) every five years, and wealthy states to provide information on mobilisation of climate finance. This does not entrust the PAICC with power to require states to ensure consistency with the PA goals. The “implementation” function is facilitative in nature. Here, the PAICC may provide substantive recommendations to a state to guide it towards implementing its NDCs. This function can only be triggered by the consent of the state requesting support in the implementation of its commitments under the PA. The climate change regime contains a bottom-up approach to climate action, which has historically contributed to the lack of implementation of the PA. States were left free to set their own targets for emission reductions, choose adaptation measures, and, for wealthy states, decide their own contribution to climate finance. The PAICC is to perform this function by giving states discretionary power on how and when to engage it in the implementation of their commitments under the PA. Further, states are allowed to determine whether PAICCs recommendations to them are to remain confidential or not, which undermines the transparency demanded by the PA. Therefore, embedding the bottom-up approach to climate action in this mechanism undermines its effectiveness. Accordingly, there is a risk that PAICC may not deliver climate justice as expected. Together with climate justice movements, African countries are already agitating for increased finance from wealthy states for climate adaptation and for loss and damage. The ACS should explore how the PAICC can augment these efforts. How does inadequate financing hinder adaptation needs as outlined in their NDCs and Adaptation Plans. Climate justice movements in wealthy states should nudge their governments to engage with the PAICC for equitable climate action and implement the recommendations. This will transform PAICC into an instrument for human rights-sensitive climate justice for Africa.