China, Africa natural allies on climate change

The forthcoming 8 th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (Focac), to be held in Senegal a week’s time, will adopt four resolutions that will be key in shaping relations between the two sides for both short and long terms.

The four prospective resolutions are: the Dakar Declaration of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Focac; Dakar Action Plan (2022-2024), 2035 Vision for China Africa Cooperation; and Declaration on China-Africa Cooperation on Climate Change.

The fourth resolution on climate change, is perhaps one of the most compelling areas to look forward to, given the topicality of the issue of climate change following the COP26 Summit held in Glasgow, United Kingdom a couple of weeks back.

In 2021, the world is much alive to and keener on climate change. Interestingly, China and Africa represent the complex nature of the climate change phenomenon in at least three major ways: how countries are set to be affected by climate change; how climate change could affect development and how nations need to cooperate to fight the scourge of climate change.

At Glasgow, China was at the centre of discussions on climate change. As the world’s second largest economy, China’s role in contributing to global warming and climate change was in the spotlight. On the other hand, its own contributions to arresting climate change through a number of interventions that include reforestation, clean energy and cutting down on investments in fossil fuels abroad were widely praised. China is set to achieve net carbon neutrality
by 2030.

China capped off the summit with a joint commitment alongside the United States of America to be more ambitious on climate targets, closing ranks with its competitor and setting the tone for a more inclusive and pragmatic approach to fighting climate change.

In Dakar, Focac will explore ways in which China and Africa will tackle the climate changephenomenon. At face value, the two sides appear to be poles apart as they represent different levels of agency and bearing the effects of the scourge.

Not least, the issue of climate change had not featured prominently in discussions between the two partners in the context of Focac. The last summit in Beijing, for example, focused substantively on such environmental aspects as energy, natural resources, tourism, sustainable development and the
ocean economy, but did not address the issue of climate change.

Climate change appears to be the overarching environmental issue, with huge impact on a number of areas including the above mentioned aspects: global warming will affect natural resources, tourism business, economic development, food security, human development, and so on. Hence, it is incumbent that the issue be confronted head on.

It is widely accepted that as the developing world, China and Africa still require a lot of fossil fuels to power their development and industrialisation. Fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil are in abundance in countries in Africa and in China.

A shift away from fossil fuels will be neither achievable nor realistic. However, China could assist African countries in a number of ways including development of clean energy with China already having pledged in 2018 to assist in the development and operation of energy projects, carry out demonstration projects in green financing, and explore green and sustainable ways of energy cooperation.

It is not logical China pledged to stop financing of new coal energy projects in Africa during Focac, and countries on the continent should not have felt slighted by the development. What is clear is that China will do more to help African countries to transition to cleaner energy as a
way to combat climate change.

China itself provides useful template for a development trajectory that African countries can emulate, and this is typically a well thought-out model by China. President Xi has enunciated a number of ground-breaking environmental philosophies that have been crystalised into policies with implications on the future wellbeing of the planet. He has stated that: “We must strike a balance between economic growth and environmental
protection, and bear in mind that protecting the environment equates to protecting productivity and that improving the environment also equates to developing productivity.” (May 24, 2013, during a speech at the sixth group study session of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee).

President Xi is an advocate for green, circular and low-carbon development. With these aspects now gaining high regard, and with China having made key commitments to achieving carbon neutrality, African countries can both be inspired and take vital lessons from China within the context of their own sustainable development trajectories pronounced in African Union’s
Agenda 2063.

One of the goals of the Agenda is building “Environmentally sustainable and climate resilient economies and communities” achievable through, among other things, climate resilience and use of renewable energy.

by Lizwe Nyoni