Accra-Ghana, 18-22 March 2019: Last week, close to 3,000 delegates representing governments, business leaders and civil society stakeholders gathered in Accra, Ghana for the 2019 Africa Climate Week (ACW2019). This event was the first of the series of regional climate events to be hosted this year ahead of the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September.

The Regional Climate Weeks are designed to foster engagement between governments and non-  government stakeholders to advance regional climate action. 

The event took place against the backdrop of the intense tropical Cyclone Idai, one of the worst tropical cyclones to hit the Southern Hemisphere and the African region, affecting over two million people across Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. During the High-level Opening Ceremony, delegates observed a minute of silence for the affected victims. This tragic event was a stark reminder of the urgent need to address climate change and the vulnerability of African countries to its adverse impacts.

ACW2019 focused on how engagement between governments and non-governmental stakeholders can be strengthened across key sectors in Africa, specifically around issues relating to nature-based solutions, the energy transition and the critical role of cities and local action in addressing the climate challenge.

During the event opening, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, alongside Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Mayor of Accra, Mohammed Adjei Sowah, COP24 President, Michał Kurtyka, and UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary, Ovais Sarmad, affirmed the need to foster cooperation from all countries and non-governmental stakeholders to pursue efforts to stay within the 1.5°C temperature goal in the Paris Agreement.

“We have now entered a new era of ambition. We need ideas, best practices and lessons learned from every corner of the world where businesses, investors, regional and local leaders and everyday people can bring their voice to the table,” said Ovais Sarmad as he highlighted the importance of leveraging the event to implement ambitious climate action.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) was present in Accra, bringing the voice of business on climate action by showcasing the tangible climate solutions companies are implementing across the region.

In line with the key thematic focus areas for the event, WBCSD organized two sessions on nature-based solutions. The first session, co-organized with the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), brought together representatives from national and local governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society to highlight opportunities associated with nature-based solutions in Africa.

WBCSD’s director of Climate Smart Agriculture and the Soft Commodities Forum, Matthew Reddy, delivered the keynote of the session, where he highlighted the importance of enabling legal and institutional frameworks at the national level for implementing national policy and national commitments (NDCs) that include nature-based solutions. Participants highlighted again and again the importance of strong enabling policy to unlock regional climate solutions at scale.  

“In order to give effect to policies, we need to empower communities, give ownership to communities and have the benefits flowing directly to communities,” he said, as he made a strong call for farmer-driven climate solutions for adaptation and mitigation.

The second session discussed nature-based solutions through the lens of technology, innovation and implementation. This session aimed to highlight the role and applications of innovations and technologies available to increase resilience and adaptive capacity of food and land systems in Africa.

In it, panelists from various stakeholder groups presented success stories about innovative technologies employed within the African context to improve agricultural yield and empower local farming communities. The session ended with speakers reiterating the fact that, when scaling new innovation, multi-stakeholder partnerships, including private sector engagement, are critical.

As part of this, participants agreed that private sector actors are key for rolling out climate-smart technologies. As such, they said, it will be important to identify the role of mobile telecom companies, technology and software companies and small, as well as medium and large agri-businesses, all of whom can help bring blended finance in the form of public and private funding to support the scale-up of solutions.

Following the thematic discussions of the content-specific sessions, WBCSD hosted a high-level dinner and networking event on climate, food systems and innovation, bringing together delegates and attendees from various organizations and stakeholder groups.

At the event, WBCSD made a call for action by the agricultural sector with introduction of the CocoaCloud initiative, a climate-smart data platform developed in collaboration with Opus Insights.  CocoaCloud is a key agri-tech solution that will help farmers in West Africa adapt their practices in light of a changing climate and will help them to produce more per hectare and become more resilient to extreme climate areas.

Penelope Cabot, Director and co-founder of Opus Insights, underscored how CocoaCloud will transform agricultural management decisions by providing easily accessible, accurate weather data in key growing areas of the West African cocoa belt.

This is a key example of the kinds of tangible climate solutions business can bring to the table.

The key outcomes from ACW2019 were presented during the Closing Plenary on Friday and submitted to Special Envoy for UN Climate Action Summit, Luis Alfonso de Alba as critical contribution to the workstreams of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit scheduled to be held on 23 September.  In a briefing session with Africa Climate Week delegates and organizers, Ambassador de Alba clearly emphasized the need for transformative and ambitious solutions. He said, “The objective is to have a very selected number of ambitious proposals at the Summit.”

Other Regional Climate Weeks will be held in 2019 in the Asia Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean regions, with dates and venues still to be confirmed.

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