AIJ--Africans In Jeopardy?


Angela N Churie is a Research Fellow with the Southern Centre for Energy and Environment in Zimbabwe. She argues that African nations should prepare carefully for participation in joint implementation activities.

THE First Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) approved a three-year pilot phase for Joint Implementation (JI) activities, which are now referred to as Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ).

For the many African participants in the negotiations, this development was received with mixed feelings. Up to this point, the position they had taken was one of caution, being reluctant to make any commitment with many misgivings about their participation. Whether the activities are termed as Joint Implementation, or Activities Implemented Jointly, clarification of the specific modalities was still required, especially with regard to credit, cost-effectiveness and equity considerations.

A round table conference, organized to discuss African views on AIJ during the First Conference of the Parties, concluded that, despite contrasting views on the subject, acceptance of joint implementation activities would not be as straightforward as many had thought. There were, however, discernible degrees of acceptance. These can be outlined as follows:

  • voluntary: in which case the parties will have willingly entered into the agreement;
  • induced: where AIJ activities are introduced through 'backdoor' means or as a result of being coerced to join the bandwagon; and,
  • restricted: in which case activities are limited to certain sectors.

By far the most disturbing issue, though, was the lack of an effective mechanism for consulting and formulating a practical position on the subject. In this light, a follow-up study conducted in the Eastern and Southern African region by the Southern Centre for Energy and Environment and the Institute for Environmental Studies, Amsterdam, showed that there is a real need for African countries to prepare themselves domestically for AIJ activities.

National frameworks that would examine the existing codes of investment and employ stricter conditions for new activities were proposed. A re-evaluation of what AIJ actually means and would offer to the region was considered essential. This regional exercise ended with a workshop in which the results of the studies were discussed and presented in the comprehensive publication Joint Implementation for Africa: Carbon Colonies or Business Opportunities?

To communicate fully their views to the rest of the world, the participants decided on the Kadoma Statement which clearly expressed the regional views on AIJ. Some of the main conclusions follow.

  • There is a need for enhanced awareness in African countries on AIJ to facilitate the articulation of informed positions on the subject.
  • AIJ activities should contribute to adding value to domestic production by contributing towards activities that would strengthen the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economies. This would result in a reduction of the overall vulnerability of the countries by offering additional sustenance to the economies.
  • Afforestation as sink enhancement activities should not be considered as AIJ projects since such activities would not offer any alternative to land dependence and thus are just as vulnerable to climate change.
  • AIJ should facilitate the transfer of new appropriate technologies that would satisfy development objectives.

AIJ activities should proceed in a programmatic manner as opposed to random projects. This implies that this collaboration should be long-term in nature and thus require long-term commitments between parties.

The Kadoma Conference on Joint Implementation reiterated the call for capacity building on climate change issues and specifically on AIJ. Up to now, there have not been enough exercises to ensure that African stakeholders are informed and better prepared for the discussions.

To date, several workshops have been held to discuss follow-up to the decision for an AIJ pilot phase. These activities are focused on identifying potential projects as well as working on the modalities of implementation. Participation in these activities has been generally drawn from developed countries and those developing countries with favourable economies for investment.

The focus of several of these exercises has been on identifying potential projects to implement in the pilot phase. For the unprepared, this is too early a stage to be deliberating on details and design of projects without dealing with the actual mechanisms of operations. This paves the way for investor-led discussions and thus may result in an inequitable situation that initially led to the suspicion of the developing country partners.

One such activity worth mentioning is the global workshop on AIJ to be held in the near future. As it stands, there is little in terms of preparation going on in developing countries especially in Africa. One tends to wonder what the role of the Africans will be in this gathering especially in light of the fact that discussions in the region (if any) have not progressed as far.

Certain critics have expressed doubt that African countries would be the recipients of AIJ--they should preoccupy themselves with more pressing issues that relate to climate change rather than focus on how they can influence the debate on AIJ. They cite the economic climate as being unfavourable thus projects would not be considered cost-effective.

Does this imply that the developed countries, who are responsible for a greater part of the current greenhouse gas emissions and thus resulting climate change, will seek 'solutions' where it seems auspicious to them? What then happens to the argument for global cooperation when certain parties can be excluded on the basis of their current situation?

In as much as this may be true, there is a danger in allowing the economic favourability of a region to take precedence in determining the allocation of resources and distribution of activities. Climate change is global in nature and thus investments should be directed accordingly, not only to economically favourable regions but also to vulnerable regions irrespective of their economic status. It is a known fact that the UNFCCC does not offer enough in terms of providing for multilateral funds and the Global Environment Facility is floundering in its mission. Many believe that the major part of the transfer of funds will be bilateral and may be tied up in AIJ-type arrangements.

Africa is one of the regions that will suffer considerably due to climate change. The envisaged increase in emissions due to development imperatives poses a threat in itself. Africa should, therefore, not be allowed to suffer the losses of being by-passed in AIJ deals.

African interests in the debate about AIJ are very similar to the overall interests that prompted participation in the negotiation process in the first place. Emissions from the continent are low in comparison to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, these emissions will grow in the future as development objectives are achieved. Africa is also the continent that is most vulnerable to climate change impacts. This is more so since the economies of most of the countries are

primary-based and highly dependent on nature. For African countries AIJ may offer opportunities to deal with the vulnerable position it is currently in.

AIJ may not offer all the answers to the problem of climate change but can facilitate the process of better and longer term planning. The concerns being raised about eligibility are legitimate and should under no circumstances be overlooked. AIJ as presented in previous discussions raises various questions regarding equity between collaborating partners which leaves unaddressed the possibility of adverse affects regarding the participation of developing and notably African countries.

The haste with which the discussions proceeded raised suspicion that the final outcome would be one where the host country would bear a greater part of the emission reduction burden. The focus on cost-effectiveness being a major consideration in identifying the projects limits the scope and shifts the decision regarding the type of projects heavily to the investor's side.

Results from the regional exercise indicated that for an African country to explicitly articulate their interests in the process, there is a need for preparations at the national level. This could take the form of national frameworks on AIJ and other climate-related investments. For as long as the development thrust is towards poverty alleviation and the provision of basic services to the population, global concerns such as greenhouse gas emissions will remain in the periphery unless they are linked to actions that would deal with immediate issues.

By formulating a national framework, potential projects would be scrutinized from the perspective of whether they give national as well as global benefits; whether the capacity to implement and maintain them exists; whether it results in the development and acquisition of new and appropriate technologies; and whether they contribute to the overall preparedness of the country to deal with climate change impacts.

Another function of the framework would then be to identify potential sectors for AIJ as well as potential projects. This would require input from various institutions in the public and private sectors, and hence a need for an intersectoral and interdisciplinary formulating committee.

This type of activity would not only prepare the country in terms of identifying potential mitigation activities with national benefits but also in streamlining the process of identifying and channelling investments. This is why in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Investment Centre, a body responsible for identifying potential investment opportunities, was approached as an appropriate institution to convene and oversee such an exercise.

For African countries to gain from AIJ collaboration, efforts to articulate interest driven by a strong business perspective should be made in the global fora. The benefit of participating in the non-creditable pilot phase is valuable since during this period lessons learnt would determine future involvement in AIJ collaboration. This is where Africans should seek a strong entry point into the debate.

Identification of potential AIJ projects is a major task in itself, particularly where the point for AIJ collaboration is not yet defined. Whereas it is possible to vaguely identify sectors, the actual activities would have to be scrutinized to ensure that they deliver the envisaged benefits, an overall reduction in emissions.

With regard to identifying activities, the Southern Centre for Energy and Environment has proposed the following recommendations as a guide especially for African countries.

Sector. The sector identified will be the one currently making a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of an African country, the sector should also be one offering promise in not only reducing the vulnerability of the country but also in contributing towards the overall development of the nation.

Possible scale of implementation. AIJ should, in the final analysis, contribute towards overall emissions reduction. This implies that the project would have to be of a significant scale. AIJ projects should, therefore, not be isolated in nature but constitute a programme of activities which would ultimately result in a change in practice and long term results.

Current emissions from the activity. This constitutes a baseline assessment of current emissions from the ongoing activity that would be modified by the introduction of new technology etc. or a hypothetical calculation of how the same proposed activity would proceed using available technology in the host country, identifying the resources to be transferred (in terms of technology, expertise, etc). Avoided emissions due to AIJ. Presumably an AIJ would result in emissions savings. These should be calculated over a certain time period to ascertain whether the option being considered is the most appropriate.

Abatement cost. The cost of reducing the estimated emissions through the proposed activity would give an indication of the cost-effectiveness.

Approving institutions. Institutions that would be required to sanction the activity. This gives an indication of the administrative requirements and ease with which the project can be administered, managed and monitored.

The ball park cost of the baseline and possible local and international partners must also be considered.

Other critical factors that should be taken into account if an activity is to be hosted in a developing country are:

  • contribution of activity to national economy;
  • long term prospects of activity;
  • existing capacity (expertise) to manage the project; and, o institutional capacity to monitor, maintain and develop follow-up to the initiative.

There are no guarantees in participation in AIJ activities. African countries should, therefore, adopt a business-like attitude and gear themselves to try and benefit from the experience gained through participation in the pilot phase.