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Energy Partnership

Lessons Learnt – Two Reports Share Recommendations for Enhanced AU-EU Cooperation on Climate

Thriving Political Dialogue

Africa and Europe can leverage their existing partnership to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic through a resilient low-carbon, high-growth pathway. At the same time, the two continents have the potential to work more closely on the shared priority of climate change. Two recently published papers highlight past experiences and suggest using the established partnership on energy as an avenue to enhance work to mitigate climate change without compromising other African development priorities. 

Looking ahead to the 6th African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) summit, a recent discussion paper by the United Nations University -Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA), “Bridges of Opportunity: Partnering for Africa–Europe Green Development”, has put forward a green transition pathway for Africa. The authors note that the next phase of the two continents’ partnership should utilise the European Green Deal to catalyse a new era in their collaboration and should support Africa’s efforts in digitalisation and technological innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the fragility and vulnerability of economic and social systems, not only in Africa, but worldwide. The authors, therefore, conclude that Africa must, not only ‘build back better’, in-line with Agenda 2063, but ‘build forward better”, with a stronger focus on climate change mitigation. 

Energy as a Gateway for a Joint Climate Agenda

Similarly, a briefing note published by The European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) analyses AU-EU cooperation on climate and energy, and concludes that although the two continents have had climate and energy as a shared priority since the Joint Africa-EU strategy (JAES) was established in 2007, the building blocks of a joint AU-EU agenda on climate are slowly starting to appear. These priorities can be further strengthened in the run-up to upcoming important international meetings, such as the UN High-level Dialogue on Energy and COP26 later in 2021. 

Both publications agree that the well-established AU-EU dialogue on renewable energy, including the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP), and green jobs offers a long-term entry point for moving forward on climate issues. Recommendations include the need to build a common greening strategy that unites Africa and its regional bodies. Both papers underline the need to focus on the Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as an enabler of effective, equitable, revenue-distribution mechanisms that can incentivise greening measures and promote trade. The reports also describe how energy reforms in Africa often focus on continent-wide mega projects or national approaches. Moving beyond this, AfCFTA offers an opportunity to support energy systems reforms which focus on regional interconnections, grid renewals and maintenance. Additionally, the reports suggest the EU could support Africa in achieving organised pathways for better integrating decentralised solutions in national energy systems as decentralised renewable energy (DRE) can propel productivity in rural areas and creates work for young people, who currently fill 40% of all DRE jobs. 

The coming months offer an opportunity for Africa and Europe to present a clearer common narrative on green recovery and climate finance. The UNU-INRA report notes it is time to close the gap between rhetoric and action. Increased climate finance, support to knowledge and skills development in Africa, and engaging with civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders capable of working as agents of change are now called for. 

The AEEP is supported by its Steering Group: