Climate Change

Paris Agreement

View of the General Assembly Hall Opening Signing Ceremony of the Paris Climate Treaty

World leaders from 175 countries gathered at United Nations Headquarters for the official signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the historic accord reached last December.

In December 2015, after more than two decades of negotiations, at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, the global community reached a historic agreement to combat climate change and adapt to its impact.

On 22 April 2016 at the United Nations Secretariat in New York, no less 175 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement — "by far the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day" —, and 15 nations ratified it. It will remain open for signature from 22 April to 21 April 2017.

The agreement can only enter into force on the 30th day after the date it has been ratified by 55 countries, representing at least 55 percent of emissions. More than 100 countries are expected to sign the agreement on 22 April 2016.

The Agreement is critical for Africa, which is extremely vulnerable to the impact of climate change. The Agreement is expected to help Africa source funding and technology to mitigate climate change, develop renewable energy resources and chart a course to a sustainable future while adapting to the impact of increasingly erratic weather patterns.

Africa at the Signing Ceremony

Forty-seven (47) African Member States signed the Paris Agreement on 22 April 2016, and two even ratified it.

The slides below are organised by names of Member States, in alphabetical order.

More videos and statements FR are availble on the French web page. In addition, the Pres Centre prepared a complete summary of all declaration [Press Release ENV/DEV/1659-L/T/4446].

Impact on Africa

Climate change poses a significant threat to economic, social and environmental development in Africa, as reflected in the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This report presents strong evidence that warming in Africa has increased significantly over the past 50 to 100 years, with clear effects on the health, livelihoods and food security of people in Africa.

This has created considerable health and economic challenges for the continent, including:

  • increased food insecurity,
  • increased water scarcity,
  • spread of weather-sensitive diseases, and
  • reduced crop yields and livestock productivity.

Extreme weather events, including droughts, floods and heat waves are expected to become more frequent and agricultural yield losses are projected to reach 22 % across sub-Saharan Africa, with increases in the frequency and prevalence of failed crop seasons.

It has also been recognized that African countries are disproportionally affected by the effects of climate change, even though historically they contributed the least to global emission rates. Africa faces significant environmental challenges, including:

  • deforestation, soil erosion, desertification,
  • land degradation,
  • air pollution,
  • drought,
  • loss of biodiversity,
  • rising sea levels, and
  • the depletion of fish stocks.

Other climate change related projections predict that:

  • by 2080, an increase of 5 to 8% of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios;
  • by 2080, due to climate change, it is likely that 75% of the African population will be at risk of hunger (FAO);
  • between 2012 and 2014, ClimDev-Africa Special Fund expects to disburse over US$ 180 million to 72 projects in Africa.

Meanwhile, African countries are now vigorously promoting industrialization through structural economic transformation, which poses challenges for the reduction of emissions concurrently as it strives to address adequate adaptation to changing climatic conditions.

Africa’s Efforts in Tackling Climate Change

Africa’s participation in the UNFCCC negotiations has recently been boosted by concerted effort to have an African Common Position for each session of the global climate talks. These efforts crystalized in Decision No. Assembly/Dec. 457(XX) of the coordination mechanism of the Committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) taken during the 2011 Malabo Summit authorising the Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) Programme, to organise and manage Africa’s participation at all COP events.

During past conferences, African negotiators have strongly advocated for increased and adequate financing for adaptation, as actual funds are not sufficient to meet the related extensive needs in Africa. Fully mindful of these challenges, African leaders set “environmental sustainability, natural resources management and disaster risk management” as one of six pillars of the Common African Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  The African Group of Negotiators (AGN) currently lead by Mr. Elhassan Nagmeldin (of Sudan) has played a leading role in negotiations.

Looking Ahead

The 21st yearly session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) to the UNFCCC took place in Paris, France, in December 2015. This conference was considered one of the biggest international climate conferences ever as it needs to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

The Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) Programme began a stocktaking exercise on Africa’s journey in the climate change negotiations through a three-day Expert Group Meeting from 21-23 January 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ahead of the Conference.

Hosted by the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) - the research arm of the ClimDev-Africa consortium - the theme of the meeting was “Understanding the evolving landscape of Africa in the UNFCCC Negotiations: from Kyoto to Paris”. Some fifty experts in different aspects of climate change negotiations from across the continent attended the meeting to share their perspectives and narratives on the negotiations landscape.

For three days participants explored:

  • The pros and cons of definitions of new aspects of the negotiations such as the Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDC);
  • Structural and conjectural issues affecting Africa’s negotiation; including:
    • Adaptation, loss and damage,
    • Technology transfer,
    • Climate finance, and
    • Capacity development.

OSAA’s Role

Climate Change, as one of global issues of peculiar concern to Africa, is a major focus area for the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA). 

OSAA’s contribution to efforts on climate change includes support for African Member States at international conferences on the question, as well as monitoring international commitments (such as Millennium Development Goal 7 (MDG 7) on environmental sustainability and climate change in Africa). For example, OSAA supported African countries at the Rio+20 Summit and organised a side-event on desertification with other partners. In 2014, OSAA published its first biennial United Nations Monitoring Mechanism report which included a thematic focus on environmental sustainability and climate change.

Lastly, OSAA supports and works closely with the African Union’s NEPAD Agency which runs a Climate Change and Natural Resource Management Programme in order to assist countries in integrating climate change responses into their national development processes.


Climate change remains a global challenge which affects all spheres of life on the planet. The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions lies at the very heart of the response to climate change.

In 1992, countries joined in an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, with 192 parties as of 2013) to cooperatively consider what could be done to limit average global temperature rises and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were observed.

By 1995, countries realised that emission reductions were inadequate and adopted the Kyoto Protocol, which binds signatories to emission reduction targets. Since 1995, there have been several international conferences on climate change (Conference of Parties) to further advance climate change agreements.

Paris Climate Agreement Signing Ceremony (22 April 2016)

To keep the global spotlight focused on climate change and build on the strong political momentum from Paris, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited representatives of all countries to sign the Paris Agreement PDF, at a special Ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters on 22 April. The Signing Ceremony takes place on the first day that the Agreement will be open for signatures, and marks the first step toward ensuring that the Agreement enters into legal force as quickly as possible.

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Did you know?

  • Africa's population is expected to rise to at least 2.4 billion by 2050, with some of the countries doubling or even tripling their numbers, making Africa the region with the largest population growth.
  • With little protection against climate variability and climate change, droughts, floods, cyclones, and desertification often lead to crop failure, poor harvests, and food insecurity.
  • Africa's CO2 emissions are estimated at less than 7% of the world total (AfDB).