The struggle for effective climate governance in North Africa

Despite rising climate-related disasters, North Africa’s focus has been disproportionately on mitigating climate issues rather than adapting to them. Kawsar Laanani argues that these nations need to allocate more resources to climate adaptation and tackle the existing governance challenges that hinder climate action. 

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    Last summer, in Libya, heavy rains and flooding, courtesy of Storm Daniel, took a severe toll, with casualties exceeding 10,000. Meanwhile, Algeria and Tunisia were gripped by scorching heat, reaching nearly 50°C in July, leading to power outages and igniting massive wildfires. In light of rising climate-related disasters, effective climate governance in North Africa is imperative.

    Varying progress for varying contexts

    Tunisia boasts a commendable policy framework for adaptation. Following the 2011 uprising, local authorities assumed responsibility for climate and environmental initiatives, including adaptation policies, with the support and guidance from the government. A few years later, in the aftermath of the Paris Agreement, Tunisia developed an extensive and comprehensive policy framework for its National Determined Contribution (NDC). Yet, the current hurdle lies in executing and implementing these policies. Local initiatives remain fragmented and nascent, lacking a cohesive framework and actionable strategies in renewable energy, sustainable transportation and water resource management. The recent suspension of decentralisation efforts and the removal of all mayors after the 2021 constitutional changes have caused confusion, leaving local investors and municipalities uncertain about their roles and responsibilities. Consequently, there is a missed opportunity for executing various local-level projects despite substantial international interest due to the ongoing situation's lack of clarity and progress.

    Algeria has made progress in constructing solid climate policies but still faces significant challenges. In 2005, recognising the urgency of climate action, Algeria established a National Agency for Climate Change, aligning with global initiatives. The nation aimed to decrease emissions by 22% with international assistance, unveiling a comprehensive National Climate Plan (NCP) in 2016. Among the plan’s 155 projects, 76 were focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while 63 were dedicated to adaptation measures, showcasing a strong commitment to adaptation efforts.

    However, progress towards these has considerably lagged. The country heavily depends on fossil fuels for its growth and income, particularly locally sourced natural gas, with less than 1% of its electricity originating from clean energy sources. Moreover, current economic stagnation, high unemployment, labour market disparities and corruption hinder climate initiatives and limit foreign funding. In comparison to Morocco, Algeria has received substantially less EU funding – 10 times less for climate mitigation and 18 times less for adaptation (see Table 1) – affecting its capacity to reach climate goals. 

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    Source: Aid Atlas

    Morocco has a functioning system to address national climate concerns, predominantly focused on renewable energy. Its National Climate Plan for 2030 emphasises key objectives such as achieving 52% of installed electricity capacity from renewable sources by 2030, reducing energy consumption by 15% by the same year, and substantially cutting public subsidies for fossil fuels. The 2030 National Climate Plan outlines three strategic areas to fortify climate governance, including enhanced institutional and sectoral coordination. But, cross-government collaboration and coordination are not happening in practice.

    Libya, entangled in political turmoil and conflict since 2011, grapples with severe governance issues, corruption and a lack of accountability, which hold the country back in addressing disasters and working on long-term climate action. The recent lack of responsiveness to flood warnings shows deficiencies such as limited public awareness of climate change's causes and effects, marginalisation of environmental concerns in political agendas and restricted access to environmental information.  

    Additionally, Libya does not have a national climate plan, nor is it involved in the UNFCCC process. The economy heavily relies on its fossil fuel sector, with oil and gas contributing to about 96% of the government's total revenue. It is also the only country in North Africa yet to develop a climate strategy as required by the Paris Agreement. 

    In confronting the escalating climate challenges, North African nations stand at a pivotal juncture.

    In 2012, the Renewable Energy Authority of Libya (REAOL) introduced the Libya Renewable Energy Strategic Plan 2013-2025. This plan aims to integrate locally available renewable energy resources into the national energy system and increase the share of renewable energy sources, such as wind, concentrated solar power, photovoltaic, and solar water heating. In recent years, certain environmental offices in municipalities across the country have also initiated monitoring efforts around food security and water management. While these initiatives vary in intensity from city to city, they signify small but positive steps forward.

    Looking ahead 

    Climate change is a cross-border issue and will require regional cooperation. In confronting the escalating climate challenges, North African nations stand at a pivotal juncture. It is crucial for these nations to acknowledge that climate challenges are not merely environmental concerns but integral governance issues that will intricately mould the future political and socio-economic landscapes of their countries.

    The views are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ECDPM.

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