The Urgent Race to Net Zero: Exploring African Priorities for COP 26

The global COVID-19 pandemic has marked a turning point in business-as-usual practices, highlighting the need to re-think and re-establish economy-wide norms based on systemic sustainability and equity considerations. At the same time, countries are attempting to develop and implement their short- and longer-term policy planning instruments for climate change – Nationally Determined Contributions and Long-term Low Emissions Strategies – to move towards zero-carbon, climate-resilient futures. In the development of these strategies, countries are making important choices about immediate and long-term pathways to drive the transition to carbon neutrality and climate adaptation. If transformational and ambitious, these climate policies and planning tools can position countries to contribute to a global response to climate change, as well as strategically situating them to take advantage of post-COVID-19 green growth opportunities. The 26th Conference of Parties meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) will take place in November 2021 in Glasgow. It is set to address some of the most pressing challenges in the transition to resilient, carbon-neutral societies. Five years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, countries are yet to reach the adaptation and mitigation requirements prescribed by science, underscoring the need for greater urgency. This briefing highlights key policy processes needed for Africa to support longer term transformation, as well as the importance of aligning COVID-19 recovery efforts with mid-century climate-resilient visions.