The UN’s annual climate summit (COP28) concluded with a mixed bag of results for Africa. Wins were decisions related to loss and damage, climate finance, adaptation, food and energy — issues that directly relate to African countries’ ability to meet their climate change and development goals. However, this progress is still not enough.

During COP28, a record of more than $85 billion was mobilized demonstrating the world’s commitment toward limiting global temperature rise by 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) which would avoid some of the most harmful consequences of climate change. Alongside were declarations to support those ambitions. But what do these commitments mean for Africa?

Here, we look at how the priorities of African countries – including the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund, and progress on adaptation, climate finance and a just energy transition.


Adaptation is at the heart of Africa’s climate action. While the more inclusive framework of the Global Goal on Adaptation established at COP28 marks substantial advancement, African parties pointed to the low ambitions and lack of decisions on the means of implementation.

The UNEP Adaptation Finance Gap Report 2023 findings show an alarming shortfall of $194 to $366 billion annually, which poses a big hurdle in translating plans to concrete actions and investment opportunities.

This leaves African countries that are most vulnerable to climate change at unprecedented risk. Without fair and equitable access to finance, the continent will not act effectively.

Loss and Damage

The agreement on the first day of COP28 to set the Loss and Damage Fund in motion with $792 million in pledges was welcomed by developing countries — especially those in Africa — that bear the brunt of climate change. Africa has experienced extreme weather events ranging from floods to droughts and heatwaves, leaving a trail of destruction and fatalities.

Africa will require between $290 billion and $440 billion between 2020 and 2030 to finance loss and damage needs, which point to the huge gap between what’s been promised and the reality on the ground.   Work remains on the Loss and Damage Fund to establish its 26-member board. The evaluation scheduled for 2027 will show progress toward this initiative.

Climate Finance

While the declaration on climate finance calls for collective efforts on mobilizing resources for developing countries, additional financial and technical support will be required.

For Africa, the focus is on the New Collective Goal of Climate Finance, a post-2025 finance goal that seeks to raise the floor of climate finance from $100 billion annually. The continent requires up to $250 billion annually until 2030 to respond effectively to climate change.

African countries have called for priorities to be based on evolving science-based findings and on mandatory contributions from developed countries while supporting the needs of developing countries. Africa’s domestic market has the potential to provide additional funding for climate change.

Energy Transition

The outcome to shift away from fossil fuels was a hard-fought issue at this year’s COP28, but this is a complicated subject for Africa where the economics of the continent’s top 10 oil-producing countries rely heavily on the commodity.

Already, cuts in subsidies in Nigeria in the midst of economic crises have had negative impacts. Six-hundred million people still lack electricity in Africa, with varying rates of access in different countries. Countries will suffer heavily without any commitments to enable a just transition.

For the continent, decisions on energy access and transition are therefore important.

The COP28 declaration on renewables and energy efficiency presents an opportunity for energy access and transition for Africa. The continent holds about 30% of the world’s critical mineral resources alongside abundant clean energy resources — wind and solar — that can serve as the foundation for clean industries and commodities.

The energy transition will increase the demand for these vital resources and can accelerate investments and create employment opportunities for millions on the continent. On the downside, the continent attracts only 2% of global clean energy spending. The push, therefore, should be towards processing on the continent rather than exporting raw materials.

It Is argued that natural gas is a viable option for Africa, however there is debate on whether this would be in line with efforts to limit global warming. The continent holds about 9% of global natural gas reserves, with Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria as leaders in production.

Local Climate Action

Attention to local climate action in Africa is becoming more important especially as the population of Africa’s cities is expected to double by 2050, reaching 1.5 billion people. At COP28, for the first time, cities —which produce 70% of the world’s greenhouse gases —were featured prominently in discussions.

Twelve African countries signed up for the Coalition for High Ambition Multi-level Partnerships for Climate Action that will enhance cooperation between national, regional and local governments on planning, financing and implementing national climate goals. Notably, they will contribute to nationally determined contributions to be updated in 2025.

Closely linked to local climate action is the Declaration on Climate and Health, which seeks better integration of health considerations into climate policy processes. Thirty African countries committed to the transformation of health systems to be climate resilient, low carbon, sustainable and equitable, and prepare vulnerable communities to the impacts of climate change.

Food Systems

Africa’s food systems have been affected by drought and increased costs for farming inputs caused by the Ukraine war. Despite having 25% of the world’s arable land, Africa produces only 10% of all agricultural output in the world, with millions of people in the continent still going hungry.

For the first time, food was included in the COP28 climate agenda. Recognizing the impact of climate change on agriculture and food production, 159 countries, including 34 from Africa, signed a declaration to scale up adaptation and resilience, promote food security and nutrition, support livelihoods, strengthen water management in agriculture, and protect and conserve ecosystems and biodiversity.

What Comes Next for Africa

Much more work is needed to deliver commitments and action that match the priorities of Africa and other emerging economies facing the full brunt of climate impacts. While commitments to triple renewable energy are crucial, this is the direction the market is already headed given the rapidly improving economics of renewable energy deployment.

While the Loss and Damage fund’s capitalization is crucial, the commitments thus far do not match the billions already needed by communities across the globe. Thus, much more work is needed to address the urgent priorities of adaptation finance and to ensure principles of equity are hard-coded into our now-acknowledged global pivot away from fossil fuels.

We can no longer discuss climate without development and development without climate. The two are not in competition. As African countries update their nationally determined contributions in 2025, they need to be more ambitious with their targets for food and energy, while maintaining focus on development.