Africa in the global climate change negotiations

  • Charles RogerEmail author
  • Satishkumar Belliethathan
Original Paper


The African Group of Negotiators (AGN) has become a much more significant bargaining coalition in the global climate change negotiations. It has been participating more proactively and on a much more significant scale, and, as a result, it has had a greater impact on bargaining outcomes, notably in Nairobi, Copenhagen and Durban. Yet, at present, the group remains poorly understood by both scholars and policymakers. Compared to other groups in the climate negotiations, such as the Group of 77 and Alliance of Small Island States, it has received relatively little attention. This paper fills this gap by tracking the evolution of the AGN over the course of the climate change negotiations. In the early years after the Earth Summit, it shows that the AGN faced tremendous difficulties pursing regional objectives effectively, largely due to a number of “internal” barriers to participation, which compounded the structural barriers that the continent faced by making it difficult to use “low-power” negotiating strategies such as coalition building, agenda-setting and persuasion. However, in recent years, the group has become much more proactive as a result of greater access to material, ideational and institutional resources. These have relieved, somewhat, the internal barriers that the group faced, making it possible for the AGN to negotiate much more confidently and effectively than before.


African Group Climate change Negotiations UNFCCC Bargaining groups 



The authors would like to acknowledge and thank the Africa Initiative at The Centre for International Governance Innovation (Waterloo, Canada), which provided funding for Charles’s research, as well as review and editing of this paper. Peter Dauvergne, Joyeeta Gupta, Thomas Hale, Stephan Hoch and Lesley Masters, as well as the anonymous peer reviewers, offered thoughtful comments on earlier drafts. Finally, outstanding research assistance was provided by Andrea Stucchi, Kieran Meehan, Gezahegne Seyoum, Tolosa Belete and Titayal Tebeje.


  1. AMCEN. (2006). History of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, 1985–2005. Nairobi: AMCEN Secretariat.Google Scholar
  2. Betzold, C., Castro, P., & Weiler, F. (2012). AOSIS in the UNFCCC negotiations: From unity to fragmentation? Climate Policy, 12(5), 591–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Capoor, K., & Ambrosi, P. (2006). State and trends of the carbon market 2006: A focus on Africa. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  4. Chasek, P. (2005). Margins of power: Coalition building and coalition maintenance of the South Pacific Islands and the Alliance of Small Island States. Review of European Community and International Environmental Law, 14(2), 125–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cole, J. (2012). Genesis of the CDM: The original policymaking goals of the 1997 Brazilian proposal and their evolution in the Kyoto protocol negotiations into the CDM. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 12, 41–61.Google Scholar
  6. Depledge, J. (1999). Coming of age at Buenos Aires: The climate change regime after Kyoto. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 41(7), 15–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dlamini, E. (2013). Former AGN Chair reflects on representing a strong African voice in climate negotiations. Resource document. Accessed January 11, 2014.
  8. Eleri, E. (1997). Africa and climate change. In G. Fermann (Ed.), International politics of climate change: Key issues and critical actors (pp. 265–284). Oslo: Scandinavian University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Endeley, I. (2009). Bloc politics in the United Nations: The African Group. Maryland: University of America Press.Google Scholar
  10. Fisher, D., & Green, J. (2004). Understanding disenfranchisement: Civil society and developing countries’ influence and participation in global governance for sustainable development. Global Environmental Politics, 4(3), 65–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gray, K., & Gupta, J. (2003). The United Nations climate change regime and Africa. In B. Chaytor & K. Gray (Eds.), International environmental law and policy in Africa (pp. 60–83). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
  12. Guardian. (2010). US embassy cables: US urges Ethiopia to back Copenhagen climate accord. Resource document. The Guardian. Accessed January 11, 2014.
  13. Gupta, J. (2006). Increasing disenfranchisement of developing country negotiators in a multi-speed world. In J. Green & B. Chambers (Eds.), The politics of participation in sustainable development governance (pp. 21–39). Tokyo: United Nations University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Held, D., Roger, C., & Nag, E. (2013). Ethiopia’s path to a climate-resilient green economy. In D. Held, C. Roger, & E. Nag (Eds.), Climate governance in the developing world (pp. 218–237). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hoste, J.-C., & Anderson, A. (2011). African dynamics at the climate change negotiations. Africa Policy Brief No. 3. EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations. Accessed January 11, 2014.
  16. IPCC. (2007). Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kartha, S., Bhandari, P., van Schaik, L., Cornland, D., & Kjellén, B. (2006). Adaptation as a strategic issue in the climate negotiations. European Climate Platform Report no. 3, October.Google Scholar
  18. Kasa, S., Gullberg, A., & Heggelund, G. (2008). The Group of 77 in the international climate negotiations: Recent developments and future directions. International Environmental Agreements, 8(2), 113–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Masters, L. (2011). Sustaining the African common position on climate change: International organizations, Africa and COP17. South African Journal of International Affairs, 18(2), 257–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Maya, R. S., & Churie, A. (1997). Critique of the African approach to JI: Bargaining or posturing? In R. S. Maya & J. Gupta (Eds.), Joint implementation: Carbon colonies or business opportunities? (pp. 31–41). Harare: South Centre for Energy and Environment.Google Scholar
  21. Mumma, A. (2000/2001). The poverty of Africa’s position at the climate change convention negotiations. UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, 19(1), 181–210.Google Scholar
  22. Najam, A. (2004). Dynamics of the southern collective: Developing countries in the desertification negotiations. Global Environmental Politics, 4(3), 128–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stern, N. (2006). The economics of climate change: The Stern review. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. UNECA. (1992). African common position on the African environment and development agenda. Resource document. Accessed January 11, 2014.
  25. UNFCCC. (1998). African common position on the clean development mechanism. Resource document. Accessed January 11, 2014.
  26. UNFCCC. (2014a). NAPAs received by the secretariat. Accessed January 20, 2014.
  27. UNFCCC. (2014b). Documents and decisions. Accessed January 20, 2014.
  28. Vickers, B. (2013). Africa and the rising powers: Bargaining for the ‘marginalized many’. International Affairs, 89(3), 673–693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vidal, J. (2009). Copenhagen: Head of African bloc calls on poorer nations to compromise on climate funding. The Guardian. Accessed February 6, 2014.
  30. Vidal, J., & Harvey, F. (2011). African nations move closer to EU position at Durban climate change talks. The Guardian Accessed February 6, 2014.
  31. Weiler, F. (2012). Determinants of bargaining success in the climate change negotiations. Climate Policy, 12(5), 552–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Williams, M. (2005). The third world and global environmental negotiations: Interests, institutions and Ideas. Global Environmental Politics, 5(3), 48–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. World Bank. (2010). World development report 2010: Development and climate change. Washington, DC: The World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. World Bank. (2012). World development indicators. Accessed March 2013.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceThe University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre, College of Natural SciencesAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia

Personalised recommendations