(2015-12-21)The world eventually grinded out a climate deal on December 12 -- the Paris Agreement --named after the city in which it was agreed, but Africa accepted the outcome reluctantly.
Firstly, the 32-paged Paris Agreement moves away from the binary differentiation system as espoused under the failed Kyoto Protocol to, for the lack of a better word, a more inclusive system that compels all 195 countries party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to commit to climate change mitigation.
This is not what Africa was looking for, even when several countries from the continent had submitted to the UN national climate plans that formed the basis of the Paris Agreement.
Africa expected developed countries to show in climate mitigation the kind of leadership they exhibited driving human-induced climate change and global warming since the industrial revolution 250 years ago.
In other words, the hope encompassed a continuation of rich countries' mitigation and financial obligations as provided for under the Kyoto Protocol, but escalated and strengthened under a new climate treaty.
For Africa, the new all-party commitment system is not as much inclusive as it is coercive.
It is the culmination of a well-calculated process that may have started at the disastrous Copenhagen climate negotiations in 2009.
From now on, most, if not all, future climate deals will be based on the Paris treaty.
For Africa, which accounts for under 5 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions total, differentiation -- a tool that's been a key leverage in negotiations -- may be lost, forever.
Secondly, while some elements of the Paris Agreement are legally binding, others are not.
The new accord binds parties to report and update their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), the blocks that built the Agreement, every five years, but there is no mechanism for punishing non-compliance.
This is one of the major factors that led to the failure of the Kyoto Protocol, with developed countries disregarding the goal of cutting emissions by an average 5 percent between 2007 and 2012 compared to 1990 levels.
Further, although the Paris Agreement encourages parties to take action against climate change, there is no legally binding obligations to achieve the national contributions.
The Agreement relies on transparency -- hoped to be achieved through a framework of periodic global stock-taking beginning 2018 --as opposed to legal enforcement of accountability for effective implementation, rendering this core section of the Paris Agreement severely weak.
Doomed to fail
Thirdly, though the longer-term goal of holding temperature rise in this century "well below" 2 degrees Celsius is binding, the Paris Agreement lacks the pedigree to cap temperature increase at the higher safe limit of 1,5 degrees Celsius, a major pre-conference expectation for Africa.
Due to resistance from developed nations, the Paris Agreement failed to set the 1,5degrees Celsius temperature limit as the common binding long-term target, save for vaguely promising "to pursue efforts" to curb temperature rise within those levels, but devoid of any specific dates for achieving that goal.
In a 2 degrees Celsius warmer world, Africa will experience severe and frequent droughts, floods and water shortages, causing multiple food security risks in a continent already battling poverty and malnutrition.
Coastal nations may lose agricultural land as sea levels rise, according to the UN expert panel on climate change.
Even with the full implementation of all the national contributions communicated to the UNFCCC ahead of the Paris conference, the world will still warm at an unsustainable rate of between 2,7 and 3,5 degrees Celsius in this century, says the Climate Action Tracker, a UN affiliate climate body.
Now, since 90 percent of national climate plans were submitted before Paris, the "projected impact on emissions was well known before the conference started," according to the Wuppertal Institute, a German climate think-tank.
It was apparent, therefore, from the outset that the Paris Agreement would fall short of the 2 degrees Celsius temperature limit goal.
For the Paris Agreement to work, particularly the temperature goal, parties must rapidly strengthen their national contributions, says the Wuppertal Institute.
Fourthly, loss and damage, another major African demand for the Paris Agreement, which addresses asset and social losses arising from climate change impacts, critical issues hindering development on the continent, never rose to political parity with mitigation, much less financial parity with adaptation.
Opposed by most industrialised countries unwilling to take on further financial obligations, loss and damage appears in the Paris Agreement as a non-binding issue, merely voluntary.
At the end, the Paris Agreement no more than encourages parties to "enhance understanding, action and support . . . on a cooperative and facilitative basis with respect to loss and damage . . ."
Not all doom
Despite its numerous short-comings, including pressure to bend over backwards to accommodate unreasonable demands by world number two polluter, the United States, which threatened non-ratification, the Paris Agreement provides the mandate and framework for future climate action.
A global goal on adaptation was announced, achieving near parity with the goal on mitigation.
Prior to the Paris summit, adaptation appeared as an issue embedded within the talks, but weaker in value compared to mitigation.
Africa regards adaptation as a fundamental pillar to climate change response success.
The continent's unique vulnerability means that all of its economic sectors must adapt, from agriculture to water, energy to transport, and tourism to manufacturing.
The establishment of a binding global target on adaptation is likely to see the increased flow of structured funding towards adaptation in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.
Unlike mitigation, parties are, however, not obliged to provide periodic reviews and updates of their adaptation progress, or lack of.
On funding, the Paris Agreement set legal binding obligations for developed countries to provide finance to developing countries to aide mitigation and adaptation to the tune of $100 billion per year beginning 2020 and beyond.
The $100 billion is set as the floor for increased future funding, and not the ceiling, an illicit idea rich countries have held and accommodated since Copenhagen.
A key improvement to climate finance was the inclusion in the Paris Agreement of a section compelling wealthy countries to furnish the UN with 'quantitative and qualitative information' on the amount of public money directed towards meeting poor countries' mitigation and adaptation funding needs every two years.
What this means for Africa is that such a review mechanism introduces some form of predictability and accountability not only on the flow of finance, but also its mobilisation, whether that is happening at the scale that effectively minimises climate impacts in recipient countries.
Industrialised countries will now have to justify their actions, or lack thereof, in climate funding, which may result in increased financial support for vulnerable countries.
The Paris Agreement also stresses the need "to ensure efficient access to financial resources to developing countries through simplified approval procedures," hoping that will speed up the flow of money where it's needed most.
The true impact of the accord in Paris will begin to show in the coming years, whether governments will show a willingness to implement the actions they have put on paper for a real sustainable transformation of the world.
It remains a matter of conjecture whether the fossil-fuel based era is truly over, as per the Paris Agreement promise of phasing out non-renewable energy use by the second-half of this century.