Climate Governance


Research and capacity building under ARUA-CD’s stream on climate governance focuses on the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in African societies.

The National Determined Contributions (NDCs) are the central mechanism to formally implement the Agreement. The ratifying Parties to the Agreement communicate the progress in emissions reductions and adaptive capacity achieved by domestic climate change policies and measures in the NDCs every five years.

The ARUA-CD aims to build institutional, research and negotiating capacity to turn the NDC processes into meaningful national processes, to avoid creating paper dragons in the last minute and to create safe spaces for learning and exchange.

Our research is largely comparative, between the Southern, Western and Eastern African nodes of the ARUA-CD. We aim to understand enabling and constraining conditions to effective climate governance at international, domestic and community levels in climate action towards energy access, mitigation and adaptation that leverage developmental benefits.

We research policy and regulatory regimes, communication and awareness, and knowledge creation and transfer. We also review and assess local and community level governance mechanisms as a special African contribution to climate change discourses.

How can we achieve the climate goals without compromising on human wellbeing? 

A critical reflection on Ghana, Kenya and South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change 

The 2016 Paris Climate Agreement represents the world’s most united and concerted effort to fight climate change. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world the agreement aims to ensure that global temperatures don’t rise more than 2°C (and ideally 1.5°C) above pre-industrial levels.

Each country that ratifies this agreement specifies how it will help to achieve this aim by defining its emission targets in pledges called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). Every five years, as set out in the Paris Rulebook, countries communicate their progress and – ideally – indicate increasing ambition in their emission contributions. 



Given that there are only six NDC cycles to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, it is important for a country’s policy makers, practitioners and researchers to work together to understand i) what targets are possible and desirable at a national level, and ii) what policies to develop and how best to implement these to achieve these targets.

There is currently no clear roadmap for developing this understanding. Although the NDCs themselves have been extensively analysed, the policy processes needed to achieve the NDCs are not well documented, and learnings from different contexts have not been well captured. What’s more is that not all first-round NDC updates have indicated how domestic actions and NDCs are connected, though for some countries it’s clear that the NDCs are linked to existing policies rather than new ones. Fortunately, a rich base of material has amassed over the last decade that can indicate how to enhance climate action between 2020 and 2050 and can guide the development of meaningful NDCs updates going forward. 

About ARUA-CD’s NDC project

By analysing 10 years’ of national climate policy and practice in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, ARUA’s Centre of Excellence in Climate and Development (ARUA-CD) aims to identify key learnings from these countries that can inform their NDC processes. To do this we reflect critically on the questions posed by the Talanoa Dialogue in 2018, namely:  

  • Where are we? 
  • Where do we want to go? 
  • How do we get there? 

Our focus areas

  1. For each country we investigate the links between the NDCs and domestic climate policy processes over three time periods:
    • 2010-2015: National Climate Change Policy and NDC development
    • 2015-2020: implementation and development
    • 2020-2030: implementation of NDC and NDC update

We grapple with the continuous and complex interplay between policy development and policy implementation, and work to provide nuanced and granular assessments of areas where progress has and hasn’t been made. 

  1. We also question how NDCs can become more relevant to African countries, where NDCs and climate action are still not treated as serious political and development issues. We explore whether the framing of the NDCs has contributed to the false dichotomy that still exists between climate action and development, and whether the NDC updates and future climate policy – as well as the international policy architecture – can address this issue, particularly in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

Through our engaged research, workshops, and webinars and courses, we aim to help establish a community of practice dedicated to the systematic analysis of the NDCs now and in the future, and to lay the basis of long-term pan-African research collaborations to explore questions around climate and development on the continent.

The first round of NDC updates 

The first updates of the NDCs were initially due in 2020 in time for COP26. But when COP26 was postponed to 2021 on account of the global COVD-19 pandemic, the deadline for the NDC updates was extended along with it. 

A handful of countries have already submitted or proposed new NDC targets, and – worryingly – some have indicated that they will not be submitting new targets. But the vast majority of countries – including 55 in Africa – are only likely to submit their updates over the course of 2021. 

The easy way to update an NDC is to simply change the promised dates of previous submissions. But doing this will make the goals of the Paris Agreement ever more difficult to achieve. Instead, countries should critically reflect on how to make meaningful policy changes and how to develop the institutional, research and negotiating capacity needed to implement these policies irrespective of international pressures. 

More information

Dr Britta Rennkamp:

Dr Adelina Mensah:

Dr George Outa: