ETTG paper DIE/ECDPM/ACET - Green Transitions in Africa–Europe relations: What role for the European Green Deal?

Green Transitions in Africa–Europe relations: What role for the European Green Deal?

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Key messages

  • Green transitions have the potential to support Africa–Europe cooperation by combining
    the climate agenda with an innovative socio-economic project for jobs creation and
    sustainable growth. Green transitions can be a fruitful area for cooperation because
    common interests and interdependencies between both continents are high.

  • Green transitions are key topics in the African Union (AU) and the European Union
    (EU). Both are committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
    Development and the Paris Climate Agreement within which green transitions are key
    elements. The EU has initiated the European Green Deal with an ambitious agenda to
    transform Europe into a carbon-neutral continent by 2050. On both continents, green
    transitions play a prominent role in debates about socio-economic COVID-19 recovery

  • Notwithstanding these commonalities, the EU and the AU approach green transitions
    from very different angles. Whereas the EU has a major historic responsibility and
    continues to have very high per capita emissions, African countries have contributed
    little to climate change but will be severely affected by its consequences. The AU’s
    Agenda 2063 gives strong priority to poverty reduction and climate adaptation, whereas
    the social dimension of the European Green Deal is limited. Acknowledging these
    differences will need to be the starting point for identifying priorities for AU–EU
    cooperation on developing green transitions.

  • In order to make cooperation on the Green Deal and green transitions fruitful for AU–EU
    relations, the EU institutions and member states will need to understand African
    countries’ strategic objectives and interests. They will need to learn from past
    experiences and reflect an eye-level partnership in their communications on, and
    approaches to, cooperation in order to gain the trust of, and jointly identify common
    interests with, African partners. The AU and member states, in turn, will need to invest
    more in defining their strategic objectives, in promoting socially inclusive green
    transitions across the continent, and in cooperating with the EU on green transitions.

  • Neither Europe nor Africa has a blueprint for what carbon-neutral societies and
    economies will look like. Cooperation on green transitions therefore provides
    opportunities for joint learning and joint knowledge production by European and African
    actors and for some of the underlying structural asymmetries to be addressed.

  • This paper explores six particularly relevant fields of action for AU–EU cooperation on
    green transitions and the Green Deal – energy transitions, the circular economy, trade,
    climate change adaptation in the agricultural sector, climate diplomacy and financial
    instruments. For each of these fields of action, reform initiatives on both continents are
    discussed and specific recommendations developed.


Read the full paper here.

Authors: Christine Hackenesch, Maximilian HöglGabriela Iacobuta (DIE), Hanne Knaepen (ECDPM),  John Asafu-Adjaye (ACET).

The authors would like to thank the academic experts and policymakers from Europe and Africa who participated in the three workshops in September 2020 for sharing their views and insights on the opportunities and challenges of AU–EU cooperation on green transitions. Special thanks go to Clara Brandi, Michael Brüntrup, Niels Keijzer, Svea Koch and Anna Pegels for their comments on earlier drafts of the paper. The contents of this document remains the sole responsibility of the authors.

This paper is part of a special series on Africa-EU relations, produced by ETTG members DIE and ECDPM in cooperation with ACET.

Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash.

The views are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ETTG.

ETTG paper DIE/ECDPM/ACET on Green Transitions in Africa and Europe


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