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Africa's "buyer's remorse" over Paris climate deal

When Chad announced in September 2015 it aimed to slash its greenhouse gas emissions 71% by 2030, the country was hailed as a climate leader.

The government of the arid, oil producing state - long ravaged by warfare - even offered to slash carbon pollution 18% from business-as-usual in the event it received no external funding or support.

The generous gesture was seen by many observers as proof of a new age of African climate ambition, one of the 190 pledges that underpinned the historic Paris Agreement.

Ten months on, the country's climate envoy tells Climate Home that Chad was pressured into this ambitious contribution and it will not be able to deliver.

"I personally think that the very ambitious INDC [climate plan] like ours is not achievable and it need to be reviewed," says Hamid Abakar Souleymane, who also represents Chad at the UN's climate science panel.

"We have been rushed by other countries, and we have elaborated a quick INDC, we did not gather all the data to reflect our national and achievable contribution, which normally [should] take into account sustainable development."

Chad may join the nearly 100 countries to ratify the Paris Agreement, says Souleymane, on the condition it can change its contribution. "This could give us a chance to revise into an achievable goal," he says.

Chad is not alone in its fears it may have committed to the impossible. The Africa Group - a UN negotiating alliance - has 54 members. Just 15 have ratified the Paris deal.

Some of those who have not formally joined the UN pact may seek permission to amend or revise their climate plans, says Seth Osafo, who advises the Africa Group on legal matters at the UN.

"I think that is likely to be the case for those who are not happy with the target," he tells Climate Home.

As Climate Home revealed earlier this year, Western governments and multilateral funds directed at least US$26 million to help developing countries prepare their "intended nationally determined contributions".

In some cases, the support was gratefully received. In others, there was resentment at the way consultants from the developed world steered a supposedly nationally-owned process.

A professor in environment and development at Reading University, Okereke has advised a number of African governments on climate and energy policy.

"I detect a sense of skepticism and buyer's remorse from a number of African countries, who are asking: hang on, what have we committed to?" he tells Climate Home.

"The process through which many of these INDCs were written was seriously fraught with error, with minimal stakeholder consultation, data gathering and analysis… It is understandable that France wanted to get an agreement, but I fear the success in Paris may have come at the expense of African countries."

Okereke's fear is similar to that of Souleymane's: that the process leading to the development of the plans for African countries was not based on rigorous assessments, and was in some cases flawed.

He cites Nigeria's target of 45% GHG cuts with external support and 25% without as one of the more unrealistic government aspirations ahead of Paris.

The country's electricity grid has a capacity of less than 5,000 megawatts, but its 173 million citizens need generation sources ten times that.

Generally most African governments see the Paris Agreement as a "good deal" and recognise how it could protect their populations from future extreme weather, says Osafo.

But there is a widespread belief that support to help the continent prepare for erratic rains and the drought and famine that can result has not been forthcoming.

"I don't think we have succeeded in how adaptation is going to be funded. It's a priority and in areas like agriculture there is an urgent need for crop diversification, water irrigation," he says.

"More resources have always been called for by developing countries to develop further and polish the NDCs in order to broaden their scope and plan on how to mainstream them in development processes," says Washington Zhakata, head of Zimbabwe's climate management department.

He sees COP22 in Marrakech as a chance to "debate issues of implementation", envoy shorthand for securing more support.

Still, as it stands the status quo should not be accepted, says Okereke, who argues the Paris Agreement in its current form is an "equity and justice coup against developing countries".

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