Green transitions in Africa–Europe relations: what role for the European Green Deal?

Hackenesch, Christine / Maximilian Högl / Gabriela Iacobuta / Hanne Knaepen / John Asafu-Adjaye
External Publications (2021)

ETTG-Paper, April 2021

Volltext/Full text

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 communalities, 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.

About the authors

Hackenesch, Christine

Political Science


Iacobuta, Gabriela

Climate and sustainable development policy


Further experts

Altenburg, Tilman

Economic Geography 

Bergmann, Julian

Political Science 

Dang, Vy

Political Science 

Erforth, Benedikt

Political Science 

Esser, Daniel

Development Studies, Human Geography 

Furness, Mark

Political Science 

Grimm, Sven

Political Science 

Keijzer, Niels

Social Science 

Koch, Svea

Social Science 

Löpelt, Sarah

International environmental and development policy 

Scholtes, Fabian


Weinlich, Silke

Political Science