- Currently, East Africa is reeling from the effects of the worst drought on record; extreme heat is ravaging northern Africa while flash floods remain a constant threat.
- This is despite the continent contributing the least to global warming and having the lowest carbon emissions on record.
- According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change impacts under all climate scenarios above 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Over the past few years, the frequency and intensity of adverse effects of climate change in different African nations has been on the rise. Rising temperatures, floods, and droughts are as a result of climate change yet the continent contributes the least carbon emissions.
However, resultant collateral damage is posing systemic risks to the continent’s economies. Infrastructure investments, water and food systems, public health, agriculture, and livelihoods are at risk, threatening to undo Africa’s modest development gains. Left unchecked, global warming could see Africa slip into higher levels of extreme poverty.
Deaths due to climate change related disasters
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), the continent is the most vulnerable to climate change impacts under all climate scenarios above 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In the past year alone, the continent has reported deaths resulting from adverse effects brought about by climate change. Currently, East Africa is barely smarting from its worst drought on record. Extreme heat is ravaging populations in northern Africa while flash floods remain a constant threat.
When we follow the science we find that the climate crisis is driven by long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns caused by greenhouse gas emissions that blanket the Earth and trap the sun’s heat. This crisis would not happen without human activities, including the extraction and burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.
“While greedy corporations continue to scramble for Africa’s coal, oil and gas, more severe and frequent floods and droughts are shattering communities across the continent. This human-induced climate crisis will only become more catastrophic if we collectively fail to act,” Greenpeace Africa’s Executive Director, Dr. Oulie Keita said.
Climate change is projected to reduce agriculture productivity in continents such as Africa, where more than half of its population depends on rainfed agriculture, by lessening the plantation period, increasing the occurrence of extreme weather events, degrading the existing water resources, and encouraging the proliferation of insects and pests.
Africa is vulnerable
While the continent has made significant developmental gains, there is still much to be done to fully achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Data by the AfDB indicates that sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 95 percent of rain-fed agriculture globally. This means that agriculture has always been deeply dependent on the weather, with farmers needing optimal sun, warmth, and rains to reliably produce food. However, these once predictable growing cycles are at risk from climate change.
A large share of agriculture in GDP and employment adds to vulnerability, as do other weather-sensitive activities, such as herding and fishing, leading to income losses and increased food insecurity.
According to the 2022 Climate Vulnerability Index, nine of the 10 most vulnerable countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2022 Climate Change Report confirms that West Africa, East Africa, and Central Africa are among global hotspots of human vulnerability to climate change.
Extreme weather events-droughts, floods and landslides-are leading to grave impacts on farming and crop harvests. Kenya and countries across the Horn of Africa are smarting from the worst drought in half-a-century. This has severe knock-on effects on food security, as it drives up food prices, leaving low-income populations vulnerable.
Dependence on fossil fuels
“Africa’s dependence on fossil fuel-powered energy is stealing our future and leading us to an ever worsening climate disaster. Africa has the potential to build greener and better than previous generations did if we act now together. We have a collective responsibility and the power to minimise the harms of the climate crisis,” Dr. Keita said.
According to the World Bank, an estimated 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have limited to no access to electricity, yet potential for renewable energy that can deliver distributed energy access to all exists in abundance
“Greenpeace Africa calls for Africa’s leaders to avoid falling into the fossil fuel trap and lead the continent towards a clean, renewable, affordable and sustainable energy future. We need policies that incentivise investments in the continent’s exceptionally high potential for decentralised renewable energy,” Dr. Keita noted.
Renewable energy technology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, becoming the cheapest form of energy, also generating a boom in employment.
Trillions in climate investment needed
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Africa will need investments of over $3 trillion in mitigation and adaptation by 2030. This funding will aid nations implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement reached at COP21.
Having signed and ratified the Paris Agreement, nearly all African countries have committed to enhancing climate action. Part of this plan includes reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and building resilience.
Further, for the continent, adaptation to the adverse impacts of climate change is urgent. However, many of their commitments are conditional upon receiving adequate financial, technical and capacity building support
“Nevertheless, climate change also provides opportunities for Africa to harness its huge resource potential to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. Addressing climate change in Africa will create significant market opportunities on the continent, especially for the private sector and institutional investors,” IMF said in a white paper released in April.
Buffers through domestic revenues
Different international partners have come out calling for policy interventions aimed at reducing the negative impacts of global warming on the continent. According to the IMF, some of these interventions include policies to facilitate immediate response to climate shocks. For instance, countries need to build buffers through more domestic revenues, lower public debt and deficits, and higher international reserves.
“The paper indeed finds that fragile countries with such buffers see a faster recovery from extreme weather events. Strengthening social safety nets and leveraging insurance schemes are also key to financing recovery in the case of catastrophic events,” IMF noted.
In addition, countries across Africa need to implement policies to build climate resilience over time, including scaling up climate-resilient infrastructure investments.
Greenpeace Africa has also called on African governments to act now to minimise the devastating impacts of the climate crisis on the livelihoods of Africans. The organisation is warning against turning Africa into the frontier of a new scramble for oil, gas and coal, driven by former colonial powers.
“Our governments and leaders must have the courage to reimagine an alternative future and chart a new developmental path away from the destructive models of the West; a path that prioritises people and the planet over profit. This summit is an opportunity for genuine dialogue, where our leaders, civil society organisations, scientists, youth activists, and other stakeholders can assert our perspectives, needs and solutions”, Dr. Keita said.
The Africa Climate Summit
Efforts by different international partners are still a drop in the big effort needed across the entire international community to protect the most vulnerable. The Africa Climate Summit could be a step forward towards generating effective solutions for mitigating the devastating impact of natural disasters and droughts on the continent’s people and economies.
The Africa Climate Summit will be held under the theme; “African Solidarity for Global Climate Action” from 4-6 September 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya. It will bring together African Presidents, high level policymakers, senior officials, climate change experts, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to deliberate on the sub themes of the Summit.
The continent is seeking to accelerate implementation of its climate change strategies and actions to avert the catastrophic impacts of global warming and build the resilience of the continent’s economies.