Climate change is a significant threat to development across Africa. Important sectors, such as agriculture, health and water will feel a considerable adverse impact from 1.5⁰C-2⁰C of global warming, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In the agricultural sector, negative climate change impacts will be seen on crops, fisheries and livestock. Food production and food security will be threatened. Cereal crop losses south of the Sahara could range from 2% for sorghum to 35% for wheat by 2050. Another study concludes that losses in millet production will be around 48% to 55% by the middle of the century.
For health, several studies, including the IPPC report, projecte that climate change will increase the burden of human diseases on the continent. Lethal heat exposure will affect hundreds of million people in many African cities.
Water availability for livestock and fisheries is also be at risk. More than 50% of commercially important freshwater fish species could go extinct. The impact of climate hazards is growing at an alarming rate. For instance, flooding and drought accounted for 80% and 16% of observed impacts on human settlement over the past decade. Both climate hazards have affected almost 340 million people across Africa. Flood deaths have risen; poverty is worse and education and health services have been hindered.
Given all these challenges, debate has been focused on climate risks, impact and increasing resilience of vulnerable groups. But the international community and bilateral organisations have mostly avoided questions around who should be responsible for addressing these issues.
My colleagues and I have highlighted important points that are relevant to managing climate change risks in Africa. This study looked at what is preventing more useful responses to climate change in Africa. Finance is the key.
Global climate debate has failed to address loss and damages in developing countries, including countries in Africa. The IPCC report states that without global action, climate related impacts and risks could undermine Africa’s development.
Developed countries have a historical responsibility for global emissions but are avoiding their responsibility to the developing world. They have failed to fulfil their US$100 billion promise of climate aid to developing countries by 2020. The timeline to mobilise the funding has been extended until 2025.
But how realistic is this pledge?
Challenges in getting and spending climate finance
African countries face various challenges when it comes to global climate financing.
First is the distinction between mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation projects include sustainable transportation, renewable energy and energy efficient technologies. A few countries, like Morocco and South Africa, can receive fund from donors to implement projects like these. But the majority of African countries are left out due to weak institutional capacity.
Adaptation projects across key sectors such as agriculture, environment, health and water are funded in many African countries. Yet these projects are underfunded, fragmented and poorly coordinated. There remains a mismatch between mitigation and adaptation projects in Africa as funding is inaccessible for the latter.
The lack of a clear formula to distinguish between donors’ adaptation and mitigation funds has undermined the implementation of climate change projects in many African countries. Donors such as the World Bank, Global Environment Facility and European countries prefer to fund mitigation projects rather than adaptation. Their argument for funding mitigation projects is that they are measurable and their success is visible. Yet the international community believes that adaptation should be given priority.
Furthermore, about 80% of funding for research into climate issues affecting Africa goes to developed countries, especially the United States and Europe. Kenya and South Africa accounted for 2.3% and 2.2% respectively.
The unequal funding relation does not only affect research design and dissemination. It also reduces African research capacity and local expertise to implement research findings.
Many donor-funded capacity building programmes are one-off and isolated from national climate change programmes. This affects the ability of African countries to participate in climate change technology transfer projects. Where there are no enabling environments or institutional settings to foster regulation, technology providers will be reluctant to create access to technology.
Five things African countries need
Over the past three decades, several international climate change negotiations have been held around the world. They have yielded few results. And Africa continues to look for solutions to many of its climate change related problems.
Donors and the international community should pay attention to the following five points.
Bilateral and multilateral agencies must align their climate change agenda with national development planning in terms of adaptation and mitigation activities.
Donors must ensure access to climate finance and also make money available for relevant climate change research that is led and disseminated by African researchers at the national and local level.
Climate change mitigation institutions must be established across the five regions in Africa. These should provide capacity that will enable individual governments to train experts, facilitate technology transfer and implement mitigation projects. Only with mitigation institutions can a new African carbon market initiative be effectively implemented.
National governments must increase investment in research and academic institutions.
National ministries and departments must coordinate policies on adaptation measures. An integrated adaptation framework is required to implement either Climate Resilient Debt Clauses or African Climate Risk Facility as part of overall adaptation strategies and measures to protect vulnerable groups against climate risks and impacts.
The success of COP27 will be largely determined by how Africa’s climate change problems are prioritised and negotiated, and the kind of feasible solutions that are provided. No single option such as adaptation is sufficient to tackle climate change in Africa. Both adaptation and mitigation measures must be encouraged through integrated responses that link with developmental objectives. These objectives are to eradicate poverty and to provide energy security, health security and food security, as well as fostering sustainable economic growth and prosperity.