Addressing Critical Climate Issues in Africa

One of the challenges facing the African continent, its leaders and the African Union (AU) is climate change.

Climate change is considered the major human and environmental crisis of the 21st century, as it poses unusual challenges to the survival of humans, animals, plant life and ecosystems.

It also threatens social and economic systems, while jeopardizing development gains.

Africa and climate change

According to a report by CDPAfrica accounts for the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions, at just 3.8%, compared to 23% in China, 19% in the United States and 13% in Europe.

Although Africa is currently responsible for an insignificant amount of total global greenhouse gas emissions, it is highly threatened by climate change.

Despite being the least responsible for the problem, the continent is already facing more severe climate change than other parts of the world.

According to AUAfrica is more vulnerable to climate change due to the biophysical composition of the continent as well as numerous socio-economic vulnerabilities.

These vulnerabilities include a heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture (and natural resource-based sectors in general), a lack of alternative livelihoods, widespread poverty and inequality, low adaptive capacity, low levels of education and inequitable access to financial resources, credit, markets and climate information services (CIS).

The severe effects of climate change on Africa pose general risks to its economies, infrastructure investments, water and food systems, public health, agriculture and livelihoods.

According to World Meteorological Association (WMA), the deepening crisis and looming famine in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa show how climate change can intensify water shocks, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and destabilizing communities, entire countries and regions.

The WMA report also revealed that water stress and hazards such as devastating droughts and devastating floods are hitting African communities, economies and ecosystems hard.

Changes in precipitation levels, likely increase in extreme temperatures and sea level rise will have a wide range of direct and indirect impacts on Africa.

Increasingly, droughts, water scarcity and extreme weather events threaten Africa’s ability to feed itself; therefore, it needs a networked approach to food systems, energy and climate.

COP 27

At the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, delegates from developing countries called on countries responsible for the greatest greenhouse gas emissions to pay for climate-related damage; in addition to the funds already pledged to help Africa reduce its emissions.

Unfortunately, world leaders have so far been slow to respond to either request.

African leaders should demand more in terms of financing to combat the effects of climate change.

Available statistics show that achieving the targets set out in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of African countries would require additional funding of $41.3 billion each year.

There have been new funding commitments for Africa’s adaptation agenda from Western countries at the ongoing conference of parties (COP27) in Egypt, but additional funds will be needed to reach the target.

Calls to Action

In order to adapt to future climate challenges, it is important that decision-makers in Africa contribute to reducing the negative consequences for society and, in particular, to protecting vulnerable groups.

Countries like China and the United States are big carbon emitters and they have a moral obligation to help countries in Africa, especially the rural areas of these countries, to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Therefore, rich nations must step up their support to Africa and vulnerable countries to deal with the past, present and future impacts of climate change.

With Africa hosting COP27, it is hoped that addressing the continent’s climate needs will be high on the agenda, and it will be the summit that will finally do climate justice for Africa and vulnerable countries.

Photo sources: CIFOR

Teresa H. Sadler