Africa’s climate crisis: A call for fairness at COP 28 

climate/africa/cop 28

Africa’s climate crisis: A call for fairness at COP 28 


The severity of the climate crisis in Africa cannot be overemphasized. The high rate of economic damage, food insecurity, migration, displacement, and conflict over dwindling resources in the continent vividly illustrates its limited fiscal resources and low capacity to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. 


In recent years, Africa has experienced a surge in extreme weather events, with the average rate of warming reaching a concerning +0.4°C per decade from 1991 to 2022, surpassing the global average. The consequences of this surge were evident in 2022 when Algeria and Tunisia were ravaged by devastating wildfires. If adequate response measures are not implemented, an estimated 118 million people in Africa, predominantly the extremely poor, will face the brunt of droughts, floods, and extreme heat by 2030, further complicating poverty alleviation efforts and impeding economic growth.


According to the State of the Climate in Africa 2022 report released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) at the Africa Climate Summit in September 2023, over 110 million people on the African continent were directly affected by climate- related hazards causing more than USD 8.5 billion in economic damage in 2022. There were also a reported 5000 fatalities, of which 48% were associated with drought and 43% were associated with flooding, according to the Emergency Event Database. The true toll is assumed to be much higher because of under-reporting, and the Association of African Development Finance Institutions (AADFI) warns that Africa stands to lose an estimated $30 billion annually, equivalent to 15% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the devastating effects of climate change by 2030. 


The stakes are exceptionally high for Africa, where most of its population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. According to the world Factbook by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), agriculture supports 55% to 62% of the labour force in Africa, however, there has been a drastic decline in its growth and productivity with a 34% decrease since 1961, the highest among all regions.


The vulnerability of African agriculture to climate change, heavily reliant on rainfall, is strikingly evident in the Sahel, regularly plagued by droughts and floods that decimate crops. With temperatures expected to increase 1.5 times higher than the rest of the world by the end of the 21st century, African countries will experience more frequent droughts due to shorter wet spells or increased floods from heavier rains, leading to reduced food production because they lack the infrastructure and support systems present in wealthier nations. By 2025, annual food imports by African countries are projected to triple, reaching US$ 110 billion up from US$ 35 billion, as the continent struggles to produce enough food locally. 


Yet, amidst this crisis, Africa faces an alarming disparity in financial support for adaptation. It is no longer news that the developed countries have a historical responsibility for global emissions and fallen short of their promise to provide $100 billion annually to help African nations combat climate change. Current contributions, according to the Climate Policy Institute, are less than a third of the pledged amount, leaving Africa far from the $2.4 trillion it needs to meet its Paris Agreement targets by 2030. This inequality extends to research funding, with 80% allocated to developed nations, undermining Africa’s research capacity and local expertise to address climate challenges. 


According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the expenses linked to climate change adaptation throughout Africa could reach $50 billion annually by 2050, even if the global temperature increase remains below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. However, the current financial support for climate change adaptation in the Africa is inadequate compared to what is needed. This shortfall jeopardizes the continent’s ability to address the challenges posed by climate change effectively, putting African countries at risk of missing out on unlocking their full economic potential. Unless these issues are thoroughly addressed, the consequences for Africa’s economic growth will be profound in the coming decades.


As we gear up for COP 28 in Dubai, it is crucial that negotiators, including government leaders, recognize the urgency of addressing Loss and Damage caused by climate change. The inequality in climate impacts, where those least responsible bear the brunt, demands more ambitious climate finance. Rich, polluting countries, both historic and recent contributors, must significantly cut their carbon emissions to prevent further climate chaos. The success of COP 28 hinges on prioritizing and negotiating feasible solutions for Africa’s climate challenges, ensuring that the continent is not left behind in the global effort to combat climate change. 


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