Climate change: Are wealthy polluters leaving vulnerable Africa behind?

Climate change: Are wealthy polluters leaving vulnerable Africa behind?

On Oct. 12, China pledged about 230 million dollars to establish a fund to protect biodiversity in developing countries.

President Xi Jinping made the pledge while speaking at a virtual UN conference ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) scheduled for Glasgow, Scotland.

China’s commitment to a Kumming Biodiversity Fund is one of the expected symbolic pledges among world leaders as they prepare for another round of discussions on climate change.

Already, there are damning climate change reports and discourses dominating civic and media spaces ahead of COP26.

Younger people, who seem to be more energetic climate change activists, are furious that they are being let down by world leaders’ inability to do more to tackle global warming.

There are also issues of increasing impacts – in severity, frequency and proportion – of climate change on the environment.

However, climate change experts in Africa believe that one sub-topic that has not been accorded deserved attention is the inequality that exists in responsibility and response to global warming between wealthy nations and African countries.

Although a 2020 report published by the African Development Bank (AfDB) claimed that huge research gaps could result in insufficient understanding of Africa’s exact contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it is believed that the continent is responsible for just about 3 per cent of total global GHG emissions.

The impact of global warming is not lost on the continent, with devastating mudslides, flash floods, droughts and desertification becoming more common.

Also, climate change has been identified as a significant enabler of farmers/herder conflicts, violent extremism, irregular migration and food insecurity, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

For instance, as part of the Africa Program Publications in the Wilson Centre, Osei Baffour Frimpong argued that climate change interacts with and compounds existing risks and vulnerabilities present in communities.

Groundswell – Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, a World Bank Group report released in March 2018, projected that over 140 million people could move within their countries’ borders by 2050 in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

The latest instalment of the Groundswell report, Acting on Internal Migration Part 2, released on Sept. 13, 2021, warned that climate change could force 216 million people across six world regions to migrate within their countries by 2050, with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 86 million.

“Climate change is a powerful driver of internal migration because of its impact on people’s livelihoods and loss of livability in highly exposed locations.

“By 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa could see as many as 86 million internal climate migrants; East Asia and the Pacific, 49 million; South Asia, 40 million; North Africa, 19 million; Latin America, 17 million; and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, five million,” the report said.

Climate change also plays a major role in Africa’s food insecurity and hunger.

Conflict and instability have a direct connection to food insecurity and under-nutrition because 70 per cent of the world’s poorest people who suffer malnutrition live in rural areas and depends on agriculture for their livelihood.

The importance of farming to economic growth and development, as well as food security and peace in many African countries cannot be overemphasised.

Both crop and livestock farmers are responsible for more than 90 per cent of Africa’s agricultural production.

In many countries in western, central and east Africa, small scale crop farmers and livestock rearers are the livewire of the food required to feed the larger city populations.

Agriculture employs 65 per cent of Africa’s labour force and accounts for 32 per cent of Africa’s total gross domestic product (GDP).

Consequently, in Nigeria for instance, as grazing regions become hotter and drier, pastoralists are compelled to migrate southward if their cattle would have any chance of survival.

This has made climate change one of the several intertwined roots of transhuman movements by pastoralists and causes of farmers/herders clashes.

Unfortunately, these dynamics, which environmentally threaten Africa’s survival and put global peace at risk, have not been stressed enough in climate change deliberations.

Unlike in developed economies, the largest part of Africa’s GHG emissions comes from Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU).

Yet, Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change impacts under all climate scenarios above 1.5 degrees Celsius, in spite of its low contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts have warned that commitments made by individual countries under the National Determined Contributions (NDCs) within the Paris Agreement will mean little if GHG emissions mitigation efforts are not given priority in Africa.

Ironically, one sector which succinctly depicts Africa’s neglect by the international community when it comes to climate change is renewable energy.

Morocco may be making a huge difference with its Noor-Ouarzazate world’s largest concentrated solar farm and South Africa may have found a way to bring down the cost of solar energy to the extent that it could compete favourably with the more traditional and cheap energy from coal, yet the continent still lags far behind in finding environmentally sustainable energy mix.

Kandeh Yumkella, a former United Nations Under-Secretary-General and former CEO and representative of the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, attributed this challenge to failure of Africa’s energy plans to attract investment.

“Renewable energy plans have to be bankable and the private sector needs to be courted with availability of technology, manpower and policy stability, irrespective of the government in power,” Yumkella told an energy summit in Abuja in 2017.

The Paris Agreement provides a framework for financial, technical and capacity building support for countries that require it.

Therefore, to make sense of the Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degree Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels, more attention needs to be paid to the challenges Africa faces and what solutions are available in the contexts of cooperation, financial assistance, technology transfer and capacity building.

Starting at the COP26 coming up in November, the international community should acknowledge, by consensus, that climate change is a global security threat with far more severe consequences for the region of Africa.

In effect, world leaders should commit to a specific action plan to finance research and development efforts capable of providing home-grown solutions to Africa’s environmental challenges.

Transfer of technology in the area of green energy and investment in the renewable energy sector (similar to investment seen in oil and gas) should be incentivised to open up an entirely new economy for Africa and Africans.

Through the African Union, a continental climate change framework that will help members compare notes and cooperate, through needs assessment, to find bespoke solutions to their climate change challenges, should be pursued.

The continent should also begin to raise new generation of carbon-conscious young Africans through education and advocacy.

There is no one-cap-fits-all solution to global climate change and no one country is immune to its impacts.

However, if there is one lesson COVID-19 has taught the world, it is that no one is safe until everyone is safe. The earlier wealthy countries relate this to global warming as regards Africa, the better for all. (NANFeatures)

***If used, please credit the writer and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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