Without a doubt, climate change poses significant perils to Africa’s sustainable development outlooks over the next decade. The recent trends of increasing global temperatures and incidences of extreme climate events in Africa—mainly droughts and floods—are likely to continue. These severe climate events reveal the extent and depth of the effect of climate change on African economies. African policymakers should prioritize climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in their respective development agenda with the view of catalysing and sustaining the relative peace and economic growth on the continent. Furthermore, Africa’s voice in international climate change negotiations is very limited even though it is the continent’s most affected and also the smallest contributor to the man-made effects of—climate change. To successfully minimize the effects of climate change, Africa must adopt policy frameworks that can bolster the continent’s resilience to climate change and also strategize to increase her voice and representation in subsequent international climate change forums.
2019 was recorded to be the second warmest year and the end of the warmest decade (2010- 2019) ever witnessed. Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to new records in 2019. Concomitants of climate change are affecting every country on the continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming more extreme. Although global greenhouse gas emissions were projected to drop about 6 per cent in 2020 due to travel bans and economic slowdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, this improvement is only temporary. Climate change is not on recess. Once the global economy begins to recuperate from the pandemic, emissions are expected to return to higher levels. Climate change creates conflict over water and grazing resources and threatens the lives and property of citizens across the continent.
The Case of Lake Chad Basin Area
The disastrous effect of climate change is witnessed first-hand in the Lake Chad Basin Area. The shrinking of the Lake Chad has grave security, socio-economic and political implications for member countries. The impact of the drying lake is causing tensions among communities around Lake Chad and has birthed crisis such as food insecurity, conflicts, terrorism, forced displacement etc. There is repeated strife among nationals of different countries over control of the remnants of the lake. Cameroonians and Nigerians in Darak village, for example, constantly fight over the water. Nigerians claim to be the first settlers in the village, while Cameroonians invoke nationalistic sentiments since the village is within Cameroonian territory. .Fish production has recorded a 60 per cent decline, while pasturelands have been degraded, resulting in a shortage of animal feed, livestock and biodiversity.
What Should Be Done
The African Union in collaboration with Africa regional organisations, national governments and development partners need to collaborate more effectively in presenting a united and robust front against the scourge of climate change in Africa. The under-listed are some policy recommendations they should consider in strengthening Africa’s resilience to the challenges posed by climate change:
1) Adaptation. This is concerned with the efforts to adjust systems and societies to withstand the impact of climate change. Underscoring this, policymakers and development partners in Africa need to prioritize and broaden the scope of investment that supports scientific research for the development of better agronomic practices and agricultural enterprise mixes that can thrive under drought and efficient soil and groundwater conservation techniques. The need to strengthen and integrate continental institutional capacities/facilities in climate forecasting, early warning and disaster management will be instrumental in rolling back the disastrous effect of climate change in Africa. Moreover, the regulatory framework for developing new infrastructure such as roads, houses, canals, dams, bridges amongst others should include strict legal and compliance requirements that will ensure Africa’s climate resilience is not vitiated by the execution of the intended projects.
2) Mitigation. Mitigation is a long-term measure aimed at reducing the amount of anthropogenic (human) emissions of GHG that is warming our planet as well as engendering harmful disasters ranging from droughts, bushfires, flooding, hurricanes, landslides, forced migration, conflicts, disease outbreaks, hunger, poverty etc. Africa as a continent needs to adopt a multifaceted approach towards climate change mitigation in its efforts to move towards climate-resilient and low emissions thresholds. The tripartite mitigation strategies for combating climate change are conventional mitigation, negative emissions and radiative forcing geoengineering. Conventional mitigation technologies focus on reducing fossil-based CO2 emissions. Negative emissions technologies are aimed at capturing and sequestering atmospheric carbon to decrease carbon dioxide levels. Finally, geoengineering techniques of radiative forcing alter the earth’s radiative energy budget to stabilize or reduce global temperatures.
3) Financial Empowerment. To improve climate change resilience, African governments and international donors need to devise effective ways through which the most vulnerable members of society—children, the elderly and women—are better protected from climate change and climate-related disasters. Policymakers should identify the most vulnerable segments of society, coordinate efforts among relevant institutions, and set aside the necessary resources to reach out to these vulnerable groups. One way of addressing this challenge is through the integration of the poor into national or regional commodity value chains. This integration enables the poor to take advantage of the increasing demand for agricultural and manufactured products induced by population growth and the expansion of the middle class. To this end, financial service reforms that enable lending to the poor (e.g., removal of entry barriers); tax reductions or subsidies for private banking institutions that reach out to the poor (especially women); and rural microfinance institutions can empower the poor and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.
4) Enhanced Africa’s representation and prospects in International Climate Change Fora.
As a precursory step, Africa needs to train and retrain its delegates so as to increase their capacity, knowledge and awareness on contemporary matters surrounding climate change to effectively address and project African priorities remarkably.
It behoves us as global citizens to readapt our ways of operations in such a way that will reduce the spate of global warming thereby preserving the future of our planets and by extension, eliminating the concomitants of climate change