Listen More to Africa’s Voice On Climate Change

As more than 120 world leaders converge in New York this week for an unprecedented UN climate summit, one highly- significant voice needs to be heard – Africa’s.

In all global discussions about rising sea levels, shrinking rain forests, imperiled species and biodiversity, green bonds and carbon prices, Africa’s unique stake and contribution to a global climate strategy needs to be prioritised. This is only right for a continent that has contributed the least to the profound changes underway in the earth’s climate, but whose people will suffer its withering impact the most.

Africa is responsible for only 3.8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.But from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa to the south of the continent, African countries experience first-hand the devastating effects of increasingly severe droughts and floods and more extreme weather patterns. Africa’s political and business leaders are already committed to a climate-resilient growth path, yet the path promises to be bumpy.

Disturbing scenario:

Recent World Bank research outlines a disturbing scenario for sub-Saharan Africa in a 2degC warmer world, forecasting dramatic effects on agriculture and food production in a region where 80 per cent of people rely on agriculture. Consequently, we cannot separate agriculture and food security from climate change.

Agriculture in Africa accounts for 30 to 40 percent of GDP. A 1.5degC to 2degC increase in temperature by the 2030s and 2040s will lead to a 40- to 80-per cent reduction in the area of land suitable for growing maize, millet and sorghum. These cereals are the mainstay of African diets, especially in the drylands of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

We must also amplify the links between climate change and conflict. In a 2013 paper published in Science magazine, economists Solomon Hsiang, Marshall Burke, and Edward Miguel argued that there is g evidence linking climatic events to human conflict in Africa and across all other major regions of the world.

Africa’s harsher future climate will also change traditional livelihoods. As temperatures rise, Africa’s iconic savanna grasslands will dry up and threaten the livelihoods of their pastoral communities. Given the sensitivity of livestock – their goats, cows, and other animals – to extreme heat, too little water and feed, and disease, pastoralism is likely to be in danger.

Rainfall patterns will dramatically change droughts and floods will be more frequent and lead to a three-per cent expansion in total arid areas. Entire cities and villages along the coast-capital cities and crucial deep-sea ports could be wiped out due to rising sea levels. Countries such as Togo, Ghana and Mozambique could lose more than 50 per cent of their coastal GDP, according to recent estimates.

Sustainable management of the region’s rich natural resources – forests, water, and land – can contribute to the storage of carbon, while supporting livelihoods and generating economic benefits. Africa is one of the world’s fastest-urbanising continents. Parched rural hinterlands will steadily force people to move to already-crowded cities, creating overcrowding, stressing supplies of safe drinking water and drainage and sanitation.

Whole continent:

At the African Union summit in Malabo last June, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete reminded his audience that the “effects of climate change are likely to strike to the detriment of the whole continent”. He added that Africa required in excess of $15bn per year to combat climate change, a figure that continues to rise.

The good news is that Africa is uniquely well positioned to build resilience, especially in energy and agriculture, and has already embraced sustainability. In Kenya, small farmers are now earning carbon credits from sustainable farming. In South Africa, the city of Johannesburg recently issued its first green city bond to finance low-carbon infrastructure. In Africa, wind and solar potential can be over 1,000GW, but needs to be fully exploited.

The continent has embarked on a clean power revolution that brings more electricity to people’s homes, businesses, clinics and schools. With only one in three Africans having access to energy, the task is urgent. Africa has tremendous untapped hydro, geothermal, and solar power and must be developed to provide the electricity needed to offer sustained – and green – growth for the benefit of all its citizens.

The World Bank is stepping up to the challenge. We are financing transformational projects that attack poverty from multiple angles. We are supporting governments to promote “climate-smart agriculture” so that African farmers can achieve higher yields and make their farming more resilient to the changing climate. In DRC, a $73.1m technical assistance project will pave the way to bring hydroelectric power to nine million people.

These interventions are just a starting point – not nearly enough to address the monumental energy needs of the continent. Although prices for renewables have declined significantly in the past decade, these energy sources are still costly. The green energy revolution in African cannot be achieved without financial support of the international community, to bring down the costs of adopting these clean technologies.

The warning signs are clear climate change under even the 2degC scenario is a menacing threat to sustainable development in Africa. These impacts could potentially overwhelmexisting development efforts. We ignore the early signs at our collective peril. But, through collective action, we can ensure a climate-resilient future that benefits all Africans and the entire planet.

The author is the World Bank vice president for the Africa region .

Source : The Observer

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