Africa and the challenges of climate change

Climate change is a tangible reality. Key climate change indicators reached record levels in 2015, as though the climate itself were trying to emphasize the historical importance of the Paris Agreement made at the end of COP21 in France in December 2015.

There can be no doubt that Africa is one of the regions of the world that are hardest hit by climate change. Its effects are already visible and palpable, with real impacts on the lives of millions of Africans.

Extreme weather events are increasing

In the 10 years from 1995 to 2015, Africa suffered 136 episodes of drought, 77 of which were in the region of East Africa alone. In 2015 southern and northern Africa were hard hit by drought, with South Africa recording its worst drought in a century. In fact, 2015 has been the warmest year ever recorded in the world since meteorological records began. Conversely, Niger, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Angola and Malawi have suffered deadly and devastating floods.

The current El Niño phenomenon, the ocean current that runs to the south and east of African coasts, has plunged some 40 million Africans into food insecurity in 2015-2016.

7 out of 10 of the most vulnerable countries in the world are in Africa

And this is the injustice of climate change: Africa contributes less than 4% of world greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) but is one of its main victims. Of the 10 countries in the world considered most threatened by climate change, 7 are African: Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea.

Or in other words, the fight to preserve the climate is a critical issue for the African continent. A challenge made all the more acute by the number of challenges Africa already faces: the population boom (population of 2.5 billion by 2050, according to UN predictions, amounting to one quarter of the world population), rampant urbanization and the problems of unemployment and work, etc.

Food security at risk

The multiple and devastating effects of climate change - drought, increasing scarcity of water resources, desertification, flood, storm, and more - bring one more pressure to bear on a food production system that is already fragile in Africa, a continent that already faces major challenges associated with food insecurity. This is exacerbated by the fact that 94% of the continent's agriculture is rain-dependent.

It is a serious threat in light of the approximately 232 million Africans - one in four - who are suffering from malnutrition today. And if nothing is done to change the climate situation, Africa will be able to meet just 13% of its food needs by 2050, according to the United Nations. This also threatens the livelihoods of the approximately 65% of the active population of Africa who work in agriculture. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report Africa's Adaptation Gap noted that warming of approximately 2°C would lead to a 10% fall in sub-Saharan African agricultural output by 2050, a fall that could be 15 to 20% if warming exceeds 2°C.

Threat to development

And it is not just agriculture that is under threat. It is an entire ecosystem, biodiversity, and economic and geostrategic balances, as well as the livelihoods of whole populations that are at risk The negative effects of climate change are already affecting the GDP of Africa by approximately 1.4% and the costs of adaptation are expected to reach 3% of annual GDP by 2030, or even 7% per year by 2100, according the UNDP, if global warming reaches 4°C.

Numbers of those displaced by climate change are growing too. There were 8.2 million in Africa in 2012, that is, four times more than in the preceding four years, according to Global Estimates 2012, a joint report by the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) published in 2013.

The situation is brutal: climate change threatens to reduce to naught a large part of the progress made by the countries of the continent over the last twenty years in health, social development and stability.

Defending the interests of Africa: prevailing in the global debate

If nothing is done to defend the interests of Africa, the continent is at risk of paying very dearly for the effects of climate change, as pointed out in the 2014 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The bill will be even higher for African countries if the developed countries do not keep their promises, made in Paris in December 2015: To provide each year by 2020, US $100 billion to developing countries to help them fight climate change.

The stakes are high, and not only in financial terms. That is why it is so important for the African continent to make its voice heard in international debates and decisions adopted on climate change: to no longer suffer, but to effectively combat its harmful effects, or even to demonstrate innovation with solutions that the international community could take inspiration from.

This is exactly what the African Development Bank (AfDB) is working for, a partner of the Pavilion and whose Ten-Year Strategy (2013-2022) is intended to foster a transition to inclusive, "green" growth.

Its "High 5s" too fully address the cross-cutting issues posed by climate change.

This is why the AfDB is attending COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, in November 2016, with its partners from the Africa Pavilion, the African Union Commission, NEPAD and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa: to hold high the colours and interests of the 54 countries that make up Africa.

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