The upcoming COP28 climate conference in Dubai is crucial for Africa, a continent that the rising climate crisis has severely impacted. Recent climate-related disasters have inflicted over $8.5 billion of economic damage and even exacerbated challenges in fragile nations such as Somalia and Sudan. According to the International Monetary Fund, these particularly vulnerable states have endured a cumulative GDP loss of about 4% three years after extreme weather events.
Droughts, storms, and floods haven't just compromised agriculture, the backbone of fragile economies, they've also contributed to conflict: in Somalia, terrorist-controlled territories have faced food insecurity during prolonged droughts, hindering humanitarian efforts, while in central Mali, floods have been exacerbated by farmers fleeing local wars.
Meanwhile, climate projections indicate that by 2050, an additional 78 million Africans will face chronic hunger. This is on top of nearly 600 million Africans – more than the combined population of France, Japan, the US, and the UK – who already have no access to electricity.
Most Africans have heard of climate change, and over 66% think that climate conditions for agricultural production have worsened in the last decade. Among Africans who have heard of climate change, 71% insist that it needs to be stopped, while 51% feel positive that they can do something to help.
And there is a further irony here. Even though more industrialised nations have triggered the climate crisis, Africa has been subject to a disproportionate economic burden in dealing with it. Africa may be responsible for less than 4% of historical emissions, but as a 2022 study shows, African nations spend an average of 4% of their GDP addressing global warming, with countries such as Sierra Leone, despite its minimal carbon emissions, allocating significant resources.
It's obvious a comprehensive plan is urgently needed, one that recognises the interconnectedness of climate and conflict in vulnerable regions while supporting Africa's development amid the challenges posed by climate change.
Any plan should encompass several vital elements. Firstly, it must prioritise the urgent need for financial support and commitments from the global community, which should be substantial and sustained. Africa must demand a comprehensive financial deal from the West due to their historical role in the climate crisis, with priority given to the most vulnerable regions. The African Group has urged wealthy nations to commit $200-400bn yearly for loss and damage, plus an extra $400 bn annually for climate change adaptation by 2030, alongside fossil fuel phase-out plans.
And this shouldn't be just done out of charity. Given the unequal impact of climate change on the continent, as a critical element of a just and equitable transition, this should be an ethical duty. As major global players, the West, including the US, Europe, and China, should commit substantial, predictable, and long-term funding. As a significant emitter, the latter should support Africa's shift to renewable energy. While Europe, committed to climate action, should lead by example in fair climate cooperation.
While Africa's fossil fuel resources, worth around $10 trillion, do offer economic potential, it's also clear their extraction would worsen emissions. A fair solution might involve compensating Africa for not tapping into them. Such compensation might include financial incentives, technology transfer for renewables, and support for sustainable development. Neither should this compensation be considered an inducement; rather, it should be a recognition of Africa's role in the global carbon budget.
Secondly, any such plan should address the specific vulnerabilities of Africa's most fragile and conflict-affected countries, which face unique challenges. Furthermore, such a plan should advocate for increased investment in climate-resilient infrastructure, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy. And finally, it needs to include ways to share technology and help Africans learn new skills.
And there are green shoots: held last September, the inaugural Africa Climate Summit marked a crucial step for the continent, uniting African leaders and policymakers to create plans for climate action. One significant outcome was the Nairobi Declaration, whereby Africa committed to green growth, a revamped climate finance system, and the introduction of a global carbon tax.
While the summit showed Africa's commitment to addressing climate change, there remains concern that its achievements might need to be adequately considered at COP28. While Africa has actively participated in global climate discussions, hosting key conferences and contributing to climate negotiations, the continent's concerns have often struggled to gain the attention it deserves in previous COP conferences, and commitments to financial support have generally fallen short of Africa's needs. To ensure COP28's success, it's crucial to build upon the Africa Climate Summit's achievements, incorporating its commitments into the broader international climate agenda.
Africa should also tackle the climate crisis with a proactive mindset, emphasising resilience and taking charge. For example, with the aid of groups such as the African Risk Capacity, focused on aiding member states in climate and disease readiness, who are ready to contribute their knowledge. Instead of seeing herself as a casualty, she should showcase her strengths, such as her diverse cultures and ecosystems, to create unique climate solutions, inspire her citizens, and gain global recognition for building a sustainable and climate-resilient future.
Always, there is hope: innovations such as regenerative farming, climate-smart techniques, and climate-resistant grains will help Africa tackle the effects of the climate crisis, enhancing agricultural resilience, food security, and economic development. While regenerative farming restores soil health and biodiversity, reducing reliance on harmful chemicals, practices such as crop rotation improve soil fertility and mitigate the impact of extreme weather. Meanwhile, climate-smart farming uses technology such as drought-resistant crops, developed through breeding and genetic modification, to ensure food security.
COP28, therefore, provides a vital opportunity to address historical injustices, listen to Africa's needs, and create a plan for both adaptation and sustainable development. We may start by integrating the innovations in agriculture and commitments from the Nairobi Declaration into the global climate agenda. It's time to view Africa not as a victim but as a partner in building a sustainable, low-carbon future. The time for action is now.
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