Climate change must be integrated into the post-2015 agenda, as ignoring it may condemn many Africans to a life of poverty
sea in Africa
Cities and towns in sub-Saharan Africa face increasing risks from water scarcity and floods, while coastal areas are also threatened by sea level rise. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Observational records and model projections clearly shows that 75-250 million people in Africa are projected to face increased water stress by 2020 due to climate change; the average sea level is expected to rise by about 50 cm by 2100 and about 70 million people in Africa's coastal areas could face the risk of flooding by 2080. It is estimated that by 2100, parts of the Sahara are likely to become the most vulnerable, showing likely agricultural losses of between 2 and 7% of GDP and by 2050 average rice, wheat, and maize yields will decline by up to 14%, 22%, and 5%, respectively.
This poses a serious challenge to social and economic development particularly because the economies of most African countries depend on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water fisheries, energy, tourism etc. Any post-2015 agenda to reduce poverty in Africa sustainably needs to be 'climate proofed' with the flexibility and resources to ensure that communities can adapt to climate change and are protected against its impact. A post 2015 development framework needs to fully integrate climate change and the vital role of the environment in poverty reduction, as well as the causes of poverty and vulnerability. If, however, post-2015 discussions ignore climate change, they may condemn many Africans to a life of poverty; the result not only of climate change itself, but also of climate change responses that neglect the complexities of poverty reduction in the Africa continent.
To prevent that, here are eight steps that need to be taken to ensure that climate change is integrated into the post-2015 development agenda:
1 Protect and invest in African ecosystems
The African continent supports important biodiversity, both terrestrial and aquatic. Forest, grassland, coastal, freshwater and agricultural ecosystems provide food and clean water, store atmospheric carbon, support biodiversity, and offer tourism opportunities. Climate change will weaken these ecosystems, already stressed by overfishing, creeping desertification, deforestation and destruction of coral reefs.
2 Make adaptation and climate risk management core elements of post—2015 development agenda
While adapting to climate change and climate variability may push up the cost of development in the short term, for most African countries adaptation is fundamentally about sound, resilient development and ensuring economic gains over the long term. Key focus areas include: disaster risk reduction (DRR); sustainable land, water, and forest management; coastal and urban development; watershed management; increased agricultural productivity; health; and social issues. Building on small-scale solutions could unleash the adaptation potential as they can be rapidly implemented at the local level, are flexible and have the potential to initiate change on a larger scale with high multiplier and spill-over effects that can catalyse large-scale policy process at the national level. Integration of climate change adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk into planning and decision-making processes at all levels of government is crucial.
3 Take advantage of mitigation opportunities
Most of sub-Saharan Africa's mitigation opportunities are linked to more sustainable land and forest management, clean energy use and development (such as geothermal or hydropower), and the creation of sustainable urban transport systems. Some opportunities exist to access carbon finance by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD), and through renewable energy and energy efficiency. This will help African countries to commit to the mitigation agenda, putting pressure on large emitters in Asia, North America and Europe to do the same, while furthering development.
4 Promote Sustainable agriculture and provide support to expand sustainable agriculture methods
The region must adopt climate-resilient technologies and practices to increase its crop yields and protect its livestock. Countries need to accelerate research, extension services and market infrastructure, while helping farmers benefit from integrating biodiversity into the landscape, and reduce carbon emissions from soil and deforestation. They must also hedge against climate risk by diversifying income sources and genetic material in crops.
5 Manage water
Water resources can be managed better even in poor countries and among small farmers through a combination of new and existing technologies, good information and stronger policies. In sub-Saharan Africa, measures should include expanding existing infrastructure and systems, and planning for storage and power transmission in the context of the changing climate.
6 Investment in climate smart infrastructures
Sub-Saharan Africa's urban population is set to exceed the rural by 2030. Moreover, cities and towns face increasing risks from water scarcity and floods, while coastal areas are also threatened by sea level rise. Hazard risk management needs to be mainstreamed into land use planning. Support and invest in networks of business incubators to spur entrepreneurship and innovation that is based on market demand and also addresses climate change challenges.
7 Focus on knowledge and capacity development
While there is unequivocal evidence that the climate is changing, much uncertainty remains regarding the pace and extent of change, as well as the impacts on different sub-regions and sectors. This uncertainty makes policy decisions more complex, and magnifies the need for Africa to build its knowledge and analytical base, as well as strengthen the capacity of country and regional institutions for weather forecasting, water resources monitoring, land use information, disaster preparedness, risk management, and planning and coordination.
8 Invest in information services
Reliable information is fundamental for good natural resource management. Africa is in dire need of better monitoring and forecasting systems. According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Africa has only one weather station per 26,000 sq km — one eighth the recommended minimum (Science and Development Network, 2006). Improve weather forecasting, water resources monitoring, land use information, disaster preparedness and investing in appropriate technology development. Strengthening capacity for planning and coordination, participation and consultation; and, bring all sectors together to collaborate and engage on a common vision for addressing climate change in Africa.