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How Africa can turn climate adversity into growth

By People Reporter
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019
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Richard Munang 

A massive landslide recently caused death and destruction in West Pokot County. What happened in Kenya is not isolated.

Hundreds of thousands of people across East Africa are affected by heavy rains and floods, linked to record-breaking temperatures in the Indian Ocean. 

These changes are a result of the Indian Ocean Dipole  (Indian El Niño), a weather pattern first described 20 years ago.

Data shows the western Indian Ocean has been about two degrees Celsius warmer in October 2019, than the eastern Indian Ocean. The resultant higher evaporation off the African coastline is being dumped inland as rainfall.

 The Indian Ocean Dipole has steadily shifted gears upwards and is causing devastation. The Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, records that the current positive dipole is the strongest since 2001.

The escalating climate change will exacerbate these extreme events. 

Last month, 11,000 scientists in Journal Bioscience declared that “a climate emergency has arrived, and we must act”. 

A recent UNEP analysis of the latest climate science in context of response to climate change noted that our level of ambition as a global community needs to increase three to five times to keep within safe limits where we can guarantee prosperity for future generations.  

Africa has demonstrated willingness for increased ambition specifically, as the region with the highest levels globally of ratification of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. 

Increased ambition in Africa must be within the prism of the region’s economic fundamentals. Africa contributes least to global emissions — just 2-3 per cent, yet it is most vulnerable to effects of climate change.

While climate change is global, the poor are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects because they lack resources to recover from its effects. 

The implication for Africa is clear: Efforts to increase climate action ambition must align with accelerating socioeconomic growth to build resilient populations. This calls for enabling of meaningful increase of climate action ambition in Africa. 

First, we must divest from policy silos. While climate action is primarily domiciled in environment ministries, responsibility for action is shared with other line ministries. 

Ministries of agriculture, forestry, energy, planning, trade and finance are key. Policy implementation programmes across ministries need to be synchronised to ensure they respond to climate action but from the trajectory of accelerating socioeconomic transformation.   

Agro-value chains 

Second, climate action should not be segregated as “mitigation” or “adaptation” but rather any action should have both elements engaged in complementarity. 

A good example in Africa is mitigation investments primarily clean energy tagged to power value added actions in agro-value chains.

Africa increased solar investment 20-fold, from 100MW in 2009, to 2,000MW in 2016. But this clean power can be decentralised to power value addition enterprises in catalytic areas like the agro value chain, hence unlocking more income.  

Third, actions to engage mitigation and adaptation must take an enterprise perspective. For example, in Africa, decentralisation of clean energy — a mitigation action to powered agro-value addition— adaptation must be approached from the paradigm of enterprise-based actions. 

Fourth, to sustainably finance climate action meaningful to a majority, financing models must go beyond socially-driven to investment finance.

And for this, two key ingredients are building on existing structures for pooling resources and diversifying risks for example using cooperatives; targeting financing of enterprise actions. 

 Fifth, inclusive partnerships – involving both State and non-State actors are critical, with State actors creating enabling policy environment and non-State actors leveraging these enabling policies to create enterprise solutions.

While the climate catastrophe is with us, we can turn it into growth. If we act now, Africa can reduce its vulnerability by 90 per cent by 2050. — The writer is a climate change and development expert —[email protected]

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