One of my uncles in my rural village in Senegal said to me the other day, “Malle! Climate change is impacting our access to food, but most importantly it is destroying social cohesion and creating hopelessness. We farmers have heard a lot about the millions of investments in agriculture, but we are not feeling or seeing it. Does anyone care?”
My uncle is not alone in asking this question. Millions of Africans, including me, are asking the same question, in villages, in our countries, and on global platforms. We are asking: How can our potential be reached and how can we realize our dreams when climate change is destroying this possibility?
With only less than 3 percent of global emissions, Africa’s contribution to climate change is negligible, yet it stands out as the planet's most vulnerable continent. The continent currently experiences very little socioeconomic growth, losing 5-15 percent of its per capita economic growth because of climate change. And even though climate change is a global phenomenon, the most vulnerable and the poorest people bear the brunt, due to their inability to buy the goods and services required to protect them from rapidly changing climate impacts.
My uncle’s source of livelihood is agriculture. Agriculture is key to Africa’s development, with about 70 percent of the population depending on the sector, making it one of the most critical sectors for economic growth. By 2023, agriculture will make up half of Africa’s employment. More than 18 million jobs need to be created annually to absorb new entries in the labor market, but only 3 million formal jobs are currently being created. As the youngest continent, the economic prosperity of Africa’s youths is critical to the world’s stability, sustainability and prosperity.
The triple crises -- climate, conflicts and COVID-19 -- by their nature global in scope, are the greatest challenges of our time. They cannot be countered if countries, leaders and people act in isolation. We simply must act together. We cannot address the effects of climate change without integrated solutions led by a mutual, inclusive, and shared vision. The UN Secretary-General's Common Agenda report highlighted the importance of effective multilateral action which requires more effort from Member States to respond to the current and future global challenges. This common goal should be linked with actions, not just pledges. At the UNGA77, acting collectively to protect people and planet was at the center of all debates, with developing and least-developed countries, many of them already seriously affected by the climate crises, pushing for explicit attention to adaptation.
Yet as we recently observed during the African leaders’ Africa Adaptation Summit in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the absence of developing countries during the discussions on finding solutions and funding for climate change adaptation. Rightly, Senegal's President was "disappointed," and this is not building relationship and collaboration we so desperately need. Where is our 1972’s motto "Only One Earth" that triggered this collective action? Collective movement is the only way to overcome these challenges. We have had more than 50 years of conversations and discussions around the topic of climate change and its impacts on the most vulnerable, this with less disruptive changes and now we have just seven years left.
There is no doubt about it: All nations, wealthy and impoverished, must adjust to climate change collectively and swiftly. The catastrophic repercussions of failing to slow the rise in global temperature and prepare for a hotter planet were outlined in a recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Risks from global warming and extreme weather should be addressed through adaptation lens, which is extremely important for African nations. For instance, adaptation actions such as protecting crops, minimizing the effects of rising seas, and strengthening infrastructure or with integrated approaches like Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives in Ethiopia, Senegal, Uganda, sustainably increases productivity, and resilience of vulnerable communities whilst reducing emissions.
Even though many developed countries can profit from investing in adaptation measures to a hotter planet and adaptation alone is not sufficient and cannot take the place of mitigation. Without significant mitigation action, it will be difficult to manage the current level of global warming, and adaptation would be prohibitively expensive. The cost of both adaptation and mitigation is insurmountable for Africa. Climate Policy Initiative in their report on Finance Needs of African Countries noted that to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, Africa will need $2.8 trillion between 2020 and 2030, with adaptation counting for only 24 percent of total climate finance. This is the price that the continent must pay to address the most severe effects of climate change and keep warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. With Africa, receiving only $30 billion in yearly climate finance flows. It’s not enough, indeed.
The good news is that Africa has the potential to mobilize green investment by leveraging key innovative financial instruments such as blended finance, "debt for nature" swaps, sovereign wealth funds, sovereign pension funds.
COP 27 is also termed as the COP of actions for Africa. It is also hoped that it is a COP of implementation, action, and opportunity to share best practices and success stories that can inspire and serve as examples for other countries. It’s also the COP of collaboration, partnership, and multilateralism.
I believe that solutions are right in front of COP27. Solutions that will provide more green jobs, more adaptation finance, more green finance for vulnerable countries that will target and reach vulnerable beneficiaries, more gender-sensitive solutions, more clear action plans to support the achievement of the SDGs. All these solutions need to be actionable, just, inclusive, iImpactful and realizable within the proper and realistic time frame. We do not have more time, so let’s act.
Malle Fofana is the director and head of programs at the Global Green Growth Institute, Africa. -- Ed