Magazine article New African

Africa in the Climate Change Negotiations

Magazine article New African

Africa in the Climate Change Negotiations

Article excerpt

Since the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in 1992, popularly referred to as the Rio Earth Summit, the issue of climate change has moved to the centre stage of the global development agenda. Many countries, to varying degrees, have devised ways and means of mitigating the threats and impact of global warming.

What has become evident is the swell of support for immediate and concrete solutions. Consensus has been reached that climate change is a global challenge which puts at risk not only our environment, but also world economic prosperity, development gains and equally worryingly, political stability and human security. This is nowhere more the case than in Africa.

Stress factors

Africa's vulnerability to climate change is exacerbated by 'multiple stresses' and a number of non-climatic factors, including low levels of development, a high prevalence of diseases, conflicts, high dependence on rain-fed agriculture and low adaptive capacity.

While the continent is certainly not a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), accounting for less than 2-3% of the world's output, the effects of climate change on its more than a billion people are disproportionate.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that by 202 about 250 million people will be exposed to increased water stress in Africa due to climate change.

Lake Chad, once the largest water reservoir in the Sahel Region, with an area of 26,000 square kilometres--an area the size of Burundi and more than twice the size of The Gambia--is a shadow of itself. The lake provides an economic lifeline to more than 30 million people across four countries: Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Today Lake Chad is less than 10% of the size it covered in the 1960s, according to the Lake Chad Basin Commission. In another example of water stress due to climate change, the World Bank predicts that by 2080 annual rainfall may decrease by up to 30% in southern and east Africa.

Further, the World Bank in a 2013 report titled "Turn the Heat Down" predicted that by 2030, dry and arid regions will expand by 10%, particularly in southern Africa and parts of West Africa. Climate change will also impact the agriculture sector significantly as African farmers risk losing between 40-80% of their croplands which grow maize, millet and sorghum due to an increase in global average temperatures by 1.5[degrees] to 2[degrees]C by 2040.

Also, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by 50% by 2020, which is likely to adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition. These predictions are certainly cause for concern and require immediate tangible action if we are to arrest the impending situation.

Africa's presence and participation in global environmental processes spans several decades, including the landmark Stockholm Conference of 1972, which assessed the human impact on the environment for the first time.

Before the UN framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established in 1992, African countries had already devised various environmental policies, often articulated in National Environmental Action Plans, although most of these were either not accompanied by tangible frameworks of implementation, or by attempts to mainstream environmental challenges into development planning and policies in an integrated and holistic manner.

More recently, leadership has been provided through the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC), a high-level committee of the African Union established in 2009 to ensure that Africa speaks with one voice.

African leaders have used this political platform to express and defend the continent's interests in the climate change debate, pushing for financial compensation for natural, economic and social resources that have been lost and arguing that it is the historical responsibility of developed countries to invest at least 1. …

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