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Business as usual is not enough to mitigate and adapt climate change risks for Africa over the next decade – Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program

Parts of Africa are heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world, requiring urgent action to tackle a challenge that has mounted over the last decade, participants at an Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program webinar heard. 

The Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program is a joint initiative of the African Development Bank and the Global Center on Adaptation. 

The webinar, held on 29 June as part of London Climate Action Week, explored the implications for Africa of the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth assessment reports. The reports provide updated assessments of global progress on climate change adaptation, mitigation and related pledges, and examine the sources of global emissions.

Moderated by Josué Tanaka, Visiting Professor in Practice, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change & the Environment, the session discussed the Working group I report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis; the Working Group II report ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’; and the Working Group III report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change.

Speakers included representatives of the IPCC, and a panel comprising policy, private sector and academia representatives.

In opening remarks, James Kinyangi, the ClimDev-Africa Special Fund coordinator at the African Development Bank, said that of a sampling of 30 African countries, over 60% are warming faster than the global average. Kinyangi was speaking on behalf of the African Development Bank’s Ag. Director for Climate Change and Green Growth.

Kinyangi said: “What are the transformative actions we need to take to mitigate risks of climate change? How can we adapt?” he probed.

Prof. Anthony Nyong, the Global Center on Adaptation’s Regional Director for Africa, said that keeping global warming below the 1.5℃ threshold would require doing things differently during the next decade than in recent years.

“Even if the world succeeds in keeping global warming below the threshold, there will still be some casualties along the way, especially for those on the front lines of climate change,” Nyong said, adding, “Africa is on the frontlines.”

Findings of the IPCC reports and Implications for Africa

In a presentation of the reports’ findings, Aïda Diongue-Niang, IPCC Working Group I lead author, warned that without immediate rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the 1.5℃ climate increase threshold will likely be crossed by 2030.

“Regardless of the level of global greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels will continue to rise until at least mid-century, leading to an increase in the frequency and severity of coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal regions,” Diongue-Niang said.

Dr. Edmond Totin, a member of IPCC Working Group II, said that over the past two decades, approximately 46,000 deaths recorded in Africa could be linked to natural disasters. Of these, 32% were caused by floods, while 46% were drought-related.

He observed that climate change has had a huge negative impact on health, including malaria incidents in Eastern Africa, a region that has suffered more frequent tropical cyclones. The incidence of cholera outbreaks has grown in frequency in both East and Southern Africa.

Yamina Saheb, IPCC Working Group III Lead Author, emphasized that greenhouse gases can be reduced by up to 70% if demand for energy, material, water and land is significantly reduced.

Chitembo Kawimbe Chunga of Zambia’s Ministry of Green Economy and Environment said national and local governments have a critical role to play in ensuring that Africa advances in climate adaptation and building resilience.

Philip Antwi-Agyei of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology noted that while climate change adaptation strategies could cushion some of the impacts for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, there would likely be trade-offs that must be well communicated.

These trade-offs might include higher costs, additional labor requirements, and competition among objectives or available resources, Antwi-Agyei said. He added that there would also be synergies arising from implementing adaptation measures, including increased productivity, yield stability, and environmental protection.

Olumide Lala, Director of Climate Transition, enjoined African countries to improve their data collection and urged increased finance for adaptation, which typically receives less funding than  mitigation.

Owing to a lack of funding, staffing, and technological infrastructure, Africa has just one-eighth the minimum density of weather stations recommended by the World Meteorological Organization, despite being the most vulnerable continent to climate change.

The webinar closed with a call for participants to amplify the findings within communities, governments and other stakeholder entities.

Learn more about the report’s main messages here:

For more information: J.MOITUI@AFDB.ORG, Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program

African Development Bank Group

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