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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

IPCC report, climate actions beyond promises and aids

‘‘This cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

Hoesung Lee
Hoesung Lee, IPCC chair

These scary lines conclude the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report of 2022.

Produced by renowned scientists across the globe, the latest IPCC report has confirmed our fears. Unanimously, governments of 195 nations have endorsed the report, so its credibility won’t be a source of debate. The assessment covered 34,000 studies and strongly reminds us of the ‘‘threatening and exacerbating’’ impacts of climate on people and the planet. The space for action is brief and rapidly closing and as UN secretary-general António puts it: “Delay is death.”

Research shows that between 3.3 billion-3.6 billion people in developing countries, small islands, the arctic, South Asia, Central, and South America, and the whole of Sub-Sahara Africa are currently facing climate crisis or potentially vulnerable to its impacts. And because vulnerability is predominant in informal settlements where social and economic deprivation inhibits resilience, over 60% of Africa’s population is in this category.

With this IPCC report, Africa remains the most vulnerable continent. Africa will suffer the most consequence should the world maintain its trend above 1.5 degrees Celsius. A continent with the lowest emissions faces increasing collateral damage with grievous risks on her economies, social investments, water use and supply, public health, and agricultural systems.

The deprived continent faces threats on her modest development and is now likely to slip further into extreme poverty, hunger and displacement should action be deferred against proven scientific cautions. Four of the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change in the world are in Africa: Mozambique, Malawi, Ghana, and Madagascar, but this ranking was in 2015, a lot has changed with Africa now hosting seven of the ten countries most affected by climate change.

Visibly against the spirit of the Paris Agreement of 2015, concrete financial commitments are yet to be made by big polluting countries, making Africa dumpsite for failed hypotheses including net-zero. However, a careful study of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) of some African countries showed a moderate embrace of adaptation, and mitigation but climate change plans must be more than an aspiration, they must be inclusive, indigenous, time-bound, and smart.

And with policies and institutional frameworks also being set up, as in the case of Nigeria’s 2021 National Climate Change Act, Morocco’s renewable energy policy that targets 52% renewable energy mix by 2030 and South Africa’s Carbon Tax Act with special levies on greenhouse gases from fuel combustion, industrial processes, and emissions, the continent seems prepared, but her pace and consistency is something to worry about. It is necessary to thoroughly consider the impacts of these options and their significance on the overall social and economic being of the region.

Earlier, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-commissioned research estimated that the cost of adapting to climate change across Africa could reach $50 billion a year by 2050 if the global temperature increase is kept within 2°C above preindustrial levels. The continent is yet to have a clearly defined climate response finance, and this has worsened the crises. We will need to review our NDC’s commitments and sustainably deliver on them.

This present beggarly and dependent approach will only expose our unreadiness and inadequacies as a continent and this will undoubtedly allow further infractions from the big corporations. Absolute reliance on foreign financial, technical, and capacity-building aids will only make the continent more subservient and the people deeply impoverished.

Africa must desist from the isolated intervention for climate crises, evident realities across the region have shown its failures. And since climate crises are inseparable from biodiversity imbalance, poverty, and inequality there is a need to integrate climate change into regional government policies, capture their connectivity, prioritise, advance, and align same to deliver on sustainable development that Africans are currently deprived of.

Expectedly, the liability clause that explains ‘‘losses and damages’’ by big polluting entities was again omitted in the last climate change discourse, at the detriment of Africa of course. The reasons are not far-fetched, they only affirm corporate influence on our regional governments and their priorities. Africa leaders must re-echo this important clause and use its instrumentalities to demand compensation from rich nations and profiteers.

As we approach the next UN climate conference of parties COP27 in Egypt, the continent has a rare opportunity to advance its position along with systemic, social, and economic realities.

Adaptation is poorly funded in Africa whereas investing in it is far cheaper and socially economical. We must deliberately green Africa’s fast-growing cities, restore natural wetlands, plant trees to provide shade for crops, livestock, and humans, and ensure institutional frameworks are put in place for sustainability. The future is not anywhere ahead, it is in the decisions we make today, and it is up to us how we shape it.

By Ogunlade Olamide Martins, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Lagos

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