Africa, often called the “cradle of humankind,” is grappling with an existential crisis – climate change. Despite contributing minimally to global greenhouse gas emissions, the continent is disproportionately bearing the brunt of climate change impacts. Africa faces unique challenges, from soaring temperatures to extreme weather events and threats to food security.
Impacts of Climate Change in Africa
Natural disasters such as floods and droughts wreak havoc on communities and infrastructure, exemplified by the 2019 floods in Mozambique. Rain-fed agriculture dominates the continent’s economy and is at risk, leading to income losses and food insecurity. The African continent is also home to fragile states, which are hit hardest by climate change despite contributing the least to emissions.
In recent years, Africa has experienced an acceleration in temperature increase, leading to more severe climate-related hazards. Weather, climate, and water-related events have directly affected over 110 million people in 2022, causing substantial economic damages. UNEP-commissioned research estimates 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 two °C above preindustrial levels.
Africa in the Global Climate Change Conversation
Under the Paris Agreement reached at COP21, all countries agreed to take collective action on climate change to keep global temperature increases to no more than two °C above preindustrial levels. African countries outlined bold aspirations to build climate-resilient and low-carbon economies in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement.
Africa’s voice in the global climate conversation is growing louder. Though responsible for minimal emissions, the continent increasingly demands climate justice and support from developed nations. The recently held Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi resulted in the Nairobi Declaration, emphasizing the need for developed countries to reduce carbon emissions and proposing new financing mechanisms to address Africa’s debt and climate funding challenges. This declaration will serve as Africa’s unified position in global climate negotiations.
“In the face of the profound challenges posed by climate change in Africa, we stand unwavering in our commitment to confront this existential threat to all of humanity,” said President William Ruto of Kenya. “Africa’s abundance of wind and solar energy can power our development, creating jobs, protecting local economies, and accelerating the sustainable industrialization of the continent. But for us to lead the way toward a sustainable and prosperous future for our continent and the world, finance and technology must be provided to our developing countries.”
Furthermore, Africa’s inclusion in the G20 is seen as both symbolic and potentially impactful. While some doubt the AU’s ability to address the continent’s challenges effectively, it does provide Africa with a seat at the table and the opportunity to increase its influence.
The Role of Renewable Energy
Renewable energy sources, particularly geothermal, hold immense potential in Africa’s fight against climate change. Geothermal energy is reliable and sustainable and does not produce greenhouse gas emissions. Kenya, for example, has made significant investments in geothermal power, contributing to a cleaner energy mix and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
The growth of renewable energy in Africa not only mitigates climate change but also promotes energy access and job creation. It enhances energy security and resilience, vital in a changing climate.
In conclusion, Africa’s journey in addressing climate change is fraught with challenges but also marked by determination and innovation. The impacts of climate change in Africa underscore the urgency of global action. With renewable energy, global engagement, and vital initiatives like the Africa Climate Summit, the continent strives to mitigate the impacts and play a pivotal role in the global climate conversation. Africa’s unique position in this crisis requires international solidarity, support, and cooperation to build a sustainable future for all.