Africa Cannot Confront Climate Change Alone
KINSHASA – Africa contributes almost nothing to global warming. Its 1.4 billion people – around 17% of the global population – are responsible for less than 3% of the world’s total greenhouse-gas emissions.
Moreover, data suggest that the forests of the Congo River Basin alone absorb 3% of global carbon-dioxide emissions every year
Nonetheless, Africa finds itself on the front lines of the impact of climate change. The continent is already contending with more frequent climate-related disasters, hotter weather, erratic rainfall, and rising sea levels, all of which bring human tragedy, social upheaval, and economic disruption.
For example, with each new drought, annual per capita growth over the medium term can decline by a percentage point
Like countries everywhere, policymakers in Africa must embrace the inevitable global transition to a low-carbon economy.
In addition to pursuing economic programs to raise living standards, they urgently need to build resilience against climate shocks, especially in countries that depend on rain-fed agriculture.
That is why the African Union has endorsed the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Plan, which calls for investments in resilient infrastructure, climate-adaptive agriculture, digitalization, trade reforms, and a broadening of safety nets.
Not only are these measures up to 12 times more cost-effective than disaster relief; they also will generate jobs, raise incomes, and improve living standards.
But the price tag for climate action is large, and it comes on top of what is required to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
At last month’s COP26 climate-change summit, African leaders indicated that the region would need $1.3 trillion over the next two decades for climate adaptation and mitigation.
The required sums are out of reach for African countries, especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven up debt levels and constrained growth.
The continent is already contending with more frequent climate-related disasters, hotter weather, erratic rainfall, and rising sea levels, all of which bring human tragedy, social upheaval, and economic disruption.
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