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ANALYSIS | Recent floods havoc in East Africa, a wake-up call on climate finance and SDGs

Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, speaking during the COP28 in UAE. PHOTO/UN.

By PATRICK MAYOYO

newshub@eyewitness.africa

Every year, African countries experience climate change impacts that include floods, mudslides, landslides, droughts and even lately cyclones yet they are the least contributors to the global greenhouse gas emissions.

These events serve as poignant reminders of the urgent need for climate finance – resources that are crucial for mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

While the responsibility lies heavily on the shoulders of the world’s top polluters, the reality remains stark: African nations bear the brunt of a crisis they did little to create.

A case in point is the recent catastrophic floods in Kenya, which resulted in the death of more than 200 people, destruction of property worth billions of shillings and displacement of thousands of people, a development that raises questions about the issue of climate finance – a funding that supports actions to address climate change effects. Most of it is expected to come from top polluters in the developed world.

For the first time the East African region experienced its first cyclone. Cyclone Hidaya wreaked havoc in Tanzania, with the country announcing that more than 166 peoople had died after the cyclone swept through the country’s south-eastern coast on the Indian Ocean.

Every year, the continent faces the brunt of climate change impacts, from the sweeping floods that inundate homes to the parched earth that cracks under the weight of prolonged droughts. Yet, these are the same lands that contribute the least to the global greenhouse gas emissions.

Statistics paint a sobering picture: electricity accounts for only a fraction of global emissions, yet the toll on African nations is disproportionately heavy.

With millions still lacking access to reliable power, the reliance on hydroelectricity stands in stark contrast to the coal plants that dominate in more developed regions.

Data from UN and other agencies shows that electricity accounts for only 26 percent of global emissions, the transportation sector 16 percent, while agriculture and buildings account for 21 and 7 percent of emissions, respectively and manufacturing, the sector with the most emissions, 30 percent of emissions.

African countries are suffering the devastating impacts of climate change that include droughts, mudslides, landslides, floods, diseases, food shortages, water scarcity and largely caused by carbon emissions mainly by the developed countries.

These climate change extreme weathers events are a vicious circle that occur nearly annually yet to date adequate funding is not forthcoming.

Take the US, for instance, though compromising less than five per cent of world population, it contributes 25 per cent of global carbon emissions. Most of these emissions come from electric power plants, followed closely by cars and airplanes and then other sectors.

By contrast, millions of people in Africa have no access to electricity and if they have most of it is from hydro-power and not coal plants as is the case with top greenhouses emitters. For years, African countries have been agitating for increased funding from major polluters to fund climate change adaptation with little success.

For years, African countries have been agitating for increased funding from major polluters to fund climate change adaptation with little success.

During last year’s inaugural Africa Climate Summit convened in Nairobi, Kenya in September last year ahead of the COP28 in Dubai, they amplified this call resulting in an agreement to operationalization the loss and damage fund that would help compensate vulnerable countries to cope with loss and damage caused by climate change impacts.

The fund has been a long-standing demand of developing nations on the frontlines of climate change caused by ever-increasing extreme weather events such as drought, floods, and rising seas.

However, while the operationalization of the loss and damage is laudable development, questions linger on whether funds will be availed in spite of pledges of billions of dollars from the developed countries.

Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) a coalition of civil societies agitating for a just and equitable climate change framework has been critical of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change talks, popularly known as COP saying the decisions arrived at the conferences only favour industrialised countries.

Of major concern to PACJA has been issue of pledges by leading greenhouse gases emitting countries mainly US and the European Union to fund climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives in least developed countries that end up not materializing.

At the COP28, PACJA called for a significant increase in climate finance to Africa, with a focus on adaptation saying there was need to double current levels of funding for adaptation to strengthen resilience building, protection of vulnerable communities, and ensuring sustainable development across the continent.

Of major concern has been the amount of money pledged by the top emitters and what they actually contribute which PACJA official terms as s drop in the ocean.

Ms Maimuna Kabatesi, Global Program Manager at Voices for Just Climate Action Program, says among the “achievements” of  COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland was progress on the long-promised and yet to be delivered commitment by Global North parties of USD 100 billion a year to fund climate change mitigation and adaptation in least developed countries.

Ms Kabatesi notes, that the ease with which countries decrease funding to both adapt to and mitigate climate change, which is historically and presently largely caused by their actions, is disheartening.

She says this development implies that climate finance and official development assistance (ODA) commitments more generally are commitments that – even when ratified and consequently budgeted for – can never be relied on by governments in the Global South, and more importantly, by the local communities that need them most.

While progress is being made on increasing global climate finance, there is still a vast gap between how much money is being set aside now and the amount needed to be spent in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, according to estimates by the Climate Policy Initiative.

Questions are also emerging over carbon credits trading investments in reforestation projects by foreign companies across Africa that are now turning out to be major rip-offs.

The recently released Africa Carbon Markets Initiative’s (ACMI) Status and Outlook report shows that while the continent produces more credits than the global average from categories that command high prices, “anecdotal evidence indicates that for the same project type, African carbon credits may command lower prices than the global average.”

Infographic/ACMI

The report reveals that currently, African carbon markets comprise only about 16 percent of the global credits market and face challenges that can hinder future growth potential.

Carbon credits and the carbon trade are authorized by governments with the goal of gradually reducing overall carbon emissions and mitigating their contribution to climate change.

Carbon trading is advanced through initiatives like payments for environmental services (PES) which are incentives offered to landowners in exchange for managing their land to provide certain environmental services and are mainly aimed at addressing the twin problem of deforestation and forest degradation.

It has to be noted that the debt burden developing countries carry makes it hard for them to shield themselves from the ravaging effects of climate change. This is why I agree with the argument that industrialised countries owe the least developed countries climate debt running into trillions of dollars, and that time has come for them to pay through debt relief.

Of concern, also, is the fact that erratic weather patterns and destructive natural disasters have created a global crisis, which means climate change is no longer a matter to be discussed by scientists alone.

Climate change must be tackled by all stakeholders in different parts of the world, and I hope that members of the civil society have learnt enduring lessons from previous COP talks to ensure they defend the rights of the suffering masses globally.

Although African countries are the least environment polluters, studies show that more than 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone could die of disease directly attributable to climate change by the end of the century.

Studies also indicate that more than 150,000 people currently die every year globally from the effects of climate change as the phenomenon increases the spread of infectious diseases and causes more disasters.

Temporary shelter for people displaced due to floods in Nairobi, Kenya. PHOTO/ Dorothy Waweru/Save the Children

Warmer and wetter weather brought about by climate change means that malaria is spreading faster in the developing world, where it already kills up to three million people per year.

The risk of serious natural disasters is also on the increase. Experts have observed that rises in the sea surfaces temperatures have doubled the possibility of coastal flooding. For Kenya, the UN warns that coastal flooding could cost the country more than Sh90 billion in losses by 2030.

Food supplies are also seriously affected by climate change. In Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, millions people are being ravaged by hunger due to prolonged droughts.

The UN scientists also warn that global warming would reduce maize production in Kenya by a fifth and that of other staple foods, including beans, by 68 per cent. Other crops that could be adversely affected include tea and coffee.

Climate change is also a serious risk to global security as it is contributing to existing tensions and conflicts among communities over competition for resources.

These revelations come at a time when some governments in Africa are struggling to increase forest cover forest cover to internationally accepted standards of 10 per cent by 2030, and when glaciers on top mountains are diminishing and mangrove forests along the coastal areas are shrinking alarmingly.

Bill Gates in one of his periodic reports dubbed Gates Notes says the world is at a crossroads as far as implementation of the Paris Agreement that was signed in 2015 is concerned.

The Paris Agreement‘s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Gates notes that when one follows the annual IPCC reports, the scenarios for limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 or even 2 degrees Celsius become increasingly remote.

He says at the same time, some of the clean technologies needed to mitigate climate change impacts are still very far from becoming practical, cost-effective solutions we can deploy at scale.

 

Microsoft founder Bill Gates. PHOTO/Wikimedia Commons.

Studies shows that virtually every human activity produces greenhouse gas emissions although human attention has been on the energy sector.

Gates says although more than 70 countries have committed to reaching net zero, including big polluters like the United States and the European Union, there is a remote chance of the Paris Agreement target being met even if the US and Europe reach the net zero target.

He says this is because three-quarters of the global population lives in emerging economies like Brazil, China, India, and South Africa, and although historically they played a very small role in causing climate change, they are now responsible for two-thirds of total greenhouse-gas emissions.

Gates proposes several solutions to combat greenhouse gas emissions that includes; the invention of clean technologies to replace every emissions-intensive process used today: a new way to make steel, to power airplanes and to fertilize fields.

He also advocates for the driving of the cost of new clean technologies down so they can compete, not just in rich countries but in all countries and the fast deployment of these cost-competitive technologies.

Gates also calls for the replacement of every single piece of infrastructure dedicated to doing things the old way with infrastructure dedicated to doing things in a new way.

He observes that currently there are 2,412 coal-fired power plants in the world, and that number is still going up yet every single one of those plants will have to be replaced if dreams to meet the Paris Agreement targets are to become a reality.

Gates however, notes that that a lot has changed since the COP 21 meeting in 2015 in Paris, where 22 governments launched an initiative called Mission Innovation as since then, public funding for climate-related research and development (R&D) has increased by almost a third.

Calls on African countries transitioning from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy have also been intensified.

Ahead of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, close to 50 scientists and a group of over 2,000 youth across 30 African countries called on African leaders to push the agenda of transitioning the continent to 100 percent renewable energy during the talks.

The agenda for transition to 100 percent renewable energy was being pushed by, Prof Corneille Ewango Ekokinya, of University of Kisangani, in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who said the continent was still witnessing new fossil fuel investments that are incompatible with the Paris Agreement and its 1.5°C warming limit.

Fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas produces carbon dioxide and other Greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions result in climate change which is blamed for causing droughts, floods, diseases, food shortages and water scarcity among other environmental and health complications.

Infographic/UN

Climate change is among the 17 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) popularly known as Agenda2030. Goal number 13 on climate change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.

The goal calls for urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Scientists and policymakers have set a goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Today, the planet is only 0.4°C from that mark.

In the face of adversity, Africa stands resilient. It is a continent defined not by its challenges, but by its enduring spirit and unwavering determination.

And as we chart a course towards a more sustainable future, let us not forget the lessons learned along the way – lessons of resilience, unity, and hope in the face of uncertainty.

The writer is the Climate Change and Environment Editor at Africa Eco News
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