Climate Change and Africa’s development: A challenge of all times

Climate Change has been variously described by scientists, development experts and practitioners as not only the greatest development challenge of the 21st century, but also a civilization-challenging ethical problem.

Some manifestations of climate change include warming and rising sea levels, coastal erosion, excessive floods, drought and erratic rainfall patterns.

These effects have implications for food and nutritional security, public health, and energy security, among other things. Many organizations globally are studying the effects and trying to come up with solutions to the myriad problems they pose to production, consumption and environmental sustainability.

Without doubt, climate change is a huge a developmental challenge. In Africa, some institutions are working assiduously at finding solutions to the challenges from an African perspective. These include the Africa Climate Policy Centre [ACPC], hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa [UNECA] at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

The Africa Climate Policy Centre has rolled out a programme known as CLIM-DEV AFRICA, a joint initiative of the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The Programme meets annually and brings together policy makers, scientists and practitioners to deliberate on the critical issues of climate change and its effects on the economic, social and environmental conditions of the continent, with a view to finding solutions to these numerous challenges so as to advance the development of Africa.

The Clim-Dev Africa Programme held its 3rd Annual Conference from the 20th -23rd October, 2013 at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia under the theme: ‘Africa on the Rise: Can the Opportunities from Climate Change Spring the Continent to Transformative Development’?

The Conference provided a platform for experts, policy makers, practitioners, the private sector, media and civil society to collectively deliberate on Africa’s development agenda in the face of climate change, based on research, analytical findings and a range of experiences. It also explored alternative options for accelerating Africa’s development and address challenges arising from climate change.

The conference was preceded by the Africa Climate Conference, a technical meeting of climate scientists,

researchers, policy makers, international organizations and users of climate information that also interrogated the level of acquiring and processing of climate information and data for the benefit of end-users and how to upscale these activities to impact Africa’s development agenda. The outcome of this meeting was fed into the CLIM-DEV conference.

The ACPC Clim -Dev Africa conference was based on the following sub-thematic areas: Value of Climate

Services; The Role of Climate Policy in Building Resilience to the Impacts of Climate Change in Africa; Climate Finance Options in Africa; Green Economy in the African Context and Africa’s place in Global Climate Change Negotiations. and the Value of Climate Services.

Conference observed that even though planning for climate resilience and low carbon development is

fundamentally dependent on empirical climate science research and information analysis, which are anchored on the availability of climate data, the inadequacy of climate observatory systems and data collection facilities is a common phenomenon in many African countries. In addition, many countries still have weak capacity for data collection, analysis and climate research, and yet good data networks, quality data and information management are essential in establishing a strong scientific foundation for climate services that help planners, decision makers, and other users to offer scientifically-informed and knowledge based decisions.


While key sectors such as agriculture and water are fundamentally important for Africa’s growth and development, they are the most severely exposed to the impacts of climate change. Policy options are therefore needed for African countries to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change in these critical sectors.

The conference provided the opportunity for stakeholders to debate topical issues within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that have direct policy consequences for African countries. Participants recalled the decision made at the Eighteenth Conference of Parties (COP 18) in Doha, where the UNFCCC decided to establish institutional arrangements to address loss and damage at COP 19.

Even though the universal operational definition of the concept of loss and damage is not yet well developed, it is generally understood to embrace losses and damages that arise as a result of climate change. The tsunamis and powerful hurricanes that have hit some parts of the world in recent times, and the apocalyptic devastation arising thereof, are a case in point. It also refers to losses and damages that occur even after adaptation.

This sub-theme provided the platform for experts to deliberate on the concept, what it entails for Africa and what sectors are most vulnerable to loss and damage as a key negotiation point towards COP 19 in Poland even though previous instruments did not work in favour of Africa. They concluded that if Africa is to realise its expectations at COP 19, it must be ready and capable to influence the debate.

Climate Finance

Reference was made to the various multilateral, bilateral, regional and global financial opportunities that are available to support mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries.

Industrialized nations have committed to mobilizing funds amounting to 0 billion annually by 2020 to meet these needs to mitigate climate change which is estimated to cost 0 billion annually by 2020, and growing to 0 billion annually by 2030.

Regrettably, the uptake of these financial opportunities in Africa has been extremely low, citing the example of Africa’s share of the Clean Development Mechanism projects under the Kyoto Protocol, accounting for only two per cent of all registered projects and raised questions as to why Africa has been unable to tap into these opportunities.

Options discussed include the Clim Dev-Africa Special Fund (CDSF) a continental initiative which seeks to enhance scientific capacity to produce and make available, reliable and high quality climate information;

strengthen the capacity of policy makers and policy support institutions to integrate climate change into

developmental processes; and Implement pilot local-level adaptation projects that demonstrate the enhanced value of climate information in achieving sustainable development.

Green Economy

Experts and stakeholders deliberated on the key factor for Africa’s natural resource management and the key major input factors for Africa’s economic growth and development based on energy and its forests and debated on opportunities for Africa’s march towards a Green Economy. They also explored how Africa could benefit from available financial opportunities, including REDD+ and technology transfer mechanisms, and fast-track the transformation process and the challenges that may inhibit Africa’s transitioning to a green economy, and to consider available options to address them.

It was further observed that Africa has the potential to sidestep the detrimental development pathways of the past, take opportunities offered by clean technologies and climate finance, pursue sustainable industrial growth that limits the environmental and social costs of industrialisation which are resource efficient, socially inclusive and characterised by low carbon footprint.

Global Climate Change Framework

While the UN Climate Change negotiations was acknowledged to have made some important progress, questions remained about the direction of that progress and whether that progress is significant enough to safeguard Africa’s development interests or whether alternative spaces exist for Africa-specific policy dialogue. The meeting noted that during 2013, atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions exceeded 400 parts per million, the highest level in millennia that puts the world on course to a 6 degrees centigrade warming.

With these projections, if no major global efforts to keep warming below two degrees centigrade are in place by 2020, the consequences for Africa will be dire. The Conference posed the question: Which options do the continent have to ensure its survival in these circumstances?

Civil Society

African Civil Societies under the umbrella of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance [PACJA] at the conference deliberated on Climate Justice Issues from an African perspective. The workshop assessed the impacts and opportunities climate change creates in Africa and discussed ways and means of achieving a global solution to climate change that treats African countries and communities equitably and fairly.

The meeting further proposed Climate Justice Narratives that resonated with African Civil Society and which have the capacity to mobilize broader civil society constituencies to demand action on climate change by political leaders. They also decided on actions to galvanize the movement and build alliances with stakeholders working on climate justice, and to link up with the general continental and international campaigns and initiatives in the broader Climate Justice Movement.

In conclusion they proposed strategies for African leaders and governments that would enable a fair outcome for Africa from the UNFCCC negotiations.


The challenge facing the continent of Africa in the face of these climate effects is enormous. Does Africa have the wherewithal to confront these challenges adequately and squarely by adopting other policy options, providing the finance, technology, capacity and relevant climate information that would be relied upon to make appropriate development decisions, in the event that the global negotiations and recommended interventions are unable to satisfy Africa’s needs and expectations? The 4th Conference of Climate Change and Development in Africa next year would perhaps take a closer look at this issue.

Source: Ghana News Agency