Africa must be a priority at COP28 climate change conference
As the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference approaches, one of the critical topics that ought to be at the top of the agenda is the devastating effects of climate change throughout Africa, the cradle of humankind. What steps can the international community, particularly the developed countries, take in order to tackle this environmental crisis?
The 28th UN Climate Change Conference, which is also known as COP28, will be held at Expo City Dubai from Nov. 30 until Dec. 12.
When it comes to climate change and Africa, one of the most important issues to raise is awareness about the fact that the continent has been disproportionately impacted by climate change. As has become evident, carbon dioxide emissions are the primary driving force behind global climate change. But it is worth noting that Africa has the lowest carbon dioxide emissions of all the continents. Even though Africa is the second most-populous continent, being home to about 18.2 percent of the world’s population (nearly 1.5 billion people), it only emits 4 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide.
To put this in perspective, North America, which is home to only 7.5 percent of the world’s population, emits about 18 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. In other words, it is estimated that an average North American emits approximately 11 more times greenhouse gas than an average African. The US and Europe currently account for nearly a third of carbon dioxide emissions in the world. The US alone, which has about 5 percent of the world’s population, accounts for 14 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. When it comes to carbon dioxide emissions per capita, African countries such as Mali, Somalia, Ethiopia, Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and the Central African Republic are ranked among the lowest contributors to climate change.
But in spite of the fact that Africa has produced the lowest amounts of carbon dioxide emissions, it is the continent most impacted by global warming. For example, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Sudan and Niger were among the 10 countries most negatively affected by climate change in 2019, according to the Global Climate Risk Index. Nearly 35 percent of deaths that occurred due to extreme weather events, climate or water stress over a 50-year period were in Africa, according to the World Meteorological Organization. And the UN World Food Program last year pointed out that, due to growing and protracted droughts, about 13 million people in the Horn of Africa were living under severe hunger conditions, while more than 5 million children in the region are today acutely malnourished.
Furthermore, there will be more than 85 million climate migrants in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050 because of climate change, according to a 2021 report by the World Bank. “The impact of the climate crisis is all too visible in Africa. People are being displaced and facing unpredictable harvests and food insecurity. Water resources are increasingly stressed. It is staggeringly unjust that those least responsible for the climate crisis and often least equipped to protect themselves continue to bear the heaviest burden,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southern Africa.
Africa has produced the lowest amounts of carbon dioxide, yet it is most impacted by global warming.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
After raising awareness about the dire situation in Africa, the second issue that the international community, specifically the developed countries, must focus on is that African nations cannot tackle the negative impacts of climate change on their own. They should be assisted financially, technologically and logistically not only to tackle climate change, but also to adopt clean energy. In addition, the world’s most-developed countries should be pressured to fulfill the promise they made more than a decade ago to give more than $100 billion every year in climate financing to help vulnerable countries. Unfortunately, they have not yet lived up to this promise.
Another effective approach would be to make the loss and damage fund, which was created at COP27 in Egypt last year, fully functional and to create a budget for poor and vulnerable countries when it comes to climate change adaptation. Monitoring mechanisms should also be set up in order to ensure that funds are directly employed for climate change adaptation and the adoption of clean energy.
Finally, the rapidly changing climate is having a damaging impact on the agriculture industry in Africa, decimating forests and land and causing more droughts. This is particularly affecting the African continent due to its arid environment, which causes water stress or scarcity, with demand frequently being higher than supply. This forces many people to leave their homes in search of food and water, such as occurred in Angola in 2021. This has also caused homelessness and deaths in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.
In a nutshell, Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world when it comes to the changing climate. Global warming is disproportionately impacting African countries. In spite of the fact that Africa has contributed the least to climate change, it has unfortunately been affected the most. It is incumbent on the developed countries, which have contributed the most to climate change, to provide the financial, technological and logistical assistance required so that African countries can tackle climate change and adopt clean energy. This will not only save Africa, but also protect our planet in the long run.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.