Africa is disproportionately affected by climate change, despite having contributed less than four per cent to global emissions.
Extreme weather events linked to the climate crisis in Africa are not new. But as climate models predict, these are escalating in frequency and intensity and will continue to do so in the coming decades. Every degree of warming will have severe consequences on food production, food security, livelihoods, access to water and healthcare in Africa.
Why Climate Adaptation?
Thankfully, adaptation solutions abound in Africa, including agroecology for food security and sovereignty and multiple indigenous knowledge systems that offer context-specific solutions based on local realities. These have historically enhanced the resilience of Africa communities.
Reforming the global financial architecture to build a system that prioritizes funding for adaptation through debt relief, grant and highly concessional loans is a matter of survival for millions of Africans. People-centered adaptation finance will spur trade and create opportunities for Africans to shake off poverty. It will also allow African countries to pursue sustainable and resilient development pathways.
With only emissions to avoid, Africa’s priority is to build the resilience of its people. This makes adaptation finance a critical resource, especially in the context of keeping global heating at 1.5 degrees below pre-industrial levels.
A substantial increase in global and regional funding for climate adaptation, including loss and damage, in Africa, closes the existing finance gaps.
Traditional and indigenous knowledge systems and practices are integrated into adaptation strategies and are valued for delivering sustainable, context-specific solutions
Urgent Action is Needed
The urgency for climate adaptation in Africa is strongly linked to the fact that climate impacts are not felt equally. Despite having contributed less than 4 percent to global emissions, the African continent is disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.
The climate emergency poses an immediate, inter-generational threat to the resilience of Africa’s communities and biodiversity. Africa’s climate adaptation is therefore not only a way to secure the future but also a matter of immediate survival and lasting resilience
Mitigation alone cannot address the scale and scope of the climate emergency the African continent is facing. Adaptation therefore must be the key priority for Africa, given the continent has emissions to avoid rather than cut.
Just Transition for Climate Adaptation
Frontline communities across Africa will continue to bear the brunt of climate impacts if we fail to elevate adaptation and resilience to climate change as social justice issues that are equally crucial for a just transition.
Similarly to mitigation, climate adaptation measures can also lead to unequal and unjust outcomes. Rights based approaches, social vulnerability, justice (procedural, distributive, etc), and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities are key principles to secure a just transition for climate adaptation and resilience.
To address and close the existing debt for climate adaptation, those most responsible for the climate crisis have a moral responsibility to drastically increase adaptation finance to African countries.
Financing Climate Education
By investing into climate education programs that integrate traditional knowledge systems and practices, we can build a more informed and engaged citizenry that understands the causes and impacts of climate change, and are better equipped to mitigate and adapt to its effects.
Further benefits of investments into climate education and traditional knowledge include addressing disparities in climate literacy that exist between the Global North and South, preserving Indigenous knowledge systems across generations, and fostering innovation, new opportunities, and entrepreneurship in the climate sector, especially for the continent’s youthful population.
Climate Finance for Adaptation
In Africa, adaptation solutions abound, including agroecology, food sovereignty and forest restoration. Many of these initiatives are locally led and are based on traditional or indigenous knowledge systems. They offer context-specific solutions informed by local realities that help to protect and build the resilience of people, communities and ecosystems to extreme weather events.
Consequently, directing more finance and investment to these community-led solutions is the first step in fast-tracking Africa’s climate adaptation and resilience agenda
For climate adaptation support to be truly transformative for the African context, access to decision making platforms, resources, investments, and finances must involve and reach local African communities most affected by the climate crisis