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Africa on the front lines of climate change

16th August


Africa is warming up. Scientific researchers on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are unfortunately increasingly confident that, on its current trajectory, the mean annual temperature rise in Africa, is likely to exceed 2° C by the end of this century.To put this in context, staying below the 2° C increase is the cornerstone of the Paris Agreement and the target which countries are striving towards in order to prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change.

The ratification and entry into force of the Paris Agreement is critical for the future of our planet and most assuredly for that of the African continent.  To date, 22 countries representing slightly over 1% of global emissions have ratified the agreement while its entry into force requires that 55 countries responsible for 55% of the world’s emissions ratify it.  Accelerating ratification this year ahead of COP22 in Marrakech is a priority.  The United Nations International Climate Change Conference in Morocco this November is being designed as one of action with an important focus on Africa and the most vulnerable countries to climate change.  As the top three global emitters, (China, US, India) address their domestic ratification processes, several African countries have already answered the call.  For example, Cameroon, Somalia and Mauritius have already deposited their instruments of ratification with the United Nations and the COP22 host-country of Morocco is far advanced in its domestic process having already cleared its House of Representatives (lower house) on July 26, 2016.

As we collectively keep our eye trained on the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, African countries continue to feel the brunt of climate change impacts. According to the 5th IPCC report “Africa as a whole is one of the most vulnerable continents due to its high exposure and low adaptive capacity.”

Several key climate change related risk areas in Africa include: agriculture/food security, energy, water and health.

Agriculture/Food Security

Rain-fed agriculture contributes to roughly 30% of GDP and employs approximately 70% of the African population. By 2020, in some African countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% due to the impacts of climate change. (IPCC and World Bank).


Access to energy is extremely limited in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 51% of urban populations and 8% of rural populations have access to electricity.  (IPCC and UNEP).  4 out of 5 people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on the traditional use of solid biomass, mainly fuel-wood, for cooking. 650 million people – more than one-third of an expanding population – still cook with biomass in an inefficient and hazardous way in 2040. (IEA)


By 2020, 75 to 250 million people in Africa, are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due as a result of climate change. (IPCC and UNEP).  Africa (excluding South Africa) has the world’s lowest surface water storage capacity, with 43 cubic meters per person per year, compared to a water storage capacity in North America of 6,150 cubic meters per person per year. (World Bank)


According to scientific evidence reviewed by the IPCC there is a growing belief that highland areas, especially in East Africa, could experience increased malaria epidemics due to climate change.  Also, climate change is projected to increase the burden of malnutrition especially among children. (IPCC)

In the daunting face of climate change, African countries are taking steps to address these issues by developing national plans and determined contributions, introducing policies to unlock investments and receiving support from foreign countries and multilateral institutions.  For example, in 2015 the World Bank unveiled a $16 billion Africa Climate Business Plan: Accelerating Climate-Resilient and Low-Carbon Development. That same year, the African Development Bank (AfDB) provided $905 million in climate change mitigation finance, backed by $58 million in external resources.   The AfDB also provided $305 million of its own resources, bolstered by $91 million in external funding to support adaptation efforts in forestry, agriculture and land use sectors on the continent.  Finally, the government of Morocco set an ambitious renewable energy target of 52% by 2030 with 2,000MW of solar energy by 2020.  This past year HM Mohammed VI flipped the switch on the 1st phase (160MW) of the Noor solar complex in Ouarzazate, which is scheduled to exceed 500MW.

In a concerted effort to engage non-state actors on the continent, the COP22 Civil Society Pole has embarked this weekend on the 1st phase of a mission to 12 African countries (South Africa, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Swaziland and Tanzania) to strengthen ties with civil society and encourage their participation in the climate change conference in Marrakech, November 7-18, 2016.

To read the full article on the COP22 website please click here.