The Sunday News
Vincent Gono, Features Editor
EXTREME famine, diseases, natural disasters, wars and internal conflicts, have often been a characteristic of many developing countries especially those in Africa.
And with nothing pointing to the end of its troubles, the climate change realities might as well add to Africa’s long catalogue of problems to deal with, albeit a very small financial muscle.
Food riots are expected to increase as droughts get more severe due to climate change with a 50 percent food production deficit predicted by 2030, heat waves, lack of fresh air and water as well as diseases are also expected to characterise the socio-economic life of most developing countries.
Ironically, some developed countries such as America have been cynic about the whole phenomenon. They have been showing a non-committal attitude towards funding Africa’s mitigation and adaptation mechanisms.
Russia and China have however, been forthcoming.
Globally China arguably the largest emitter of greenhouse gas is honouring its climate targets under the 2015 Paris Agreement. While at home it is putting a great deal of work. President Xi Jinping noted in the Governance of China compendium Volume 2 that the country was committed to limit its emissions.
“We must take effective measures to promote ecological progress and address growing resource constraints, serious environmental pollution, and ecological degradation and be pragmatic and solid in our work so as to achieve results.”
He said they were going to put a ceiling on the intensity of energy use, water consumption and construction land utilisation.
“. . . that way we will save energy and water and land resources, reduce pollutant emissions at source, force the transformation of the growth model and raise the level of the green economy.”
America’s attitude has not stopped the preaching of ecological friendly policies and clean development mechanisms gospel that places emphasis on smart sources of energy, smart agriculture and smart environmental practices.
Stakeholders say if no mechanisms are put in place to help those nations that are poor to curb a future global catastrophe, this might as well remain a literal theory whose practicability is unattainable. This is not to say Africa should fold its hands and wait to be funded but should find workable solutions with what little it has and ensure there is movement on the positive as some of the mechanisms such as conservation agriculture are not very expensive.
The long and short of it is that Africa needs to find equilibrium between the need to industrialise and the calls to limit greenhouse gases. The call to limit greenhouse gas emissions means that the economic gap between Africa and the West will remain in the good name of combating climate change and minimising any harm to mother earth.
While the idea is noble, one cannot fail to see the veneer of economics and politics that seek perpetual subjection and reliance of Africa to the West for finished products and on that Africa no longer needs to hush its voice but to speak loudly, collectively and without ambiguity on the need for funds to adopt clean development initiatives.
And for a continent of Africa’s nature the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through smart agriculture and smart sources of energy that require a strong financial muscle maybe a very tall order.
Although options and strides have been made to adapt to climate change and implementing stringent mitigation activities to ensure that the impacts of climate change remain within a manageable range that create a brighter and more sustainable future, Africa’s biggest challenge remains that of financial resources.
Fact is however, that Africa is faced with a depletion of sources of electrical energy even in urban set-ups caused by the global call to shun the use of ozone depleting fossil sources of energy.
The call has increased pressure on African forests that are facing extinction as deforestation is likely going to reach alarming levels as firewood has become the preferred alternative to electricity.
On the other hand the massive cutting down of trees for firewood and tobacco burning as an alternative to coal energy heavily depletes the carbon sink thereby further exacerbating the effects of climate change and so the circle remains, like that of the proverbial borrowing John to pay Peter and the debt remains.
Socially, the depletion of water sources is also a source for concern as more African women are made to walk longer distances in search of water while more young children are at risk of malnutrition as climate change is evidently amplifying existing stress on water availability for society and the natural environment.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contends that it is critical to recognise that Africa’s growth is fragile. It says part of Africa’s vulnerability lies in the fact that recent development gains have been in climate-sensitive sectors.
The report makes a clear case that many risks constitute particular challenges for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope. What it therefore implies is that African societies that are socially, economically, culturally and institutionally marginalised are especially vulnerable to climate change.
“Economically, many Africans depend for food and income on primary sectors such as agriculture and fisheries, sectors which are affected by rising temperatures, rising sea-levels and erratic rainfall. Demographic and economic trends in Africa mean that climate impacts will be acute.
“Growing populations will increase the demand for water and food but prolonged droughts will put additional pressure on already scarce water resources and will reduce crop yields,” reads part of the report.
With most of its economies agrarian, the need to focus more on ways to boost its agriculture and make the economies remain afloat in the face of climate change effects remains critical.
It remains puzzlingly unfortunate and sad that Africa has contributed the least of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere but is called just like any other continent to contribute to the reduction of the gases.
It is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s view that countries that are most vulnerable to climate change have contributed little to greenhouse gas emissions.
“Addressing climate change will not be possible if agents advance their own interests independently; it can only be achieved through co-operative responses, including international co-operation,” says IPCC.
National Co-ordinator in the climate change office Mr Washington Zhakata said although a lot was being done at national level both as mitigation and adaptation measures there was a need for a global approach if results were to be realised.
“The problem with Africa is that we do not have a solid revenue base and we should force the more stable developed countries which are the biggest emitters to fund mitigation and adaptation programmes,” said Mr Zhakata.
He added there was indeed a lot of politics in the whole climate change issue.
He said with the little financial resources that the country had, it was campaigning for smart agriculture initiatives as conservation agriculture. The country, he said, was putting in place other sources of energy to try and move away from thermal power and fossil energy which increases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
He said it was sad that developing countries were leading the world in responding to climate change.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner lauded the seriousness with which developing countries were engaged.
“This is not theory, this is not the distant future, this is about survival,” said Steiner as he announced the climate promise. UNDP is building on our work on climate action. Our commitment is to support 100 countries in reaching the more ambitious plans the world needs to ensure a future for ourselves, our children and all generations to come. Through this initiative, UNDP will stand shoulder to shoulder with countries as they take bold action,” he added.