A new study shines a light on Africa’s precarious position in the climate debate

The sustainable urban cooling handbook says that warming in cities is likely to hit 4 degrees Celsius given the current rapid emission of greenhouse gases hence undermining the resilience of low-income urban dwellers in the face of climatic shocks. (Photo by Reinhard Krull / EyeEm/Getty Creative)

New research by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation indicates that Africa accounts for 3.3 percent of total global carbon emissions since 1960, and that the continent is the least responsible world region for climate change.

The sustainable urban cooling handbook says that warming in cities is likely to hit 4 degrees Celsius given the current rapid emission of greenhouse gases hence undermining the resilience of low-income urban dwellers in the face of climatic shocks. /Getty Images.

The study which highlights the need for greater consideration of Africa’s specific position within the global debate on climate change further indicates that in 2020, the whole of Africa’s per capita carbon emissions was ten times lower than North America’s.

Additionally, between 2010-2022, the number of people affected by droughts amounted to at least 172.3 million, and the ones affected by floods amounted to at least 43.0 million.

The ten most climate-vulnerable countries globally are in Africa hosting 20.1 percent of the continent’s population.

Pastoralists from the local Gabra community walk among carcasses of some of their sheep and goats on the outskirts of a small settlement called ‘Kambi ya Nyoka’ (snake camp) suspected to have succumbed due to sudden change in climate in Marsabit county in Kenya on January 29, 2022.

Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change due to pre-existing development challenges that exacerbate climate impact and lower resilience. 39.7 million more people in sub-Saharan Africa could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 due to climate change, more than in any other world region.

“As the least industrialized continent, Africa has contributed the least to the global climate crisis, yet it is suffering the most from its consequences. Thanks to its immense ecological and mineral resources, Africa has the potential to be at the heart of a sustainable future for both the continent and the world,” Mo Ibrahim, founder and chairman of the foundation said.

The research adds that climate change is forecasted to push an additional 78 million people into chronic hunger by 2050, over half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. However, without climate action, sub-Saharan Africa is expected to see the displacement and migration of up to 85.7 million people, equivalent to 4.2 percent of the continent’s population.

Launching exactly six months ahead of COP27 in Egypt, and immediately following the COP15 of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Côte d’Ivoire, the 2022 Forum Facts & Figures provide a comprehensive analysis of the challenges and prospects of the global climate crisis from Africa’s perspective.

Based on the latest data, the 2022 Forum Facts & Figures first explores in detail the specific impacts of the climate crisis in Africa and the way it intersects with pre-existing social and development issues such as poverty, food insecurity, political instability, and displacement.

The findings point to the need for greater consideration of African-specific vulnerabilities within global climate solutions if only to avoid failure in achieving the SDGs and Agenda 2063.

The report then analyses the critical challenge of striking the right balance between climate protection and access to energy for all on the continent with the largest energy gap globally. It highlights the hurdles still to overcome to make the most of Africa’s renewable potential and the need to rethink the one-size-fits-all policies, excluding gas as a key transition fuel, adopted at COP26.

The research also talked about Africa’s consistent resource potential, with the continent possessing all the key assets to accelerate the global transition to a green and sustainable economy.

But in order for this potential to be effectively and efficiently delivered, including in the best interest of Africa’s people, the continent will need to break from the “natural resource curse”, and focus on leveraging financial resources, strengthening governance frameworks, and natural resource management.

At least 600 million people in Africa currently lack access to electricity and more than 930 million lack access to clean cooking fuels, making Africa the continent with the lowest rates of energy access globally.

Interestingly, 18 African countries are already gas producers. At 455.2 trillion cubic feet in 2020, African natural gas reserves could go a long way to meeting the continent’s growing energy demand. But the distribution of gas remains a key challenge.

Most climate-vulnerable countries in Africa are showing governance deficits.