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Tackling climate change and aid in Africa

Climate change is already affecting many developing countries. In Africa, over 70 percent of workers rely on small-scale farming dependent on direct rainfall. Even small changes to weather patterns can threaten food security and health. These impacts present a huge challenge to the coordination of aid efforts and the design of development policies.

Many experts estimate that Africa will suffer some of the
worst impacts from global warming in terms of loss of life and economic
effects. The situation is made worse by existing problems, including widespread
poverty, recurrent droughts and floods, disease and conflict. The second report
from the Working Group on Climate Change and Development, UK, a coalition of
development organisations, examines what actions the environmental and
development community can take.

Three main challenges exist for responding to climate
change:

  • stopping and reversing global warming

  • adjusting to impacts that cannot be stopped

  • designing development
    models that are ‘climate resilient’, ‘climate friendly’ and provide everyone
    with a fair share of natural resources.

The most urgent challenge for donors to Africa is to be
flexible and not apply one approach to all situations. They must assess their
policy advice and programme work to ensure that it does not inadvertently
increase vulnerability to climate change,

Development groups agree that the recent emphasis on new
technology, such as improved weather forecasting, distracts from more important
work. This includes strengthening communities locally and improving support to
small-scale local adaptations, as well as sharing knowledge among groups for
disaster-response planning.

The report calls for:

  • A global risk assessment of the costs of
    adapting to climate change in poor countries.

  • Industrialised countries making resources
    available to poor countries for adaptation; these should not be seen as aid but
    as the obligation of those who created the problem.

  • Policies to respond to the increasing burden of
    climate-related disaster relief.

  • Development models based on risk reduction that
    incorporate community-driven coping strategies into adaptation and preparation
    for natural disasters.

  • Disaster awareness campaigns, with materials
    produced by communities and available in local languages.

  • Coordinated plans, from local to international
    levels, for relocating threatened communities, with appropriate political,
    legal and financial resources.

  • Governments have already agreed to action
    focused on protecting communities in Africa from climate change, but this
    commitment must increase urgently. To make sure development in Africa is not
    reversed by climate change, the report suggests:

  • Donors must provide new and additional funding,
    in particular for supporting small-scale agriculture.

  • Rich countries must go far beyond their Kyoto
    targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reduce emissions by up to 80
    percent.

  • They must also implement other existing
    agreements on environment and development.

  • Donors should focus on local needs and support
    community coping strategies that provide benefits beyond just responding to
    climate-driven disasters.

  • Changing investment into fossil fuels to
    renewable and sustainable energy and removing obstacles to technology transfer.

  • Donors and international institutions should
    release aid quickly and set targets for local and regional procurement.

  • Policies and programmes should be tested before
    implementation to see if they are climate proof and climate friendly.