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By: Nghiinomenwa Erastus

Africa does not only have a weak adaptive capacity when it comes to climate change, but its poor countries spend 40-60% of their income on food.

Moreover, the continent’s temperature is rising twice the global rate due to climate change at the same time the continent has abundant fossil fuel sources (carbon-emitting).

Additionally, industrialized nations are classically refusing to take responsibility, adding to Africa’s pile of climate issues.

While a proposed transition towards low carbon economies costs large amounts of money, affects workers and communities, and does not happen overnight.

However, it can also be a catalyst for socio-economic transformation, wrote Susan Russell in her editorial for Good Governance Africa’s quarterly journal, Africa in Fact (AIF) edition for the first quarter of 2021.


Russell compiled various AIF researchers detailing how the effects of climate change on Africa in the coming decades will be brutal, as the continent bears the brunt of the crisis.

The edition takes a hard look at the outcomes of the 26th annual United Nations global climate summit (COP26) last November, and how it will impact Africa’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

It also looks at the specific challenges that the continent faces, not least exchanging cheaper fossil fuels for alternative, cleaner energy.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Africa’s vulnerability to climate change is driven by a range of factors.

This includes weak adaptive capacity (including large financing gaps), high dependence on ecosystem goods for livelihoods, and less developed agricultural production systems.

Russell explained that the poorest in the region will be the hardest hit because they spend 40-60% of their income on food – four to five times more than average consumers in rich countries.

She highlighted that the African negotiators went to COP26 on the horns of a dilemma; exchanging fossil fuels for alternative, cleaner energy is fundamental to climate change mitigation.

Yet fossil fuels also offer Africa the cheapest and most accessible sources of energy, as well as accounting for the largest slice of export revenue for many countries on the continent.

Given the reluctance of industrialized countries to take sufficient responsibility for the world’s climate crisis, COP26 concluded with Africa’s negotiators failing to get the financial support they require.

Although South Africa did strike an $8,5 billion deal with the US, UK, France, and Germany to help with the country’s transition to renewable energy, the COP26 Global Forest Pledge does include $1,5 billion to restore the Congo Basin.

Russell called upon African leaders, therefore, to act as they have no choice, with what describes as “skillful and nimble climate diplomacy”, to insist that the industrialized nations, who are largely to blame, provide the financial support that will help the continent make a just transition to a green economy.

“Each of us will have to hold our leaders to account in this respect, as well as incur the necessary sacrifices to secure a liveable planet for our children and grandchildren,” she wrote.

AIF contributor Ronak Gopaldas wrote that Africa needs to achieve a strategic mix of both old and new energy sources.

With neither the money, infrastructure, or technology to do otherwise, he says this hybrid approach needs to be recognized as a core feature of a workable solution for Africa.

Gopaldas also suggests the continent prioritize climate adaptation rather than mitigation given its developmental imperatives.

Leleti Maluleke, a researcher in Good Governance Africa’s Human Security and Climate Change project, writes that even though Africa contributes less than 4% of global emissions, temperatures on the continent are seemingly increasing at twice the global rate.

This, she emphasizes, is why Africa must begin unlocking green financing to transition beyond carbon-heavy industries to a low carbon economy.

Maluleke added that it is in the continent’s best interest to actively pursue different financing sources that will foster a sustainable green economy.

Partnership proposals, both intragovernmental and public and private, are important, with the private sector a critical partner to the government in delivering development cooperation on environmental issues.

Climate researcher Romy Chevallier cautioned that a move to a low carbon economy must ensure that the gains and losses from the transition are shared equitably and do not exacerbate existing inequalities.

The researchers also pointed out that the international “just transition” framework agreement is currently as vague as the concept itself, and the envisioned transitions will require detailed engagements with all stakeholders – beneficiaries and potential losers.

While highlighting that it’s not enough for governments to enact environmental protection laws, but must have the political will to implement them too.

One notable item that was very much on the COP26 agenda was the issue of reforestation as a means of reversing desertification and environmental degradation.

Researcher Joe Walsh reminded the continent that the scale of deforestation in Africa is both unprecedented and increasing; the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation says Africa lost 3,94 million hectares of forest each year between 2010 and 2020, compared with 3,4 million each year in the previous decade.

A combination of ocean warming and other environmental factors have facilitated almost unprecedented locust swarms across East Africa for the past two years, creating another threat to food security for millions.

Natural resources researcher Vincent Obisie-Orlu sets out why commercial enterprises must consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in identifying risks and opportunities when doing business as part of the transition to a green economy.

This is because the shift to zero-net emissions will have numerous social and governance implications that companies ignore at their peril. Email:


Julia Heita

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