Climate ‘Tipping Point’ in Africa Dictates Urgent Action to Mitigate Risks, Safeguard Progress
Atmospheric warming due to climate change has brought Africa to a tipping point that requires urgent action to “mitigate risks and safeguard a decade of social and economic gains,” the UN News Centre reported last month, citing a UN Development Programme (UNDP) assessment released during COP 24 in Katowice, Poland.
Nations across Africa have achieved “impressive economic, political, and social growth in recent decades,” said Ahunna Eziakonwa, Director of UNDP’s Africa Bureau. But “climate change, droughts, floods, changing rainfall patterns, and conflict have the potential to unravel efforts to reduce hunger and achieve the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
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If nations fail to limit average global warming to below 2.0°C, the UNDP concluded that “families will find it harder and harder to feed themselves, and the risk of famine and increased poverty will rise along with temperatures,” the News Centre states. “Higher levels of poverty would further limit the capacity of communities to manage climate-related risks, according to the report, placing further stress on already overstretched coping mechanisms, and could translate into more risky migration patterns, serious epidemics such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak across West Africa, and greater political instability.”
The report calls for far greater attention to climate adaptation across Africa, and particularly in the 34 “least developed countries” on the continent. “They are among the most vulnerable to climate change, yet the least able to adapt. In many cases, they lack the technical, financial, and institutional capacity to identify the best ways to build resilience,” said Global Environment Facility Program Director Gustavo Fonseca.
With world hunger on the rise for the first time in a decade, the News Centre points to the economic cost of a humanitarian disaster that has placed 40 million people in need of assistance. “Taking reactive approaches to food security and disaster recovery costs the people of Africa billions of dollars in lost GDP, and syphons off government resources that should be dedicated to education, social programs, health care, business development, and employment,” Eziakonwa said.
The report points to a number of climate adaptation success stories in Africa, including food security projects in Benin, Mali, Niger, and Sudan, and a separate set of initiatives to empower women as climate action champions.