Environment Opinions

Climate change single biggest threat to Africa 2063 targets

Climate change single biggest threat to Africa 2063 targets
  • PublishedJuly 7, 2023

The catastrophic effects of climate-change are not only wreaking havoc on local communities, but are becoming a major obstacle to Africa achieving its SDG and Agenda 2063 goals, argues Ibrahima Cheikh Diong, UN Assistant-Secretary General and ARC Group Director General.

As Africa drives towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objectives of its own Agenda 2063, the climate crisis and its impact on the continent, is proving to be an increasingly formidable obstacle.

Urgent action to combat this threat is no longer a matter of choice but of existential necessity. Despite its limited recourses, Africa has already undertaken considerable work in mitigation and resilience building but a global effort, including large scale donor contribution is essential if this battle is to be won.

The string of violent and expensive weather-induced events that are plaguing Africa is a massive threat to the hard-earned development gains that African countries have achieved. Not only do these events divert much-needed resources away from key projects and towards mitigation and resilience-building, but have long-lasting impacts on the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable communities and even the economies of whole regions.

Climate-induced events have increased in frequency and intensity, resulting in the loss of precious lives, massive damage to property and key infrastructure, and excessive economic losses.

In the different regions of the continent, disaster events are often seasonal and cyclical, and it is the successive nature of these weather events that is crippling vulnerable countries. These exert extreme pressure on already-stretched African governments that also have to meet the competing basic needs of their people while working towards development goals.

In the meanwhile, the pressure is on to deliver on the commitments made towards SDGs and Agenda 2063. The SDGs officially came into force nearly eight years ago, in January 2016 to guide worldwide efforts towards global sustainable development until 2030.

They are closely aligned with Africa’s own Agenda 2063, the continent’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.

Both SDG 13: Climate Action, and Agenda 2063’s Goal 7: Environmentally Sustainable and Climate Resilient Economies and Communities, are specific to climate change and acknowledge the need for a strong focus on mitigation, response and adaptation.

Specifically, SDG 13 outlines initiatives to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacities; integrate climate measures into policies and planning; build knowledge and capacity; protect life on land; and promote mechanisms to raise capacity for planning and management, while Agenda 2063’s Goal 7 drives for biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource management; water security; and climate resilience and natural disaster preparedness.

Unsurprisingly, the attainment of some of the SDGs and Agenda 2063 is directly or indirectly impacted by climate change and must therefore be driven in tandem and with that full context in mind. This makes effective climate management a key driver of sustainable development.

SDGs such as no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; together with Agenda 2063’s goals of a high standard of living, quality of life and well-being for all citizens; healthy and well-nourished citizens; and modern agriculture for increased productivity and production can all be improved through a holistic climate and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) approach.

Conversely, the ravages of climate-induced disasters massively contribute to regression in development by increasing poverty, hunger, and disease outbreaks while reducing agricultural productivity and wiping out development gains made.

Africa’s robust response

Over the years, African countries have made tremendous progress towards strengthening their response capacities to climate change by establishing policies and key DRM bodies to direct efforts towards getting ahead of the crisis, but these efforts have also been challenged by limited resources.

Under the leadership of the AU, the continent has outlined its commitment to strengthening climate response and has put various initiatives in place to guide efforts.

The Programme of Action for the Implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 provides four clear priorities for action to prevent and reduce existing disaster risks, while the Africa Regional Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction aims to facilitate the integration of DRR into development. The African Institutional and Operational Framework for Multi-Hazard Early-warning and Early-Action and COVID-19 Recovery Framework for Africa 2022 – 2030 support DRM in Africa.

The AU also established the African Risk Capacity (ARC) with a mandate to help member states plan, prepare and respond to weather-induced disasters and disease outbreaks, and complement country efforts – but again, financial resources are essential to enable all AU member states to benefit from this instrument.

Donor partner organisations and technical partners have been instrumental in operationalising the ARC offering, but more countries still need to benefit.

Shocking numbers

Statistics on climate change confirm that this crisis undermines Africa’s ability to achieve the SDGs and Agenda 2063 goals. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), nine out of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change are in sub-Saharan Africa.

These events are costing countries $7 to $15 billion a year and, unchecked, the AfDB warns these costs could soar to $50 billion annually by 2030.

Research commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) also estimates the cost of adaptation to be about $50 billion by 2050 if the global temperature increase is kept within 2 degrees. The high dependence of the continent on rain-fed agriculture compounds these vulnerabilities.

Global solidarity in the fight against climate change and in delivering key initiatives that have been agreed upon as part of the United Nations Climate Change Conference is vital in supporting sustainable development in Africa.

During COP27, Africa, as a continent that is disproportionately affected by climate change, applauded the decision to grant the ‘Loss and Damages’ funding to aid recovery efforts in countries that experience extreme climate impacts, but this is yet to be operationalised.

Once in effect, such initiatives will anchor the SDGs and Agenda 2063 goals for vulnerable countries. Until then, achieving SDGs or Agenda 2063 goals will be near impossible for such countries as every step forward in development is eroded by climate loss and damage. 

If African countries are to stand a chance to achieve the SDGs and Agenda 2063, there must be an increase in investment in climate action, and this requires strong political commitment to increase the pace of implementation.

Given the scarce resources in Africa, the continent requires support to make this possible. The strengths of organisations such as ARC in capacity building, contingency planning, risk profiling, and risk transfer must be leveraged in climate response, given the impact of climate management on sustainable development.

Written By
Ibrahima Cheikh Diong

Ibrahima Cheikh Diong is UN Assistant-Secretary General and ARC Group Director General.

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