By Mary Hearty

To unlock Africa’s full potential in addressing the impacts of climate change comprehensively, increased financial flow for adaptation is urgently needed.

Prof. Patrick Verkooigen, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) said during his inaugural annual lecture on the adaptation imperative for Africa ahead of the Conference of Parties (COP26) and the critical importance of accelerating the pace of resilience-building in Africa through Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) at the University of Nairobi.

He said the real story of climate change in Africa is the urgent call for more and smarter financing, the need for coordinated actions, the solutions and innovations, and the leadership of communities.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that the global climate is now nearly 1.1 Celsius warmer then the pre-industrial era especially in Africa where it is much higher than the global average.

If the world warms up to 2 degrees Celsius or beyond, Prof. Verkooigen said the economic and social costs will be catastrophic in Africa than other regions over the next decade.

For instance, he stated that climate change is a new and significant pressure on the sovereign credit rating of African countries. If the impacts increase, the cost of borrowing will increase as well hence reducing the continent’s investment potential.

Other devastating climate change impact are seen with the ongoing droughts that have ravaged the Eastern parts of Kenya, precipitated famine as well as the 2020 floods which affected about 1.1 million people in East Africa.

Additionally, it caused the worst locust outbreak which left about 1.5 million people food insecure in the horn of Africa, and the March 2019, cyclone Idai which affected about 1.5 million people Mozambique.

Prof. Verkooigen during the launch

“These impacts can only be reduced with adaptation so, Africa needs to scale up adaptation now,” he emphasized.

Moreover, the poorest and most vulnerable in Africa cannot afford these impacts. Furthermore, he stated that about 122 million new people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 globally, with 43 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

Poverty is closely linked with security, displacement and half of the countries are considered extremely vulnerable to climate change.

“Therefore if these fragile countries are hit harder, climate change will affect the security and the stability of Africa by 2050. And we would see additional 50 million internal climate migrants. With effective adaptation, we could reduce that number by threefold,” Prof. Verkooigen elaborated.

Also, he said the small enterprises in Africa cannot afford the impacts of climate change either. Following a survey conducted on the impacts of climate change, Prof Verkooigen observed that all the small and medium enterprises interviewed said that they are already being affected by climate change. 70% of those infected in East Africa faced lower productivity; half suffered physical damage to their equipment.

If the world stays in 1.5 degrees Celsius, he said adaptation in Africa is possible. A dollar invested in climate information service, gives between 4- 5 dollars in benefits. A dollar invested in resilient water and sanitation not only saves lives, it creates between 2-12 dollars in benefit. African countries that invest a dollar in climate smart crops can see between 2-14 dollars in benefits, Prof Verkooigen stated.

He noted that based on 40 countries that calculated their adaptation investment needs, about $331 billion is needed through 2030. Therefore, adaptation investment needs should be mobilized from a wider variety of financial sources and the private sector is the key.

The private sector generates 70% of the economic output, 90% of the economic growth and employment although, most private sector climate activities are focused on mitigation not adaptation.

“We should not reduce emissions alone; addressing climate impact is equally important today. Climate adaptation is also a huge business opportunity for the private sector,” Prof Verkooigen said.

But if adaptation actions are delayed, Prof Verkooigen said the costs will increase. “The cost of agricultural adaptation is around $50 billion annually, whereas the cost of disaster recoveries is around $200 billion annually.”

The Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP), an initiative launched by the African Development Bank together with the GCA is also committed to mobilize $25 billion to scale up climate change adaptation actions and drive investment in green growth.

Prof. Verkooigen said the AAAP will support all African countries in designing and implementing transformational adaptation of their economies and post economic recovery in their development pathways.

Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) said the AAAP is built on four pillars: agriculture, infrastructure, youth, and innovative and financial initiative.

On agriculture, he said: “we will scale up the climate smart digital technologies and associated data-driven agricultural and financial services to at least 30 million farmers in Africa and reduce malnutrition of at least 10 million people.”

Adesina Akinwumi

Regarding infrastructure, Dr Adesina stated that they will ensure that climate risk and resilience are integrated in at least 50% of the total value of new infrastructure investments in Africa across all infrastructure sectors.

In addition, he said the AAAP will promote sustainable job creation for about one million youth through entrepreneurship in climate adaptation and resilience by unlocking $3 billion in credit for adaptation action.

Whereas on innovative financial initiative, they will increase financial flows for adaptation and resilience with a total increase of adaptation financing on the continent to over $5 billion dollars per year by 2025.

African governments have also pledged to contribute close to 20% of funding for global adaptation if the world comes forward with the rest to increase financial flow by multiple factors.

Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya said although the COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated the funding situation and countries around the world have collectively allocated over $20 trillion in COVID stimulus packages, thereby reducing greatly the resources available to combat climate change, the two challenges must be addressed together.

He further explained that evidence shows that an investment of $800 million in developing countries in climate adaptation programs would see and result in benefits of up to $16 billion per year.

Besides, the report on the states and trends in adaptation which was launched during the event has identified adaptation and investment opportunities that exist in Africa.

These opportunities include climate resilient projects such as mangrove restoration, water storage, drainage rehabilitation, digital agriculture, as well as new innovative financing such as blended financing to de-risk private investment and climate related debt swaps.

While it is relatively more difficult to design, implement adaptation projects, and while fewer resources are currently available for adaptation, President Uhuru said we should not lose sight of the fact that adaptation is smart economics.

He also noted that Kenya has already deployed significant financial resources to scale up its adaptation efforts.

“We have mainstreamed adaptation into our national development strategy and aligned it to future expected impacts of climate change. Kenya has updated national determined contributions and provided an overview of adaptation priorities that require international financial support.”

To implement our nationally determined contributions, he said Kenya plans to invest approximately $8 billion over the next 10 years. This is just 10% of the total investment needed and therefore, support from international partners is needed.

Dr Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said: “We must strengthen resilience to climate shocks by investing in climate smart agriculture, resilience infrastructure, boosting food security with better irrigation systems, better access to agricultural research and climate resilient seeds. Broader access to finance can help people invest in their own resilience.”

Ban Ki-moon, the 8th United Nations Secretary-General and Chair of the Global Center on Adaptation said that COVID-19 has taught us that we are only as strong as our weakest link. Therefore, everyone must contribute to the solution. Adaptation will take on many shapes and forms all over the globe.

He added that we have no choice but to act and adapt. Act to cut carbon emissions as fast as we can to reduce the burden on depletion, and adapt to the climate change impacts that have been experienced to secure people and livelihoods, and climate resilience.