Forging African Strategies on Climate Change Adaptation
Africa, the continent most vulnerable to climate change, contributes little to global greenhouse gas emissions. How will the vulnerable populations, sectors and regions cope with the consequences of climate change? African environment ministers are poised to take action, what should they do?
The ultimate aim of climate adaptation is to protect vulnerable populations, economies and infrastructure throughout Africa. Achieving this requires rapidly developing capacity in existing organizations and learning from an extensive network of pilot actions. This is a central message adopted by an Expert Group as a draft decision for the African Ministerial Conference on Environment, meeting this week in Johannesburg.
Significant finance for climate adaptation is available now, and expected to be over a billion dollars in a year or so. But capacity for effective action is lacking in Africa. The urgent task is to build on existing organizations, from the local community level to African-wide agencies and networks. Youba Sokona, Executive Director of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory, called on "African governments, international organizations and regional economic communities to expedite the implementation of existing programs and initiatives on climate change in Africa, at all levels."
Ongoing assessment of vulnerability is an essential capacity. A recent report to the Rockefeller Foundation led by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) team at the University of Cape Town recommended:
- Improve access to historical climate data.
- Strengthen skills for applying climate science.
- Bridge the gap between information producers and information users.
- Create platforms for collaborative action and information sharing.
- Build on existing organisations and networks.
- Develop records of 'good' adaptation.
- Focus aid to better support adaptation.
Gina Ziervogel, the lead author, noted "Adaptation to climate variability is not new, but climate change is expected to intensify existing problems and create new risks with potentially grave consequences."
The AMCEN Expert Group has tasked the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with developing a coherent framework for climate adaptation planning in Africa. Tom Downing supported the Expert Group: "UNEP and the Stockholm Environment Institute have signed a framework agreement to collaborate on climate change adaptation. Africa is our first priority, where we will work closely with our partners to build technical and organizational capacity. The weADAPT.org collaborative platform already provides data, tools and extensive guidance developed with partners in Africa and Asia."