By Josephine Akaerr, Special Correspondent
In a historic and united show of solidarity for a continent that contributes only 5 per cent to global emissions, more than 30 heads of state and global leaders committed to prioritize actions that help African countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and “build forward better.”
Africa now faces the dual onslaught of climate change – currently estimated at between US$7 billion and US$15 billion each year – and COVID-19, which has claimed 114,000 lives. The African Development Bank expects that the impact of climate change on the continent could rise to US$50 billion each year by 2040, with a further 3 per cent decline in GDP by 2050.
Speaking Tuesday, during a virtual Leaders’ Dialogue convened by the African Development Bank, the Global Center on Adaptation and the Africa Adaptation Initiative, more than 30 heads of state and global leaders rallied behind the bold new Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme. The programme’s objective is to mobilize US$25 billion to accelerate climate change adaptation actions across Africa.
President Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and African Union Chairperson, invited his fellow leaders to: “revisit our climate ambitions and accelerate the implementation of our actions planned under our national priorities. To do this we will need to focus on actions to adapt to the impacts of climate change, these include nature-based solutions, energy transition, enhanced transparency framework, technology transfer and climate finance.”
The Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme is built to address the impacts of COVID-19, climate change, and the continent’s worst recession in 25 years. This is why today’s unprecedented show of support for the financing of African adaptation is so significant.
According to the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Chair of the Global Center on Adaptation, Ban Ki-moon “The COVID-19 pandemic is eroding recent progress in building climate resilience and leaving countries and communities more vulnerable to future shocks. Africa must make up for lost ground and lost time. Climate change did not stop because of COVID-19, and neither should the urgent task of preparing humanity to live with the multiple effects of a warming planet.”
President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, and Chair of the African Union-led Africa Adaptation Initiative, spoke of Gabon’s record in emission reductions. He said that Gabon is one of the few countries in the world that is carbon positive. “We have to insist that equal attention be paid to climate adaptation and mitigation in climate finance. Africa calls on the developed nations to shoulder the historic responsibility and to join the programme to accelerate the adaptation in Africa,” President Bongo said.
African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina said: “With our partners, we intend to mobilize US$25 billion in financing for the success of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme. It is time for developed countries to meet their promise of providing US$100 billion annually for climate finance.
And a greater share of this should go to climate adaptation. So far, more than 20 trillion dollars have gone into COVID-19 stimulus packages in developed countries. The International Monetary Fund’s plan to issue US$650 billion of new Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to boost global reserves and liquidity will be enormously helpful to support green growth and climate financing for economic recovery. I applaud the leadership of the US government and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, especially, on this big push.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “African nations are showing leadership…The Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme, and many other ambitious African initiatives, must be empowered to fully deliver on their goals.”
Guterres added: “Universal access to energy in Africa, a priority in the coming years, could be provided primarily through renewable energy. I call for a comprehensive package of support to meet these dual objectives by COP 26. It is achievable, it is necessary, it is overdue, and it is smart.”
Speaking on behalf of US President Joseph R. Biden, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said: “The United States remains a committed development partner for Africa and a huge supporter of the African Development Bank. Africa contributed the least to climate change but is suffering the worst of its effects. I congratulate the African Development Bank and the Global Center for Adaptation for developing the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme. We support the programme… to help ensure that together, we can avoid the worst effects of climate change.”
The Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme, as launched by the African Development Bank and the Global Center on Adaptation, revolves around several transformative initiatives:
Climate Smart Digital Technologies for Agriculture and Food Security aims to scale up access to climate-smart digital technologies for at least 30 million farmers in Africa. The African Infrastructure Resilience Accelerator will scale up investment for climate-resilient urban and rural infrastructure in key sectors. These include water, transport, energy, and waste management for a circular economy. Empowering Youth for Entrepreneurship and Job Creation in Climate Resilience will provide one million youths with skills for climate adaptation and support 10,000 small and medium size youth-led businesses to create green jobs. Innovative Financial Initiatives for Africa will help close adaptation finance gaps, enhance access to existing finance and mobilize new public and private sector investment.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said: “As well as facing the health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic, countries in Africa are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Tackling this dual challenge requires putting adaptation at the heart of Africa’s recovery – so countries build resilience to climate change and spur economic activity. This pandemic has shown us the importance of investing in people. And that is so, so very valuable for Africa, which has a fast-growing young population. This begins by improving education, healthcare, and food security, and in that context, I warmly welcome the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme.”
Speaking on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron, the Chief Executive of the French Development Agency, Remy Rioux said: “Africa is providing solutions to climate change, including the Great Green Wall and the Desert to Power initiative of the African Development Bank to build the world’s largest solar zone in the Sahel of Africa. France fully supports the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme.”
Moderating the Leaders’ Dialogue, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, Dr. Patrick Verkooijen said: “Africa has a unique opportunity to advance its development exponentially if it invests now in a climate-smart adapted future based on a deep understanding of climate risks and solutions that put nature and people at the center.”
*Editor’s Note: This is an improved version of the earlier published story.