African Countries Climate Response Plan

INSIGHTS & OPINIONS

The effects of climate change, particularly environmental and economic disruption are more evident with each passing day. Years of carbon emissions have led to rising global surface temperatures. Nowhere in the world is safe from the effects of this global crisis, Africa included. Africa accounts for less than 5% of the GHG emissions. Despite having contributed the least to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the continent is said to be among the most vulnerable to climate change on the planet. According to African Development Bank (AfDB), six out of the twenty most vulnerable countries are African countries while four African countries are ranked among the ten most affected countries in the world.

Climate change is a major threat to Africa’s development, especially countries with widespread of poverty and ineffective governments that contribute the least to world’s carbon dioxide emissions. A warming planet leads to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources on the continent. With the continent’s current level of economic development, there is a clear need for more financial and technical support from international institutions and developed countries to achieve a sustainable economy that works for both people and the environment. 

Climate change interventions

The Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015 to limit global warming under 20C, preferably to 1.50C and to help countries with climate change adaptation and finance. It works on a 5-year cycle of climate action by countries. Under the Paris Agreement deal, countries must provide plans for climate action known as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Since the Paris Agreement entered into force in 2016, African governments have outlined bold aspirations to build climate-resilient and low-carbon economies in their NDCs. East African countries have shown the deepest commitment to climate change adaptation through the adoption of eco-friendly policies and programs over the years. For example, Kenya generates most of its electricity carbon-free.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), almost all African countries (53 out of 54, Libya being the exception) have submitted their first NDCs as of June 2021. Following are the NDCs and latest adaptation policies of Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

1. KENYA: Climate Change Act, 2016 and National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2018-2022

On 28th December 2016, Kenya submitted its NDC that sets out both mitigation and adaptation contributions. The country developed the National Climate Change Response Strategy, National Climate Change Action Plans and a Climate Change Act to facilitate an effective response to climate change.

The Kenya Climate Change Act, 2016 was the first climate change-dedicated legislation in Africa and was the legal foundation of the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2018-2022. The law requires the government of Kenya to adopt an approach that integrates climate change considerations into all sectors and development plans. It also mandates frequent reporting of climate change actions to key stakeholders for proper monitoring of progress.

The NCCAP 2018-2022 builds on the first action plan (2013-2017). Unlike the first NCCAP, it focuses more on adaptation as well as seven priority areas and thirty enabling actions. The areas are disaster risk management, energy and transport, water and blue economy, forestry, wildlife and tourism, health, sanitation and human settlement, manufacturing, and food security. Some of the key actions are to improve the ability of the people to cope with droughts; improve crop productivity through implementation of climate smart agriculture interventions; and increase annual per capita water availability through the development of water infrastructure.

Through actions in the plan, the government aims to reduce agricultural pre-and post-harvest losses from 40% to 15%, provide disaster risk management fund for disaster preparedness, and mitigate disaster impacts by June 2023.

2. Nigeria’s adaptation measures to climate change

In its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the UNFCCC on 27 May 2021, the government of Nigeria reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Agreement. Since the 2015 NDC, the government has made specific policy commitments. They include the elimination of kerosene lighting by 2030, greater uptake of bus rapid transit, a fifty percent reduction in the fraction of crop residues burnt by 2030, and the approval of a national action plan on gender and climate change.

The main objective of the National Action Plan on Gender and Climate Change 2020 is to mainstream gender into climate change policies and programs including the implementation of the Paris Agreement and Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The action plan focuses on five priority sectors including agriculture, forestry and land use, food security and health, energy and transportation, waste management, and water and sanitation.

Some of the expected outcomes from full implementation of the action plan by 2025 are increased institutional capacity on gender-related climate change issues, reduction of mortality and morbidity due to climate change-related diseases, reduced pollution of the environment and health issues associated with cooking with crude energy sources, and increased access to potable water in rural and urban areas.

3. SOUTH AFRICA: Carbon Tax Act 2019 and National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) 2019

South Africa’s Carbon Tax Act 2019 establishes a ‘polluters pay principle’ that places levies on greenhouse gas emissions above certain thresholds from industrial activities. In March 2021, the country launched an updated NDC. It proposes a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, allowing space and time to implement other key policies, including the national recovery plan from COVID-19.   

The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) was adopted as South Africa’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) to fulfil its obligation in terms of the Paris Agreement. The ten-year adaptation plan outlines priority areas for adaptation and strategic interventions to guide adaptation efforts and resource allocation. One of its objectives is to reduce vulnerability and build adaptive capacity and develop a coordinated climate service system.

Some of the expected outcomes from full implementation of the adaptation strategy are adequate financial resources for national adaptation priorities; an effective adaptation that covers at least hundred percent of South African sectors, among others.

Challenges

Having shown commitments to enhancing climate action through NDCs, the implementation of those adaptation policies is conditional upon receiving adequate financial and capacity building support.

Generally, there is a gap that exists between government policies and goal attainment due to inadequate policy implementation in Africa. Lack of access to finance and national capacities for resource mobilization have been identified by the United Nations as obstacles to the implementation of climate action by African governments. According to the AfDB, Africa will need huge investments of over $3 trillion to implement its NDCs by 2030. Thus, achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement in Africa will require international support with capacity building and technology transfer.

Also, the additional impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on economies have the potential of delaying the implementation of NDCs further because governments’ focus has shifted towards facilitating economic recovery.

The way forward

Since Africa’s climate fight is about adaptation and resilience, countries will need to invest more in resilient infrastructures to respond to extreme weather events such as drought.

Firstly, African countries should tap into the abundance of solar, wind, and geothermal resources on the continent to improve the energy and agriculture sectors. For instance, solar irrigation can help countries adapt to climate change — by making them less reliant on rainfall, diesel and electric pumps. This can create a sustainable food system that will provide opportunities for people to diversify their income.

Secondly, as more countries transition to a low-carbon energy system, they should consider a shift from the linear “take-make-dispose” economy to the circular “take, make, and keep in circulation” economy to reduce the need for resource extraction and to build a sustainable economy. For instance, carefully considering their production and consumption cycles — by adopting the reduce, reuse and recycle model — can go a long way in addressing climate change.

Thirdly, governments should work through regional and global institutions to develop regional initiatives that will strengthen their response to climate change.

Finally, African governments cannot do it alone. They need the help of developed countries to cut down global emissions and drive the investments needed to fulfil the Paris Agreement by 2030.