African scientists and researchers are concerned that the data shows that the continent is being cornered by the spiraling effects of climate change, that the real impact of climate devastation is yet to unfold, and that the region is on the cusp of more severe and catastrophic consequences.
Given Africa’s high exposure and fragility to extreme and drastic changes in weather patterns, coupled with a low adaptative capacity, fears and concerns are rife that a failure to capture the full devastating picture on the ground could compromise Africa’s negotiating position at COP28 currently underway in Dubai.
In a session titled ‘African Science for the African Position,’ delegates heard about the mismatch between existing data and the needs on the ground and why it is critical to highlight climate change research from the continent.
“The focus of this conversation is really about data needs; the role of science from Africa but also across the global South to feed into the negotiating positions is overlooked. There is a need to improve our data and our social science in a way that provides accurate and comprehensive evidence for decision-making. Across climates—and of course here we are focusing on the UNFCCC—we are starting to look at critical inter-linkages around biodiversity, the ocean, livelihoods, justice, and equity,” said Laura Pereira, associate professor at the Global Change Institute at Wits University in Johannesburg and researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.
Dr Odirilwe Selomane, from the Department of Agriculture Economics, Extension, and Rural Development at the University of Pretoria, reflected on progress at COP28.
“Some of the issues that stood out are that there is a lack of nature-based solutions for funding on the one hand, and on the other hand, listening to those with nature-based solutions speak about a lack of funding, especially biodiversity financing. This disconnect can be bridged through scientific baselines that show what is happening on the ground to inform decision-making while designing responsive or climate action projects for Africa.”
Further emphasizing the need to “design data collection tools that can accurately capture the continent and all its ecosystems. When we look at the global soil degradation map, for instance, is it reflective of our continent and ecosystems, and how do we then improve these maps so that they give us an accurate reading of our contexts? One of the most effective and efficient approaches is to lean on African-centered science and research to give us the data needed to make decisions that match the needs on the ground.”
An open letter by 50 African scientists to African Heads of State and Government in light of COP28 reads, in part: “African citizens are feeling the heat and experiencing the drought, the instability in food supply and prices, the boiling oceans, and the impact of dwindling forests. The world is on fire, quite literally. Climate floods, cyclones, and wildfire events are becoming less predictable and more intense, destroying lives and displacing tens of thousands as the climate crisis deepens. We are in the midst of a human-made climate crisis, one that will get much more catastrophic if we fail to act.”
The letter further spoke about how alarming levels of gas emissions are increasing temperatures on the continent, compounding the multiple challenges facing the continent. Between 1900 and 2000, the continent warmed by 2 °C in some regions. Stressing that Africa’s ten hottest years since records began have all been since 2005.
At the current pace of greenhouse gas emissions, the projected annual mean temperature increase for Africa is approximately 6 °C by the end of the 21st century, the scientists warned. In the coming years, climate heat waves will occur more often, at higher intensities, and last longer as greenhouse gas emissions increase.
Climate change is already multiplying threats to life on the African continent with record-breaking food insecurity and water stress levels. Poor health indicators and economic insecurities are of particular concern.
As the end beckons for the COP28 summit, these scientists are urging African leaders and negotiators to keep their eyes firmly on the African agenda and particularly focus their attentions on key areas: phase out fossil fuels, enforce the polluter’s pay principal, protect and conserve Africa’s biodiversity, and not be distracted by fraudulent carbon markets and biodiversity credit markets.
Against this backdrop, more than USD 186 million of new financing for nature and climate towards forests, mangroves, and the ocean has already been announced during Nature, Land Use, and Ocean Day. This funding builds on the USD 2.5 billion mobilized to protect and restore nature during COP28’s World Climate Action Summit.
For African leaders, this is a step in the right direction. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, said, “The COP28 Presidency, the UAE, has demonstrated real action for nature, one that is backed by significant financial commitments. The journey to 1.5°C, as we all know, is not possible without nature, and this level of action must be expedited to achieve real progress by COP30.”
From a scientific point of view, the move is similarly welcome; reversing nature loss can provide upwards of 30 percent of the mitigation action needed to keep 1.5°C within reach by 2030. Nature has a crucial role to play in reducing climate-related hazards, such as floods and fires currently ravaging poor and vulnerable countries in Africa.
Nature preservation can also provide Africa with the answer to unemployment, as it can contribute a potential USD 10 trillion worth of new business opportunities and provide almost 400 million new jobs.