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 that in order to improve the use of climate science in developing adaptation responses it is necessary to:

? 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. We need to develop a coherent response urgently."

The AMCEN Expert Group proposed creating a comprehensive framework of climate change programmes in Africa. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with partners is supporting climate adaptation planning in Africa and will step up its efforts in future. 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."

SUPPORTING INFORMATION

 Executive summary of the background paper prepared for the AMCEN Expert Group (attached)

 Policy briefing note on agriculture and adaptation in Africa (attached as separate file)

CONTACTS

Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson and Head of Media UNEP, Tel: +41 795965737, e-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

Robert Watt, Communications Manager, SEI, Tel: +46 73 707 85 89, email: robert.watt@sei.se

Three of the lead authors supporting the AMCEN Expert Group and available for interviews:

Dr Youba Sokona, Executive Secretary, OSS, youba.sokona@oss.org.tn

Dr Thomas Downing, Director, UNEP-SEI Collaborating Programme on Climate Adaptation, SEI Oxford, Tel: +44 7968 065957, tom.downing@sei.se

Dr Gina Ziervogel, University of Cape Town, gina@egs.uct.ac.za, Tel +27 845556677

Climate Change Adaptation in Africa: Scoping Paper for the Expert Group Meeting of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment, 12th Meeting of the Expert Group Johannesburg, South Africa: 7 ? 9 June, 2008

Executive summary

Adaptation is a process, beginning with understanding current vulnerability, building capacity to support adaptation planning and implementation, learning from pilot actions and deploying strategies and measures to operationalise climate change adaptation in vulnerable regions, sectors and populations. The assessment of current, urgent vulnerabilities has established country-driven priorities that are sufficient to invest in building capacity and pilot actions.

Adaptation efforts, globally and in Africa, are already occurring: it is necessary to move from reactive adaptation to proactive policies, strategies and plans. Actions are required to learn what works under which conditions and/or circumstances; implementation of NAPA projects are essential, as are an increased coverage of types of projects and sectors.

Financial support for climate change adaptation in Africa has been growing, from the initial funds for Least Developed Countries (LDCF) to major investments planned by bilateral donors. Increasing contributions are expected from foundations and the private sector. The estimates of the cost of adaptation in Africa are no more than 'thought experiments', and further studies within Africa are required. However, it appears that the capacity to utilize additional funding on climate adaptation over the next few years is about the same order of magnitude as the funding available. However, to achieve successful 'climate protection' will require effective delivery of increased development funding and full implementation of disaster risk reduction strategies, as well as significant funding for the additional burdens of climate change.

The most urgent needs at present, with immediate benefits, are to rapidly build the adaptive capacity in existing institutions in Africa, to develop a professional body of practitioners, and to implement pilot actions in every country and vulnerable sector. The ability to plan sound projects and to learn from what works is limited by the lack of institutional and professional capacity. Taking advantage of synergies with other resource management and risk reduction efforts (e.g., water, land degradation, biodiversity, coastal zones, health and disasters) is imperative.


 

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