Students take part in a global protest against climate change in Cape Town, South Africa. (Reuters)

Less than three months before COP27, the UN conference on climate change set to take place in Egypt in November, African countries have called for an end to this "climate injustice."

According to the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) report, Africa — which produces only 4 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, despite having a fifth of the world's population — is the region most affected by the climate crisis.

“The disproportionate responsibility placed on Africa, which contributes less than 4 percent to global emissions but faces severe consequences on the lives and livelihoods of its people, can only be described as an injustice,” said Egyptian foreign minister and COP27 president-designate Sameh Choukry during African Climate Week in Libreville, Gabon — one of the preparatory meetings ahead of COP27.

At all the climate conferences it has attended, Africa has never stopped asking the major polluters — i.e. the highly industrialised countries — to contribute to the preservation of African biodiversity through funding. However, the continent, which would need at least $250 billion a year to tackle climate change, received only $29 billion in financial assistance in 2020.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, was, for example, expecting $10 billion on the sidelines of COP26, but only obtained an agreement of $500 million for five years.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), climate change has also affected Africa's GDP. “The continent is seeing its GDP cut by 5 percent to 15 percent due to climate change. Between 2016 and 2019, African countries as a whole only received $18.3 billion in climate finance, which could reach $127.2 billion between 2020 and 2030,” specified the AfDB in a report entitled “African Economic Outlook 2022.”

Disastrous consequences

Between extreme heat, thunderstorms, drought and flooding, the consequences of global warming in Africa will be disastrous with an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius — predictions have been made if such a scenario unfolds.

In this case, agricultural produce such as olives in North Africa, or coffee in East Africa, will be drastically reduced.

The prevalence of vector-borne diseases is also likely to increase, including malaria in West and Central Africa, and dengue fever in Southern and East Africa.

As for fishing, it risks decreasing by up to 50 percent in West Africa.

With an increase of 2 degrees Celsius in North Africa, 20 percent of mammals will no longer benefit from conditions favourable for their survival, while in West Africa crop yield will decrease by 42 percent by 2050, 90 percent of coral reefs in Madagascar will be destroyed by bleaching, and the Rwenzoris and Kilimanjaro glaciers will disappear.

Exposure to temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius also increases the rate of communal violence and homicide in South Africa by an estimated 18 percent.

On a continental scale, 50 percent of species will lose at least 30 percent of their population, at least 25 cities will experience temperatures above 40.6 degrees Celsius 150 days a year, the population exposed to dengue fever, yellow fever and zika will double, and finally, 17 to 40 million Africans will migrate within the continent.

A major potential

Although Africa has long been considered a continent facing problems related to climate change, it has many levers to mitigate global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some even think that the continent can be a source of solutions to combat the environmental crisis.

Among the potential solutions is renewable energy: Exploiting its immense solar and wind capacity could be a game-changer not only for the continent, but also for the entire planet.

The continent is also leaning towards agricultural sustainability, including agroforestry, which is used primarily to fertilise the soil and work in symbiosis with cultivated plants. The biochar technique, which makes use of organic charcoal to fertilise soil, is, for example, used in Cameroon to restore degraded forests.

Launched in 2007 by the African Union, the Great Green Wall — a project working towards the planting of millions of trees — is attempting to reforest Africa to avoid desertification while improving the living and health conditions of surrounding populations, while fighting off food insecurity and poverty.

The continent can also take advantage of population growth and urbanisation to build resilient cities, transforming basic dwellings into energy-efficient ‘green’ buildings with natural ventilation.

Gabon, world champion of the environment

Libreville, the capital of Gabon, hosted African Climate Week — the third stage of a series of meetings initiated by UN Climate — from August 29 through September 2. For five days, more than 1,000 participants, including politicians, representatives of international organisations and civil society leaders, discussed the COP26 resolutions.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon claimed that the objective was to create a united voice for Africa at COP27 and to formulate concrete proposals there.

"The time has come for us Africans to take our destiny into our own hands," declared the Gabonese president, deploring the failure of the international community to meet the objectives of 2015’s COP21: to contain, by 2100, global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, ideally limiting it to 1.5 degrees.

It’s no coincidence that Gabon was chosen as the venu for Climate Week: It is often praised by the international community for its "exemplary" work in preserving its biodiversity and fighting against global warming. A country of less than 10 million inhabitants, Gabon is located in the heart of Central Africa’s tropical forest — referred to as "the second lung of the Earth" after the Amazon.

In June 2021, Gabon became the first African country to be awarded international funds for its contribution to the absorption of carbon dioxide in the world thanks to the programmes it has underway to preserve its forests, which cover 90 percent of its territory.

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