As the COP26 meetings wrapped up on Sunday, it quickly became clear that the region which will suffer the worst economic and social effects from rising temperatures – and which can least afford to face the challenges that climate change will bring. – won very little in Glasgow. Few agreements have been reached on how to compensate African countries for the damage that centuries of fossil fuels and other emissions in rich countries will have on Africa’s development prospects due to the current and future effects. of climate change. The injustice of the current situation – where today’s rich countries have achieved the highest levels of material well-being the world has ever seen primarily by harnessing cheap energy from fossil fuels, but the Most of the negative consequences of this strategy will fall on the world’s poorest countries – requires compensatory funding from the global North to the global South, especially Africa.
Yet no agreement was reached on this urgent issue during two weeks of negotiations. The costs of failing to act and the difficult choices African countries will face are daunting. Indeed, as noted in the State and Trends in Adaptation Report 2021: Africa, the challenges for the private, public and non-profit sectors, as well as for farmers, the informal economy and formal enterprises, are large – at both macroeconomic and microeconomic level. They will affect people in rural areas, small towns and cities, drylands and areas where flooding will increase, threatening the provision of health, education and other services. Ultimately, as I recently explored in a chapter of this report, the biggest losers from a lack of agreement are the young Africans, who will suffer the most from the effects of man-made climate change.
Mitigation vs adaptation
In Glasgow, the main focus was on mitigation (preventing further temperature rises). Indeed, an agreement was reached at COP26 on some key mitigation measures, including the need to reduce methane emissions, dependence on fossil fuels for energy production and deforestation, in rich countries such as in poor countries. Recognizing that poor countries could not undertake the necessary investments on their own, rich countries had already agreed in 2009 to provide concessional finance and grants to help low- and lower-middle-income countries build this new infrastructure, by in other words, financing mitigation. However, this commitment remains unrealized: as indicated in the press release, the countries had not “yet” reached the target amount, 100 billion dollars by 2020.
Even if global mitigation measures work and temperatures stop rising at some point in this century, African countries will still experience negative effects, from now on, at least until 2050.
But preventing future global climate risks from worsening by reducing emissions in Africa – the region that emits the least – does little to change the equation for Africa. The real problem for Africa is now. Even if global mitigation measures work and temperatures stop rising at some point in this century, African countries will still experience negative effects, from now on, at least until 2050. Countries must adapt their development strategies and investments now, especially because climate change and the need for adaptation will increase the cost of achieving all development strategies and goals for the foreseeable future. The necessary adaptation to climate change will cost money, far more than the $ 100 billion pledged for mitigation investments. While mitigation investments in Africa could have long-term payoffs (for example, in the latter half of this century) if they are successful in slowing or halting rising temperatures, adaptation investments are needed now. .
Why these choices are important to young people
Children and young people in Africa, including those who are just born, will bear the costs of climate change. Half of Africa’s population is under 20 years old. This group will suffer both the direct effects (e.g. extreme weather disasters) and the indirect effects – the lost opportunities for necessary investments in other areas that will not be realized because public and private funds will have to be spent. to adaptation. The infrastructure Africa sorely needs will cost more because it will have to be more weather resistant (otherwise it will fail more often, reducing profits). African agricultural research and development will need to improve significantly to avoid declines of up to 30 percent in land and labor productivity. As a result, African countries will have less public money available for other priorities, such as education, health and nutrition. Investing in productive capacity will also cost the private sector more, slowing growth and transformation. The result will be lower income and increased poverty. The youth of 2030 (aged 5 to 14 today) will reach their projected peak earning spell by 2045, when the worst economic effects are felt, until income growth drops by 80% ( around 4% per year) compared to today. This long-term loss of income will significantly affect their future and that of their children.
Adaptation policies and investments, if launched today, could prevent the worst aspects of this bleak future. But even if additional funding for adaptation investments is secured, countries will still face difficult choices and trade-offs, including how much to invest in adaptation now versus building human capital for future growth in communities. income and to better face future challenges. Despite being the most educated generation of all time in Africa, young Africans have not shown the level of engagement on climate change shown by young people in other countries, in part due to urgent needs and partly because of political exclusion in some countries. Yet countries will soon be making key decisions. African youth must be consulted and effectively engaged both in early stage investment decisions and in monitoring local results.