Africa’s Role in the Climate Change Agenda

Published on 22nd January 2008

According to the World Bank, climate change effects will impact on the world’s poor countries and Africa composes the majority of this category. It is therefore critical that African leaders are at the fore front in addressing these issues. The Western world by far has an upper hand in looking into climate change because they also not only have developed high-tech climate and weather systems but they have the necessary technical expertise to address climate change issues also.


Although Africa is not exponentially too industrialized to warrant high volumes of pollution, it goes without saying that we are headed that way unless we realize that we can not sacrifice the earth in the name of development. Uganda for example, received a good scare from the Nile whose water levels significantly dropped affecting the generation of energy. This prompted a wake up call that brought the nation to realize the value of our natural resources and our dependence on them means that we must manage them sustainably.


The World Bank has highlighted four areas in which it seeks to focus its efforts. Championing the exploitation of renewable energy resources so as to set the globe on a low carbon path, supporting energy conservation and increasing efficiency in energy use. The World Bank committed USD 1,434 million in the fiscal year 2007 for this cause. Secondly, the promotion of new technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) in a bid to reduce the carbon impact of fossil fuels like coal. The alternative is bio-fuel and the bank is at the fore front of assessing the viability of bio-fuel programs particularly for countries that still heavily rely on the likes of coal. Thirdly, the fight against deforestation. The World Bank reports that about 20% of greenhouse emissions result from poor land management especially deforestation which destroys the environment. We must strike a balance between the drive for investment and industrialization and our highly priced environment. The fourth effort is adaptation to climate risks and this is because damage has already been done and we are faced with the risks on a daily basis.


Unfortunately, it’s the world’s poor that are at a greater risk of being harmed by climate change and extreme weather occurrences like floods, heat waves, drought, and rising sea levels. The Bank’s adaptation program is designed to offer assistance to developing countries to build capacity to enable implementation of measures that will handle the already inevitable social and economic impacts of climate change. Three programs have been designed to understand the nature and degree of risks, build capacity to manage the risks and then invest in measures to minimize and mitigate the risks.


African countries stand to benefit from the international carbon trading schemes as was cited by Prof Ian Swingland, a leading authority in commercializing biodiversity assets in an address to Uganda MPs. He said Uganda stood to earn up to USD 5 million if two of our forests were included in the scheme. It is therefore commendable that the government decided not to give away part of our largest forest (mabira) to a sugar cane company that was soliciting for part of the land to expand production. This goes to show that we can actually earn from our natural resources while we leave them intact. 


Africa is in a better position to address climate change by putting pressure on the Western world who are the bigger culprits to put in place measures that will work to bring to a halt the rate of destruction and degradation of resources. More funding needs to go into research to develop safer fuels. While these will take a while to make their way to Africa, Africa still has the opportunity to redeem itself and the world by preserving and wisely utilizing her natural wealth.

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