Africa: The climate action we need to avoid deadly floods

Cape Town – As communities in South Africa’s coastal KwaZulu-Natal province continue to search for missing loved ones after devastating floods that killed more than 400 people, the crushing impact of the climate crisis is once again in focus concerns. A planned meeting of the global environmental body, the Campaign for Nature, with its Global Steering Committee (GSC) which includes South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, said: “There is no doubt that what happened here is another reminder that we need to do something fast.”

Ramaphosa has joined several African leaders in the GCC – co-founder and former President of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma, former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Ruhakana Rugunda, the former Ugandan Prime Minister – who together want to protect at the less than a third of the planet by 2030, and works with Indigenous leaders to ensure full respect for Indigenous rights.

Deadly floods that rocked KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Eastern Cape led to a declaration of national disaster by Ramaphosa after a damage assessment was made by the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and other governments. representatives. “These floods are the worst we have ever seen in living memory. The impact of these floods goes far beyond the province,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

Dhesigen Naidoo for ISS (Institute for Security Studies) writes that governments are suffering from “sluggishness…in cutting the global carbon budget” and the latest floods in South Africa “are the latest in a series of environmental disasters on the continent over the past months, and the need for smart early warning systems and climate protection of South African infrastructure”.

Naidoo went on to warn of “frequent extreme weather events in the form of high-energy storms, floods and droughts,” saying coastal areas will face rising sea levels, coastal retreat and saltwater intrusion into freshwater systems.

The words of the SGC are in line with an understanding of the urgent nature of the climate crisis: “The recent tragedies have made our discussion even more important and urgent.” But is the South African government handling the climate crisis with “lethargy”?

Floods could force a rethink of SA’s stance on coal

Shortly before heavy rains and flooding returned KwaZulu-Natal to its current state, South Africa announced that the country was not expected to stop using coal as part of the the country’s energy mix. Vice President David Mabuza told a session in Parliament that the country’s power generation is guided by the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019. This means that all fuel sources – coal, gas and renewables renewables – are all considered equally viable sources of energy.

Mabuza’s statements came after commitments made by South Africa at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, where a major $8.2 billion deal with the UK , the United States, Germany, France and the European Union has been signed. Alex Lenferna for New frame wrote that while big questions remain about exactly how this international climate finance deal will play out, the funding is intended to be used for a range of measures to help South Africa pursue a just transition to “a low-carbon economy and a society resilient to climate change”.

A just transition is defined by a nation’s adoption of a low-carbon economy. It is based on social dialogue between workers and their unions, employers, government and communities, according to the Life After Coal campaign. Mabuza’s statements echoed those of the Minister for Forests, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, who in November 2021 said South Africa would not support a pledge signed by 40 nations. and institutions to end coal finance by the 2030s for major economies and the 2040s for poorer nations. .

“South Africa has not signed off on the abandonment of the coal commitment. Our position in the negotiations is that any decision should be made through the process of formal negotiations through the convention. And I think we would be concerned about situations where there is an increased tendency to put in place platforms and commitments that are outside of the negotiation process. We think that puts developing countries at a disadvantage,” Creecy said. at the time.

The southern African nation is not alone in experiencing deadly floods due to the climate crisis – African members of the Global Steering Committee were asked to respond: “These floods are a tragic reminder of the increasing frequency extreme weather conditions due to climate change… We cannot solve our climate crisis and stop these natural disasters unless we act urgently to further protect and conserve the natural world. The destruction of ecosystems is accelerating climate change and poses a serious threat to our ability to protect communities In fact, a third of the solutions that will reduce global warming are found in nature. This means that without nature, we cannot stop the disastrous trend that is causing natural disasters in Africa and around the world.

And as a growing body of evidence shows, climate action is best accelerated when the negotiating table fairly reflects the diversity of our world. Women’s leadership in national governments and local politics has led to better outcomes for climate policies and action plans, and a strong correlation exists between gender diversity on corporate boards and action. climatic. And beyond gender, we must include the most marginalized and climate-affected – namely, the people and communities who are not responsible for our current crisis but who bear the brunt of it disproportionately, Mary Robinson written for allAfrica.

How can Africa prepare for COP27?

According to an analysis by the African Climate Policy Center via Africa Renewala warming of more than two degrees means a loss of GDP of around 5% per year for African nations by 2030. Africa Renewal went on to detail five ways in which Africa could be able to prepare for COP27:

1. With the right support, Africa can deliver a green recovery

Africa’s rise and impressive growth at the turn of the century was built on the back of commodity exports and new global trading opportunities. However, this growth has not built sustainable and resilient value chains, and an urgent overhaul is needed for Africa to avoid a lost decade.

2. Seed funding is key

African countries need reliable financing options so they can invest upfront to maximize return on investment. As Nick Stern’s 2020 global study demonstrated, multiplier effects are higher the earlier an intervention is put in place.

3. Africa’s energy grid is the key to unlocking growth

African resilience will be best achieved by embracing renewable energy pathways and developing national and regional value chains around the manufacture and deployment of these technologies. A just transition for Africa will also require recognizing that some additional baseload generation will be needed to rapidly increase investment in renewables. For example, if Africa were to double its electricity production using only natural gas, it would increase solar and wind investment by 38 times, with only a 1% increase in global emissions.

4. Resilience through adaptation is essential to economic viability

The initial investment in adaptation reduces long-term investment costs. As illustrated in the Global Center for Adaptation’s 2021 Status and Trends Report, the cost of adaptation interventions through agriculture is estimated at $15 billion per year, representing less than 10% the estimated annual cost of $201 billion to pay for disaster relief and recovery. after floods, droughts and similar environmental disasters.

In South Africa, a return of more than 150% can be obtained by rehabilitation and investment in parks, while agroforestry and reforestation initiatives return more than 100%. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a return of up to 450% is possible by investing in irrigation and associated adaptation measures. In Kenya, a return of over 200% is possible through the use of resilient seeds in agriculture and similar returns are also possible by rehabilitating and investing in nature parks.

5. Africa should be rewarded for its net positive

COP26 also concluded negotiations on carbon trading under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Although legitimate concerns are raised about potential abuses, based on the lack of precision in some of the definitions, African countries have a good opportunity ahead of COP27 to leverage their considerable natural sequestration assets to be able to strengthen resilience by protecting sensitive areas, while also raising much-needed capital that can be invested in national priorities. The Congo Basin peatlands alone sequester three years’ worth of global emissions.

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