A recent technical report published by the UN Environment Programme, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and Climate Analytics investigates the impacts of climate change and the costs of adaptation in Africa. Africa’s Adaptation Gap report is a warning to policymakers of both the implications for Africa should global mitigation activities fall short as well as the urgent need for scaling up adaptation activities and funding in this continent, a region the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report named a “vulnerability hot spot” for the impacts of climate change.
Africa is projected to experience severe climatic changes compared to historical conditions: more frequent extreme weather events; sea level rise of over one metre with global average temperature increases of 4°C by 2100; significant decreases in precipitation across many areas; a loss of biodiversity and potentially grazing area; and maize, millet and sorghum growing areas are likely to become unviable with global average temperature increases of 3°C as growing seasons shorten and optimal heat ranges are exceeded..
The report summarises the estimated costs of adaptation Africa faces under different scenarios:
- With current emissions levels, adaptation costs will be $7 to $15 billion per year to 2020.
- If we close the emissions gap to hold average global temperature increases to below 2°C, costs will be $35 billion per year by 2050 and $200 billion by 2070, although a large degree of uncertainty exists.
- If we continue on our current emissions trajectory, and global average temperatures rise by 3.5-4°C by 2100, adaptation costs could be $50 billion per year by 2050 and $350 billion by 2070.
These adaptation costs will include such things as early warning systems, coastal protection, drought-resistant crops, irrigation, desalinisation and infrastructure protection, and, as the report shows, will be significant even with immediate emissions reductions. The report illustrates the critical link between developed country mitigation activities and the financial burden of adaptation in Africa, a burden that could constrain economic development.
A key constraint to Africa’s potential to adapt will be access to funds. While developed countries have committed to providing $100 million per year by 2020 for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, these funds, which will be delivered through the Green Climate Fund, are yet to be allocated and will fall short of adaptation costs estimated above.
The report highlights the urgent need for a comprehensive reporting on finance flows between donor countries or agencies and recipients. Greater transparency would facilitate the ability to identify shortfalls in funding. A two pronged approach is needed. On the one hand greater adaptation funding for countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. To meet the projected costs of adaptation to 2020, current funds will need to increase by an average 10-20% per year and as yet there is no mechanism to meet this demand. On the other hand significant and urgent global mitigation of climate change to reduce future adaptation costs is needed. Based on present commitments global average temperatures are set to increase by 3.5-4°C, despite economically and technologically feasible mitigation efforts existing that could keep temperature increases to below 2°C.