georgieva5_TONY KARUMBAAFP via Getty Images_climate change drought TONY KARUMBAAFP via Getty Images

Africa Cannot Confront Climate Change Alone

Despite having played a negligible role in creating the climate crisis, African countries already find themselves paying the price for it. More creative and proactive forms of international support are needed to help African countries both adapt and maintain progress toward broader sustainable development goals.

KINSHASA – Africa contributes almost nothing to global warming. Its 1.4 billion people – around 17% of the global population – are responsible for less than 3% of the world’s total greenhouse-gas emissions. Moreover, data suggest that the forests of the Congo River Basin alone absorb 3% of global carbon-dioxide emissions every year.

Nonetheless, Africa finds itself on the front lines of the impact of climate change. The continent is already contending with more frequent climate-related disasters, hotter weather, erratic rainfall, and rising sea levels, all of which bring human tragedy, social upheaval, and economic disruption. For example, with each new drought, annual per capita growth over the medium term can decline by a percentage point.

Like countries everywhere, policymakers in Africa must embrace the inevitable global transition to a low-carbon economy. In addition to pursuing economic programs to raise living standards, they urgently need to build resilience against climate shocks, especially in countries that depend on rain-fed agriculture. That is why the African Union has endorsed the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Plan, which calls for investments in resilient infrastructure, climate-adaptive agriculture, digitalization, trade reforms, and a broadening of safety nets. Not only are these measures up to 12 times more cost-effective than disaster relief; they also will generate jobs, raise incomes, and improve living standards.

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