Saturday, January 18, 2014

Africa Climate Adaptation Costs Could Soar to USD $350 Billion Annually by 2070 if Warming Hits 3.5-4°C

Additional Adaptation Funding Imperative to Control Damage and Build Resilience - 4 Degree World May Spell Extinction for Africa's Coral Reefs
Africa faces huge financial challenges in adapting to climate change, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that spells out the costs faced by the continent if governments fail to close the "emissions gap" to keep warming below 2°C.

Adaptation costs for Africa could reach approximately USD $ 350 billion annually by 2070 should the two-degree target be significantly exceeded, while the cost would be around USD $150 billion lower per year if the target was to be met.

Africa's Adaptation Gap, released today and endorsed by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) whose secretariat is hosted by UNEP, confirms the World Bank's Turn Down the Heat Reports that there is a 40 per cent chance that we will inhabit a '3.5-4°C World' if mitigation efforts are not stepped up from current levels.

Africa is already facing adaptation costs in the range of US $7-15 billion per year by 2020.
These costs will rise rapidly after 2020, since higher levels of warming will result in higher impacts.

Combining adaptation costs with "residual" damages, the total costs can reach 4 per cent of Africa's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2100, under a 3.5-4°C scenario.

If no adaptation measures are taken, damages are expected to cost 7 per cent of African GDP by 2100 in a '3.5-4°C World', according to the Africa Gap report.

The report further cautions that, even if the world does manage to get on track to keep warming below 2°C, Africa's adaptation costs will still hover around USD $35 billion per year by the 2040s and USD $200 billion per year by the 2070s -with total costs reaching 1 per cent of the continent's GDP by 2100. 

"Missing the 2°C window  will not only cost governments billions of dollars but will risk the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people on the African continent and elsewhere," said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner. 

 "Even with a warming scenario of under  2°C by 2050, Africa's undernourished would increase 25 - 90 per cent. Crop production will be reduced across much of the continent as optimal growing temperatures are exceeded. The capacity of African communities to cope with the impacts of climate change will be significantly challenged."
UNEP's Emissions Gap Report -  launched days ahead of the UN Climate Conference in Warsaw - analyzes in much more detail and confirms that current pledges by individual countries to limit emissions by 2020 would lead to a global temperature increase of about 3.5-4°C warming by 2100 - unless emissions are reduced now and substantially reduced afterwards.

Even if nations meet their current climate pledges, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to be 8 to 12 gigatonnes of CO2  (GtCO2e) above the level that would provide a likely chance of remaining on the least-cost pathway consistent with holding warming below 2°C.
In a '3.5-4°C World', Africa's coastline is expected to undergo sea-level rise 10 per cent higher than the rest of the world, with several countries particularly hard hit.

In Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and The Gambia, up to 10 per cent of the entire population would risk flooding risks annually by 2100.

Arid areas in Africa, which already represent about half of the continent's land area, are expected to increase by 4 per cent.

If we enter a '3°C World', effectively all of the present maize, millet, and sorghum cropping areas across Africa would become unsustainable for current strains.

In a '4°C World', southern Africa will likely see decreases of up to 30 per cent in rainfall each year.

At the same time, north, west, and southern Africa will also see declines of 50-70 per cent in groundwater recharge, according to the study.

The study further details how agriculture, fisheries and water access-among other sectors-will be impacted.

The degree to which these sectors will be impacted will depend on whether commitments are kept and whether better adaptation practices can be implemented.

The study points to a high risk of biodiversity loss, as species may be unable to migrate to suitable climates.

Up to 97 per cent of the 5,000 plant species studied could undergo range size reductions or shifts, while up to 40 per cent could experience total range elimination by 2085 in a '2°C World' scenario.

At the same time, a '3.5-4°C' scenario projects fish declines in freshwater lakes across places such as Chilwa, Kariba, Malawi, Tanganyika and Victoria, which would jeopardize the source of more than 60 per cent of the protein needs of the surrounding communities.

Perhaps the most drastic example of the effects of climate change in Africa is that coral reefs-which are essential support systems for marine fisheries, tourism, and coastal protection against sea-level rise and storm surges-are projected to be entirely extinct before we even enter a '4°C World'.
How well Africa deals with these climate impacts, now and in the future, will be co-determined by the funding it receives.

Adaptation measures such as early warning systems and coastal zone management to counter sea-level rise offer a possibility of minimizing these impacts, but Africa's capacity to adapt depends critically on access to funding.

Traceable funding disbursed in Africa for climate change adaptation through bilateral and multilateral channels for the years 2010 and 2011 amounted to USD $743 and $454 million, respectively, although this figure does not fully account for the funding channeled through Development Finance Institutions, for example the World Bank, or national development banks.

To meet the adaptation costs estimated in the report for Africa by the 2020s, funds disbursed annually would need to grow at an average rate of 10-20 per cent a year from 2011 to the 2020s.

There is currently no clear, agreed pathway to provide these resources.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's developed country Parties have committed to provide funds rising to USD $ 100 billion annually by 2020 through the "Green Climate Fund"-established by the 2010 Cancun Agreements-from public and private sources, for both adaptation and mitigation actions in across all developing countries by 2020.

However, rules drawing up the allocation of funding for adaptation have yet to be defined and await negotiation.

At this stage, there is no clear sense of how much of these funds would benefit countries in the African region, nor of the likely allocation between adaptation and mitigation funding.

Until these issues are resolved it is not possible to assign a share of the USD $100 billion annual commitment by 2020 to Africa.

Assuming funding for adaptation efforts in Africa reached adequate levels by 2020 and assuming the world gets on track to limit warming to below 2°C, annual funding for adaptation efforts in Africa still needs to rise a further 7 per cent a year from the 2020s onwards to keep pace with continuing sea-level rise and warming peaking below 2°C after the 2050s.

This is considerably less than the funding challenge if the current mitigation efforts were not increased, and warming reached 3.5-4°C by 2100.

In this case, the scaling up of annual funds would need to be 10 per cent every year after the 2020s.
In all scenarios, the capacity of African communities to cope with the effects of climate change on different economic sectors and human activities is expected to be significantly challenged, and potentially overwhelmed, by the magnitude and rapid onset of climate change impacts.

To reduce the magnitude of the impacts and their repercussions for African livelihoods, adaptation measures at different levels, from households to national and regional levels, are being planned and implemented and need to be further supported and strengthened.

These measures include:

  • The development of early-warning systems for floods, droughts or fires to help populations anticipate and prepare for the occurrence of extreme events;
  • Irrigation, improvement in water storage capacity, reforestation to protect surface water systems, sustainable use of groundwater resources, desalinization of seawater, and rainwater catchments and storage to maintain sufficient and reliable access to freshwater for human and agricultural needs;
  • City infrastructure protection measures such as seawalls, dykes, wave breakers and other elements of coastal zone management, as well as city-level food storage capacity and urban agriculture to enhance food security;
  • Improving design and drainage technology of sanitation facilities to reduce the risk of water-borne diseases in the aftermath of extreme weather events.
  • The majority of these and other adaptation measures require an anticipatory and planned approach, as well as large investments. The need for planned capital-intensive adaptation is greater at high than low warming levels.

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
Press Release dated November 19, 2013

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