Africa pays for West's climate mess, and it's bound to get worse

Eastern African countries are experiencing a severe drought that has decimated livelihoods in vulnerable regions, with millions in need of emergency support. Kenya is no exception, with all the 24 arid and semi-arid counties facing a harsh drought, and thousands facing famine. These are the adverse impacts of global climate change, for which Africa and other developing countries bear the brunt through decreased rainfall, increasing temperatures and water shortage that affect their very survival.

It is just the beginning, and will get pretty worse in coming decades. Africa’s limited adaptive capacity, grinding poverty and economic deprivation makes it more vulnerable than other regions of the world. Studies estimate that up to a quarter of Africa’s population is at risk of extinction in the next 50 years if nothing is done to limit effects of emissions and scale up adaptation measures.

More than 200 countries are meeting in Marrakech, Morroco, to discuss how to implement Paris accords on climate. Resistance by developed countries in taking urgent measures to reduce emissions has led to protracted negotiations for many years. In Kyoto, the agreement was a legally binding obligation on developed countries to commit to specific targets in greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, this was varied in Paris to commit all nations — especially the top three polluters China, US and India — to contribute to actions to reduce emissions after 2020, with a mechanism to monitor compliance and reporting. Over 100 countries have ratified the agreement that came into effect this month.

Developing countries require finance to meet their obligations in reducing emissions, and adapting to climate change. Developed countries have committed to a $100 billion fund target annually by the year 2020 for mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation means actions to limit dangerous climate change through reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptation refers to projects or measures to limit the effects of actual or expected climate change through investment in sustainable development projects that enhance resilience. Developing countries may apply for these funds, albeit through a stringent process that may take years, and that undermine the commitment to inclusiveness.

African countries have accessed just around three per cent of the global climate funds in 2014. Nearly half the funds available have gone into mitigation programmes, mostly outside Sub-Saharan Africa. Out of $2.8 billion multilateral climate funds approved this year, $630 million will go to projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. Few African countries have so far got approvals for projects from the Green Climate Fund set up in 2010. Certainly, Kenya is not among the 56 projects in the pipeline by the Fund although the National Environment Management Authority has been fully accredited for direct access.

Multilateral funds can also be accessed through institutions such as the UNDP, AfDB, IFC, DfiD and others who also provide the technical assistance in making project proposals. In 2014, the government received $10 million from the Adaptation Fund towards ‘Integrated Programme to Build Resilience to Climate Change’ in selected counties. But that’s hardly anything to write home about. It is estimated that the last drought which ended in 2012 cost the pastoralist communities in the country over $10 billion. The government estimates that it will require at least $1 billion annually to mitigate against the effects of climate change in arid and semi-arid areas of the country.

Which agency should receive or manage such funds, which areas should be given priority and how the funds can be tracked to ensure the most vulnerable benefit are matters the government must deal. The government also has a mandate to provide specific funds to counties in the arid regions for adaptation.