Climate experts call for climate change adaptation

Pedestrians in the CBD were caught in the Nairobi rains as the pedestrian walkways flooded due to the blockage of drainage systems along Moi Avenue on January 13, 2024. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Progress on climate adaptation is slowing instead of accelerating to catch up with the rising climate change impacts like increased temperatures, heatwaves, and floods. 

At the Africa Experts Strategic Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) convened in Nairobi, a call for adaptation measures took centre stage. 

On the seventh Assessment Cycle (AR7) held from March 20-21, different stakeholders urged the climate negotiators to push for the adaptation agenda for Africa to express its role in the global climate agenda. 

The stakeholders called for African countries and communities to develop adaptation solutions and implement actions to respond to current and future climate change impacts.

Climate adaptation includes behavioural shifts such as individuals using less water, farmers planting crops that are better suited to the changing climate, and more households and businesses buying flood insurance.

Other ways countries can adapt to the climate crisis, according to UNEP, are setting up early warning systems, restoring ecosystems, building climate-resilient infrastructure, investing in water supplies and security and long-term planning.

Festus Ng’eno, Principal Secretary for Environment and Climate Change, who spoke during the opening session, called on the stakeholders to speak in one accord to push for a desirable outcome for the region. 

“The lineup of products during this cycle starting with the special report on climate change and cities as well as the update to the 1994 technical guidelines, allows us to make sure that adaptation is front and centre during this cycle. This will be a win for the continent,” said PS Ng’eno.

The PS said the update of the 1994 technical guidelines will serve the needs for the global goal of adaptation and stocktake.

The Kenya Meteorological Director David Gikungu concurred that Africa is in dire need of adaptation and urged the stakeholders to discuss how to shape and enhance the measures effectively.

“For Africa, adaptation is urgent. One of the key deliverables for AR7 involves updating the 1994 IPCC Technical Guidelines on impacts and adaptation and developing adaptation indicators and metrics. The product will empower Africa’s efforts in advocating for an effective Global Goal of Adaptation,” Gikungu said.

Gikungu further noted a need for inclusive collaboration in decision-making processes, from scientific research to action implementation and funding allocation among Africans and developed countries. 

Team Lead at Africa Group of Negotiators Experts Support (AGNES) George Wamukoya said Africa's participation in the assessment cycle is essential in addressing unique challenges, particularly in bolstering urban resilience and bridging knowledge gaps specific to the continent's context.

"Africa's participation in the IPCC's assessment cycles is essential for ensuring that the continent's unique challenges and perspectives are adequately addressed. As we confront the escalating impacts of climate change, particularly in rapidly urbanizing regions, Africa must contribute fully to the generation of knowledge and the formulation of strategies to build resilience and mitigate risks,” said Wamukoya.

As the world confronts unprecedented environmental crises, notably exemplified by escalating temperatures, the forthcoming AR7 cycle assumes unprecedented significance in guiding effective climate action. 

 A report for the IPCC Working Group II Sixth Assessment Report indicates that “progress in adaptation planning and implementation has been observed across all sectors and regions, generating multiple benefits.”  

However, the Adaptation Gap Report 23023 shows otherwise, noting that progress on adaptation is slowing across all three areas annually assessed – finance, planning, and implementation. 

The massive implications are felt worldwide, especially by developing countries that are unable to deal with climate impacts. 

“The adaptation finance gap now stands at USD194–366 billion per year, with adaptation finance needs in developing countries likely to be 10–18 times as great as finance flows – over 50 per cent higher than the previous range estimate,” reads the report in part. 

As new adaptation projects are being added, the three-day meeting aimed to leverage Africa's expertise and experiences from past assessment cycles.