Speech by the Global Center on Adaptation CEO at Financing Climate Resilient Infrastructure in Ghana: Ministerial Dialogue and Report Launch

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Honorable Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor to be here today.

At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last November, I was honored to meet President Akufo-Addo. I learned from him about Ghana’s pioneering efforts in the climate crisis. We agreed I would visit Ghana this year to see and hear about that work firsthand. It is my privilege to fulfil that promise and be with you today as Ghana marks its leadership in addressing the climate emergency.

Honorable Ministers, what a source of inspiration you are.

The climate emergency has put Africa at the cross-roads. Africa is the world’s most vibrant continent and the world economy’s growth powerhouse. But you are also heading directly into the eye of the storm.

Africa is the world’s most vulnerable and threatened continent to the impact of climate change, according to the IPCC’s latest findings. 1.5 degrees of warming will be the reality for all of us by 2030. For Africa this will be about 3 degrees.

Global heating is accelerating at a rate never seen before. Some of the already dangerous and damaging impacts like extreme heat spells will actually double in incidence by then. The lives of millions upon millions are on the line. So, there are just two ways forward for the continent: adapt or die. Nothing is more corrosive to Africa’s economy than climate change.

The only real solution is to think big and act at scale. At the Global Center on Adaptation, we are here to walk alongside you and your African neighbors to make the transition to a climate resilient society as swift and as effective as possible.

Excellencies, my key message here today is this: adaptation is not only possible; it makes economic sense. GCA’s State and Trends in Adaptation 2021 report, which I was proud to launch with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi at the end of last year, finds that a dollar invested in weather and climate information services gives between $4 and $25 in benefits. A dollar invested in resilient water and sanitation not only saves lives; it creates between $2 and $12 in economic benefits. The cost of action to integrate resilience measures into agriculture and food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa may be $15 billion annually.

But do you know the cost of inaction? $200 billion annually.

So this is an opportunity we must seize.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the message from all African leaders in Glasgow, not just President Akufo-Addo, was loud and clear: Africa needs to scale up adaptation now. This is what drives us at GCA.

I would like to specifically highlight what we have done with the African Union last year, creating a $25 billion dedicated climate adaptation program with the African Development Bank, under the leadership of my friend and brother President Adesina. The Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) is an Africa-owned and Africa-led response to the climate crisis. African leaders have asked for this program and endorsed its design, including an upstream facility led by the GCA which supports investment pipeline development.

In its first year, through the AAAP, GCA has shaped climate adaptation responses within a billion-dollar pipeline of investments of the African Development Bank in the areas of food security, resilient infrastructure, climate finance, and youth employment.

We are now scaling this up with our partners at the World Bank.

Let me give you one example of the impact of AAAP as the largest adaptation initiative globally and how investments in adaptation and investments in development are two sides of the same coin.

In food security, GCA is mainstreaming adaptation into investments that transform the lives and livelihoods of over 5 million smallholder farmers in the Sahel by scaling up the use of climate-smart digital agriculture technologies within a $300 million investment. These interventions will increase food security and reduce Africa’s food import bill, which will top $110 billion by 2025.

Let us not forget that the impacts of climate change will act as a threat amplifier to cascading, external shocks here in Africa. The war in Ukraine has exposed Africa to rising food insecurity and soaring energy prices. If ever there was a time to strengthen adaptation on the continent, it is now.

What is true at the level of the continent is equally true for Ghana. And what is true for food security is equally true for resilient infrastructure. The launch of the roadmap for resilient infrastructure today applies AAAP’s bold, solutions-focused approach and is a testimony to Ghana’s leadership across government on adaptation.

Some of the findings from the roadmap are quite startling. Half of all of Ghana’s energy generation capacity is exposed to flooding. By 2050, climate risk could lead to $3.9 billion in damages to the transport sector; three fold the investment of $1.3 billion made in the sector in 2019. 80 percent of the population in some districts in Ghana risk being cut off from healthcare and women will bear the brunt.

Excellencies, I don’t need to remind you that Ghana will become hotter, wetter, and drier. Given how we know the climate crisis is evolving, these are very alarming statistics. But, this is not the full story.

For us at the Global Center on Adaptation, the real story on climate adaptation in Africa is a story of resilience, of responsibility, of solidarity, of opportunities for a safer, greener, more prosperous continent.

It is this story that is captured in the roadmap we are launching today. A roadmap that reviews the many sectors and economic activities impacted by climate change. But equally; a roadmap that focuses on solutions and actions.

Excellencies, let us be clear, the roadmap we are launching today is only as strong as the financing that supports it. Ghana, like many African countries, is disproportionately exposed to the climate emergency it did not create. The international community has a moral and economic responsibility to support Ghana’s efforts in freeing up fiscal space for adaptation investments. For that, we should first look at the billions of debt currently owed by climate vulnerable nations such as Ghana to rich ones. If we restructure all or much of the debt by allowing servicing payments to be reinvested in making the underlying assets more resilient and secure, everybody wins.

Africa’s Climate summit later this year in Egypt forces us to think big. We need more moves like the International Monetary Fund’s channeling of finance from its latest $650 billion of Special Drawing Rights into a resilience and sustainability trust to support poor and emerging nations.

Earlier this month, when I spoke with the chairman of the African Union, President Macky Sall of Senegal about Africa’s priorities for COP27, he reconfirmed the critical importance of adaptation finance for development, particularly as Africa seeks to build back from Covid-19, and respond to the deepening impacts of the war in Ukraine.

By accelerating the priorities of this roadmap to safeguard the future of Ghana, I am positive we can secure a safe and prosperous future for this great nation and be a beacon of hope and inspiration for the rest of the continent, in fact the world.

The opportunity is here for the taking. Let us seize it.

I thank you.

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