ore than 40 heads of state and global leaders gathered today for a virtual dialogue on the Africa Covid-Climate Emergency organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA).
The speakers, which included the presidents of several African nations, highlighted similarities between the urgent action required to tackle the pandemic and the climate crisis, stressing that climate change did not stop because of Covid-19.
“In recent months Africa has suffered devastating floods, a locust invasion and drought…Covid-19 is our wake-up call for countries and communities to develop adaptation solutions to respond to the impacts of climate change that are already here and those to come,” said former United Nations Secretary General and GCA Chair Ban Ki-Moon.
The African Adaptation Acceleration Program, launched by the AfDB and the GCA, is one such solution. This initiative aims to mobilize 25 billion USD for climate adaptation in Africa, said AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina.
Adesina pointed out that Africa does not get the resources it needs to adapt to climate change.
“Globally, only 10% of climate finance goes to adaptation and Africa has received only 3% of global climate finance,” he said.
This figure is strikingly low considering that this continent faces some of the worst consequences of climate change.
“Ten of the top 12 countries most at risk of drought are in Africa. Eight out of the top 12 countries affected by agricultural risks are also in Africa,” Adesina said.
However, as both Adesina and President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon noted, Africa is one of the world’s lowest carbon emitters.
“Africa contributed just 3% of global emissions, but we are the continent which will pay, which is already paying the biggest price,” said Bongo, noting that Gabon, one of a handful of carbon positive countries, offsets four times more CO2 than it emits.
The global leaders agreed that developed nations, responsible for much higher carbon emissions, should support African countries.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called for a comprehensive support package to provide universal access to energy in Africa, primarily through renewable energy, ahead of the 26th United Nations climate change conference COP26, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
“It is necessary. It is overdue. And it is smart. Climate action is a $3 trillion investment opportunity in Africa by 2030,”said Guterres.
“As the continent that has contributed least to the climate crisis, Africa deserves the strongest possible support and solidarity…The Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program, and many other ambitious African initiatives, must be empowered to fully deliver on their goals,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of US President Joseph R. Biden, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said: “The United States remains a committed development partner for Africa and a huge supporter of the African Development Bank. Africa contributed the least to climate change but is suffering the worst of its effects. I congratulate the African Development Bank and the Global Center for Adaptation for developing the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program. We support the program… to help ensure that together, we can avoid the worst effects of climate change.”
Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, stated that the pandemic has shown us the importance of investing in people and that Africa’s fast-growing young population could recover from the Covid-Climate crises through improvements in education, health care, food security and job creation resulting from adaptation.
“If we have learned one thing from this [Covid-19] crisis it is the importance of solidarity and cooperation,” Georgieva said.
Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of Global Center on Adaptation, who was moderating the Leaders’ Dialogue noted in his concluding remarks that “this has been an inspiration for action. We know what it takes, we’ve listened very carefully…this is an inclusive agenda, let’s make sure we leave no-one behind.”