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2012-01-27 | story

Climate Change hits Africa the hardest – what can be done?

Ethiopia risking average income cut of 30 percent The impacts of climate change on agricultural productivity may reduce the Ethiopian average income by as much as 30 percent within the next 50 years. This and other EfD findings on how climate change is hitting Africa, and in particular Ethiopia, were presented to 60 workshop participants from government, NGOs and multilateral organizations assembled in Addis Abeba. Strategies for adaptation, mitigation and a stronger position in international climate negotiations were discussed.

Africa has the lowest average per capita emission of greenhouse gases, and in total only about 4 percent of the world´s emissions. Yet the region is particularly vulnerable to climate change and suffers its consequences already. Seventy percent of Africa´s population depend on rain-fed agriculture. This makes African countries likely to be the worst affected by the predicted impacts of climate change on agricultural output. Poverty, weak capacity to adapt, and the fact that Africa is already warming faster than the global average are other factors behind the extreme vulnerability to climate change, caused by other continents.

“Industrialized countries have for a long time emitted greenhouse gases far in excess of what the earth can withstand. Some researchers call this the natural debt of the North, as opposed to the financial debt of the South,” says Dr. Adane Tuffa, who at the workshop presented a review of the main climate conventions and results achieved to date, from an African perspective.

Vulnerability underlined by the drought in the Horn of Africa

The continent’s vulnerability was cruelly underlined by the drought in the Horn of Africa in 2011. In July, more than 12 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya were in need of food, water, and emergency healthcare. The UN officially declared famine in Somalia, and in November death rates, especially for young children, remained extremely high, partly due to continued outbreaks of diseases.

Alemu Mekonnen ​“It could be debated whether the drought crisis in the Horn of Africa is linked to climate change; still it clearly shows the particular vulnerability of poor people to climate variability,” says Dr. Alemu Mekonnen, Research Fellow and Center Director of EfD Ethiopia.

“Without doubt, climate change is already a very serious problem in Africa. Climate conventions should consider that people in Africa are suffering from climate change today. Over the globe we need to do whatever we can to slash greenhouse gas emissions,” says Mekonnen.

The EfD center in Ethiopia is also called the Environmental Economics Policy Forum for Ethiopia (EEPFE) and is based at the Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI). Mr. Newai Gebre-Ab is the Executive Director of EDRI and also Chief Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

Mekonnen continues, “This might have contributed to the high number of workshop participants. The topic itself surely also contributed to a high turnout since climate change is increasingly important in Ethiopia. The workshop gave us the opportunity to inform relevant stakeholders about climate change issues, and present our findings and recommendations.”

EfD researchers analyzed the societal costs of climate change

In Ethiopia, up to 80 percent of the population rely on rain-fed agriculture for crop and livestock production. One important EfD finding is that, unless the government carries out policies that support adaptation, climate change can reduce the average Ethiopian income by 30 percent within the next 50 years – a devastating scenario for a low-income economy. This result came out of a study carried out by EfD environmental economists who wanted to analyze the societal costs of climate change when private agents are left to adapt on their own, compared to a situation without  climate change. These costs are important to assess and know, in order to be able to fairly evaluate the costs for government policies actually undertaken to address climate change. The baseline for comparison was provided by a model called Computable General Equilibrium (CGE).

Previous economic studies of climate change impacts in Ethiopia have generally ignored the impacts on livestock production and regional variation. However, the EfD study analyzes the impacts of climate change on both livestock and crop production, and the indirect impacts on economic growth.

The policy implication of the results is that productivity growth matters more for the Ethiopian economy than does climate change. However, even if productivity would grow rapidly, climate change will still have a dramatic impact, and government policies need to target both planned climate change adaptation and productivity growth.

Climate change mitigation strategies for Africa

The topics of how Africa should use the carbon market and what mitigation strategies governments should undertake were also discussed in the workshop. Dr. Mekonnen says that Africa should focus on developing clean energy, mitigating emission from livestock, avoiding deforestation, encouraging afforestation and reforestation, and improving agricultural and land management systems.

As regards climate conventions and negotiations, EfD researchers are suggesting that African negotiators in future climate negotiations consider making a case for countries that face extreme circumstances – that they receive special funding as compensation. They are also suggesting that negotiators strive for improved financing mechanisms through the establishment of an Africa Green Fund.

"Africa has not benefitted much from CDM"

Negotiators should also consider demanding that Clean Development Mechanism (CDM, a market-based mechanism of the so-called carbon market) criteria should include activities that are relevant to Africa and that match countries’ development priorities, which include food and energy security. The CDM was designed to enable developed countries to reduce their emissions through sustainable development projects in developing countries. Yet only about 3 percent of CDM projects that have been accepted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC ) are being implemented in Africa, and only one is being implemented in Ethiopia.

“Africa has not benefitted much from the carbon market mechanisms. One reason is that the existing systems do not take the conditions in Africa into account, for example that the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions are livestock, and firewood used for household energy. When it comes to energy systems, Ethiopia is already green because we use hydro-electricity. Hence, in contrast to China we can´t harness the system and say we will shift from coal energy to a cleaner energy source and therefore receive support,” says Mekonnen.

The newspaper Ethiopian Herald reported about the EfD/EEPFE/EDRI workshop on climate change on July 21, 2011.

By Karin Backteman

Oxfam Briefing states that the climate in the Horn of Africa is changing
>> The Oxfam International Briefing on the Horn of Africa Drought: Climate change and future impacts on food security, August 2011, states that the climate in the region is changing, although not all relevant trends are clear.
•    Reports from the Kenya Food Security Group and from pastoralist communities show that drought-related shocks used to occur every ten years. Today they are occurring at least every five years.
•    Borana communities in Ethiopia report that whereas droughts were recorded every 6-8 years in the past, they are now occurring every 1-2 years.
•    According to meteorological data, temperatures have increased: The mean annual temperatures from 1960-2006 increased by 1.0°C in Kenya and 1.3°C in Ethiopia, and the frequency of hot days is increasing in both countries.
•    Rainfall trends are less clear. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4), there are no statistically significant trends in rainfall. However, more recent research suggests that rainfall during the ‘long-rains’ (March to June) decreased from 1980 to 2009.