Africa faces sharp rise in climate adaption costs - UNEP

Megan Rowling, Nov 19, 2013

Africa faces climate adaptation costs in the range of $7 billion to $15 billion per year by 2020, and that figure could rise to around $350 billion annually by 2070 if global warming exceeds 2 degrees Celsius, a U.N. report said on Tuesday.

Even if the 2 degrees goal - agreed by nearly 200 governments in 2010 - were to be met, the cost of adapting to more extreme weather and longer-term climate shifts would still be around $35 billion per year by the 2040s and $200 billion per year by the 2070s, according to the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Missing the 2 degrees Celsius window will not only cost governments billions of dollars but will risk the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people on the African continent and elsewhere,” Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director, said in a statement.  

Even if warming stays below 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, the number of undernourished Africans is likely to increase by 25 to 90 percent, crop production reduce across much of the continent, and the capacity of African communities to cope with climate impacts become "significantly challenged”, he added.

The report, endorsed by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and released during U.N. climate talks in Warsaw, confirmed World Bank projections that there is a 40 percent chance of temperatures rising by 3.5 to 4 degrees if climate change mitigation efforts are not stepped up.

Under that scenario, sea-level rise along Africa’s coastline is expected to be 10 percent higher than in the rest of the world. And in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Gambia, up to 10 percent of the population would risk flooding each year by 2100.

Arid areas in Africa, which already represent about half the continent’s land area, are expected to increase by 4 percent, and fish declines in African freshwater lakes would jeopardise the source of more than 60 percent of the protein needs of local communities, the report warned.

With a global temperature rise of 3.5 to 4 degrees, adaptation costs combined with climate-related damages could reach 4 percent of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2100, said the report, entitled Africa's Adaptation Gap.

"Additional adaptation funding and technical know-how are imperative if Africa is to move towards a climate-resilient green future path," Steiner said. There is a need to develop drought-resistant crops, build early warning systems and invest in renewable energy sources, among other things, he added.

Terezya  Huvisa, AMCEN president and Tanzania’s environment minister, noted that Africa "cannot risk failure of implementing serious adaptation measures, especially with Africa’s predicted population rise of 2 billion by 2050 and the current ecosystem degradation trajectory”.

Adaptation measures - such as better drainage, building sea walls, reforestation and desalinisation - could help minimise the impacts of climate change, but these depend on access to funding, UNEP said.

Traceable funding disbursed in Africa for climate change adaptation in 2010 and 2011 amounted to several hundred million dollars each year, UNEP said, although that figure does not fully account for the funding channeled through development banks and international finance institutions.

But to meet the African adaptation costs estimated in the report by the 2020s, annual funds would need to grow at an average rate of 10 to 20 percent a year from 2011 to the 2020s. "There is currently no clear, agreed pathway to provide these resources," UNEP said.