Ideas & Debate

Nature-based solutions will curb climate change impact

Loruk Primary School

Girls from Loruk Primary School wade in water as they return home in the evening.

Summary

  • Currently, one in three Africans – which is up to 422 million people - live in poverty.
  • This represents over 70 per cent of the world's poorest people.
  • While climate change is global, the poor are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects since they lack the resources to quickly recover.

This week, on January 14, 2021, the United Nations Environment Programme released its annual Adaptation Gap Report which showed that if we increase ambition towards the safer 2°C goal, the losses in annual economic growth due to climate change, will be limited to 1.6 per cent. But if we do not, these losses will increase to 2.2 per cent for the unsafe 3.2°C trajectory. This report called for investments in nature-based solutions to drive climate change adaptation. According to this report, a $1.8 trillion investment in adaptation measures would bring a return of $7.1 trillion in avoided costs and other benefits.

About a month ago, UNEP also released the Emissions Gap Report which showed efforts to deal with global warming remain inadequate. As a result, the globe is still heading for an above 3.2°C warming this century — way above the 1.5℃ threshold that is critical to forestall the worst impacts of the changing climate. However, this report offers hope of a "green pandemic recovery" which implies a re-prioritisation of fiscal investments that lower emission but drive the much-needed socioeconomic benefits which could cut emissions by up to 25 per cent by 2030 and bring the world closer to the safe 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement. A 1.5℃ warming scenario is the threshold set by the Paris Agreement as best insurance against an unravelling climate change impacts projected to spell doom for Africa. Key among them, a devastating 75 per cent shrinkage of economic productivity in developing countries - most of which are in Africa.

Currently, one in three Africans – which is up to 422 million people - live in poverty. This represents over 70 per cent of the world's poorest people. While climate change is global, the poor are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects since they lack the resources to quickly recover. Youth unemployment is at its highest — with a gap of up to 13 million additional jobs needed each year. Some 257 million people go to bed hungry.

The findings of this Adaptation Gap Report point to an urgent need to raise adaptation actions which must align with accelerating socioeconomic growth to build resilience of populations in Africa.

First, while Africa has contributed least to global emissions — just two-three per cent, it is the most vulnerable to climate change. Communities cannot afford the goods and services they need to buffer against the worst impacts of climate change. The message for the continent is therefore clear – that efforts to drive adaptation must align with accelerating socioeconomic growth to build resilient populations.

Second, while the threat of climate change looms, it is a blessing in disguise. Prioritising adaptation is an investment for direct and indirect realisation of socially and economically inclusive development that is the core aspiration of any government.

Third, according to UNEP Adaptation Gap Report annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to reach $140-300 billion in 2030 and $280-500 billion in 2050 even if the international community succeeds in keeping climate warming below 2°C. For Africa alone, this cost already means $7-15 billion per year for adaptation and could amount to $50 billion per year in 2050 — in the most optimistic scenario and excluding the costs of the energy transition. At the same time the total investments required for implementation of ratified national determined contributions (NDCs) across Africa exceeds $2.5 trillion, approaching $3 trillion. Actualising the SDGs, requires at least $1.2 trillion annually. Africa therefore needs astronomical amounts to drive adaptation implementation. This is a clear call for alternative financing model, already solidified through high level policy provisions.

First, we must embrace more innovative approaches that balance public and private, domestic, and international sources. Second, we must divest from socially driven financing to investment financing.

Adaptation implementation in Africa should leverage the "green pandemic recovery" lens which is a focusing of fiscal and other investments in trajectories that lower emission but drive the much-needed socioeconomic bottom-line benefits.

First, nature based solutions on their own, have recorded pockets of successes across the continent. But to progress to broader solutions that underpin a green pandemic recovery — with not only food security enhanced, but the environment enhanced and more money put in more pockets, what is produced using nature-based approaches e.g. agro-produce grown using biofertiliser, must be value added. It is in adding value that wealth opportunities are created. Of critical importance however is the fact that, value addition does not need to start on a sophisticated scale.

For example, decentralising climate action solutions of solar dryers to farmers in local markets, to enable them to dehydrate and preserve their harvest that remains unsold at end of day and sell when demand peaks, has proven able to not only cut postharvest losses (PHLs) but increase earning up to 30 times.

Two, "Divest from socially driven financing to investment financing" where returns transcend the traditional social benefits to include environmental benefits and financial dividends that are critical for longevity. To start off on this trajectory, Africa already contributes 20 per cent of its total current annual adaptation needs estimated at $15 billion. This means up to $3 billion of adaptation costs are financed locally. In addition to asking how the continent can raise the 80 per cent deficit the question we should ask is, how can we invest the 20 per cent the continent have to maximise returns? How can the continent ensure the benefit of the 20 per cent in hand is invested in such a way that drives environmental benefit, measurable social and economic dividends in form of improved climate action enterprise opportunities as well as financial — where climate action enterprises created operate profitably.

Third, in implementing climate action commitments – the NDCs, while the ministry of environment is responsible for reporting progress, the actual work is done by other line ministries – such as agriculture, energy, lands, transport, trade among key ones Input from all the leading productive line ministries and sectors is critical.

This week, on January 14, 2021, the United Nations Environment Programme released its annual Adaptation Gap Report which showed that if we increase ambition towards the safer 2°C goal, the losses in annual economic growth due to climate change, will be limited to 1.6 per cent. But if we do not, these losses will increase to 2.2 per cent for the unsafe 3.2°C trajectory. This report called for investments in nature-based solutions to drive climate change adaptation. According to this report, a $1.8 trillion investment in adaptation measures would bring a return of $7.1 trillion in avoided costs and other benefits.

About a month ago, UNEP also released the Emissions Gap Report which showed efforts to deal with global warming remain inadequate. As a result, the globe is still heading for an above 3.2°C warming this century — way above the 1.5℃ threshold that is critical to forestall the worst impacts of the changing climate. However, this report offers hope of a "green pandemic recovery" which implies a re-prioritisation of fiscal investments that lower emission but drive the much-needed socioeconomic benefits which could cut emissions by up to 25 per cent by 2030 and bring the world closer to the safe 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement. A 1.5℃ warming scenario is the threshold set by the Paris Agreement as best insurance against an unravelling climate change impacts projected to spell doom for Africa. Key among them, a devastating 75 per cent shrinkage of economic productivity in developing countries - most of which are in Africa.

Currently, one in three Africans – which is up to 422 million people - live in poverty. This represents over 70 per cent of the world's poorest people. While climate change is global, the poor are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects since they lack the resources to quickly recover. Youth unemployment is at its highest — with a gap of up to 13 million additional jobs needed each year. Some 257 million people go to bed hungry.

The findings of this Adaptation Gap Report point to an urgent need to raise adaptation actions which must align with accelerating socioeconomic growth to build resilience of populations in Africa.

First, while Africa has contributed least to global emissions — just two-three per cent, it is the most vulnerable to climate change. Communities cannot afford the goods and services they need to buffer against the worst impacts of climate change. The message for the continent is therefore clear – that efforts to drive adaptation must align with accelerating socioeconomic growth to build resilient populations.

Second, while the threat of climate change looms, it is a blessing in disguise. Prioritising adaptation is an investment for direct and indirect realisation of socially and economically inclusive development that is the core aspiration of any government.

Third, according to UNEP Adaptation Gap Report annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to reach $140-300 billion in 2030 and $280-500 billion in 2050 even if the international community succeeds in keeping climate warming below 2°C. For Africa alone, this cost already means $7-15 billion per year for adaptation and could amount to $50 billion per year in 2050 — in the most optimistic scenario and excluding the costs of the energy transition. At the same time the total investments required for implementation of ratified national determined contributions (NDCs) across Africa exceeds $2.5 trillion, approaching $3 trillion. Actualising the SDGs, requires at least $1.2 trillion annually. Africa therefore needs astronomical amounts to drive adaptation implementation. This is a clear call for alternative financing model, already solidified through high level policy provisions.

First, we must embrace more innovative approaches that balance public and private, domestic, and international sources. Second, we must divest from socially driven financing to investment financing.

Adaptation implementation in Africa should leverage the "green pandemic recovery" lens which is a focusing of fiscal and other investments in trajectories that lower emission but drive the much-needed socioeconomic bottom-line benefits.

First, nature based solutions on their own, have recorded pockets of successes across the continent. But to progress to broader solutions that underpin a green pandemic recovery — with not only food security enhanced, but the environment enhanced and more money put in more pockets, what is produced using nature-based approaches e.g. agro-produce grown using biofertiliser, must be value added. It is in adding value that wealth opportunities are created. Of critical importance however is the fact that, value addition does not need to start on a sophisticated scale.

For example, decentralising climate action solutions of solar dryers to farmers in local markets, to enable them to dehydrate and preserve their harvest that remains unsold at end of day and sell when demand peaks, has proven able to not only cut postharvest losses (PHLs) but increase earning up to 30 times.

Two, "Divest from socially driven financing to investment financing" where returns transcend the traditional social benefits to include environmental benefits and financial dividends that are critical for longevity. To start off on this trajectory, Africa already contributes 20 per cent of its total current annual adaptation needs estimated at $15 billion. This means up to $3 billion of adaptation costs are financed locally. In addition to asking how the continent can raise the 80 per cent deficit the question we should ask is, how can we invest the 20 per cent the continent have to maximise returns? How can the continent ensure the benefit of the 20 per cent in hand is invested in such a way that drives environmental benefit, measurable social and economic dividends in form of improved climate action enterprise opportunities as well as financial — where climate action enterprises created operate profitably.

Third, in implementing climate action commitments – the NDCs, while the ministry of environment is responsible for reporting progress, the actual work is done by other line ministries – such as agriculture, energy, lands, transport, trade among key ones Input from all the leading productive line ministries and sectors is critical.