Low funding hampers Africa’s climate change adaptation

The shrinking Gilgel Abbay River
The shrinking Gilgel Abbay River, the main source for Lake Tana Copyright: Petterik Wiggers/Panos

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  • Sub-Saharan Africa ranked third in climate change adaptation financing in 2013
  • Experts call for increased funding to help the region address climate issues
  • They also advocate for partnerships and involvement of local communities

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[NAIROBI] Inadequate funding for adaptation programmes is one of the acute challenges preventing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa from effectively addressing the impacts of climate change, experts say.

Delegates who attended the 9th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA9) held in Kenya on 27-30 April heard that insufficient and uncertain financing has made it difficult for African countries to enhance and sustain effective adaptation programmes to deal with the adverse effects of climate change.

Finding a way to get increased investments from the private sector specifically devoted to adaptation programmes provides the greatest opportunity to combat climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa, the conference heard.

“Climate change adaptation is coming at high costs, especially to the rural poor.”

Ibrahim Thiaw, United Nations Environment Programme

Tom Owiyo, a principal economist at the African Development Bank (AfDB), said that measuring and enhancing effective adaptation is the ideal point where climate change financiers need to begin.

Owiyo cited the 2013 report by AfDB and other multilateral development banks which ranked Sub-Saharan Africa third behind two regions — South Asia and South-East Asia and the Pacific — in terms of funding approved for climate adaptation.

According to the report, of the US$4.8 billion approved to support climate change adaptation globally in 2013, Sub-Saharan Africa received $952 million, with South Asia and South-East Asia and the Pacific receiving about US$1 billion each.

“It will be extremely difficult to enhance and sustain effective adaptation at the community level without sufficient and predictable financing,” Owiyo told SciDev.Net.

Ibrahim Thiaw, deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, emphasised the need to involve local communities in adaptation measures as they are key actors. “Climate change adaptation is coming at high costs, especially to the rural poor,” Thiaw added. “Disaster reduction and community engagement must go hand-in-hand for long-term solutions.”

Thiaw explained that although adaptation at community level was already happening, its high costs and the huge magnitude of climate change is greatly challenging it.

Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for environment and natural resources who officially opened the conference, said climate change disasters such as floods and prolonged droughts have seriously impacted the country, affecting key sectors of the economy, including agriculture, tourism, health and energy. Wakhungu said CBA9 provided an opportunity for countries to inform the UN’s Conference of the Parties (COP 21) agenda.

Simon Carter, the director of Sub-Sahara Africa regional office of Canada-based International Development Research Centre, said his outfit would continue supporting projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America to deliver positive results in enhancing adaptive capacities and actions. Carter noted that partnerships in investment, action and learning are central to effective adaptation.

Saleemul Huq, a senior research fellow at the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), called for increased public-private partnerships in knowledge sharing and investments to help meet the adaptation needs of billions of vulnerable people.

The CBA9 was jointly hosted by the African Centre for Technology Studies, the government of Kenya, IIED and the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.