Africa and climate change



Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

Sub-Saharan Africa's past and present contribution to the build-up of greenhouse gases has been low; the region therefore does not pose a major threat to the global climate. Nonetheless, the occurrence of climate change might pose formidable challenges to already deteriorating conditions of human development in that region. Both national contributions to emissions of greenhouse gases and the presence of considerable size of forest cover as sinks nevertheless vary within Africa. Much remains uncertain as to how climate change will affect Africa; and the probable responses by countries, sub-national actors and external actors to several issues in the regime. The relatively recent emergence of the issue and the uncertainties facing key actors in Africa have limited policy making on climate change. Moreover, since climate has not yet figured as a priority issue area for countries actors, little nuances in differences among countries have emerged. The impact of international measures, rather than the actual occurrence of climate change, might stimulate and define policy-making and the development of strategies on climate change. In the pre-regime formulation stage, the stake and obligations of industrialising countries were, and indeed continue to be, ill-defined. As the threat to national interests was not apparent, state agencies were not adequately mobilised. After the first COP in Berlin, March 1995, we have seen an increasing degree of tangible international decisions. Of importance to African countries is the initiation of the pilot phase of Joint Implementation and the adoption of the Global Environmental Facility as the key financial transfer mechanism. Depending on the volume of financial and technological transfer that industrialised countries are ready to make available, states in Africa are likely to step up activities in wooing investments in energy and land-use sectors. Should post-Berlin developments stimulate demand for emerging markets in the South to set emission reduction targets, an incentive will arise for South Africa and Nigeria to engage in active climate diplomacy. Finally, the integration of climate concerns into development assistance would probably herald the emergence of climate conditionality on debt and aid. This scenario will probably ring the wake up call for most Sub-Saharan countries, and would mark the incorporation of climate politics into mainstream African international economic relations.