Climate Change meeting must address impacts in Africa, UN report says
Increased international assistance will be needed to support efforts by African countries to cope with the effects of climate change, including loss of infrastructure, a decline in food production, and the degradation of wildlife habitat, says a United Nations report released today on the eve of a global meeting in Nairobi on the issue.
The report found that an estimated 30 per cent of Africa’s coastal infrastructure could be inundated, including coastal settlements in the Gulf of Guinea, Senegal, Gambia and Egypt. It warned that that between 25 per cent and over 40 per cent of species’ habitats in Africa could be lost by 2085.
Released by the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) based on data from such agencies as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the new report was issued as representative of the 189 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change convene in Nairobi for the first talks on the matter to be held in sub-Saharan Africa.
Adaptation to climate change, as well as talks on measures to reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change, will be major focuses of the Nairobi discussions.
“Climate change is underway,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, “and the international community must respond by offering well-targeted assistance to those countries in the front-line which are facing increasing impacts such as extreme droughts and floods and threats to infrastructure from phenomena like rising sea levels.”
WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud noted that Africa is the largest of all tropical landmasses and, at 30 million square kilometres, is about a fifth of the world's total land area. Yet, he said, “the climate observing system in Africa is in a far worse and deteriorating state than that of any other continent.”
Latest estimates indicate that about 25 per cent out of the Global Climate Observing System surface stations in east and southern Africa are not working and most of the remaining stations are functioning in a less than optimal manner. Around a fifth of the 10 upper air network stations are in a similar state. Mr. Jarraud said Africa needs about 200 automatic weather stations, a major effort to rescue historical data, and improved training on climate and weather reporting.
Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, said it was critical to move from principles to action. “It will also be important to do further work to better understand how adaptation relates to efforts aimed at poverty eradication,” he said.
Fighting climate change requires a two-tier attack, officials said, noting that while adaptation is important, it is also critical that greenhouse gas emissions are cut by an eventual 80 per cent in order to stabilize the atmosphere for current and future generations.