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Protecting Africa’s climate change ambitions at COP26

It is time for the African continent to initiate a climate expert meeting explicitly focused on Africa’s needs, relevant to global concerns

Climate change is a long-term shift in temperatures and weather patterns. While some changes are natural, such as variations in the solar cycle, ocean temperatures and rainfall patterns, the concern is humans are now the main driver of this, primarily because of burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas. These fossil fuels encapsulate the earth and trap the sun’s heat, resulting in rising temperatures.

At the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, NGOs, politicians, and scientists will engage in critical discussions and decision-making about global climate change. The key themes to be addressed will include mobilising public and private finance, accelerating the transition to clean energy, and elevating the voice of women and the youth in climate conversations. In addition, there will be further investigation into demonstrating the critical role of public empowerment, ensuring sustainable land use, and adapting to climate change impacts. 

Innovative science driving zero-emission transport while promoting environmental action in cities is also on the agenda. Numerous organisations are investigating new technologies within the transport sector to achieve cost reduction while working towards zero-emission transportation. The impacts of this will make a massive contribution towards achieving the goals set out in the Paris agreement.

The aim is to limit the global temperature rise to below 2°C, preferably below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  However, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report suggests that even with our best possible mitigation efforts, the chances of us limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees will not be achieved. 

Changing the conversation for Africa

Society is often bombarded with information on the repercussions of climate change in melting Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, but what does climate change mean for Africa? With the temperature increases, the world can expect to experience frequent extreme weather events, severe fires, biodiversity loss, extinctions, and changes in the rainfall patterns in tropical cyclones, heatwaves and flooding due to heavy rainfall.

In Southern Africa one can expect drier, heatwave and drought-prone landscapes. These changes have negative implications for commercial agriculture, subsistence farming and ultimately, household food security, putting people at risk of famine. Furthermore, a rise in sea level will result in the displacement of people; for example, Durban,in SA, being one metropolis, will be severely affected by rising sea levels, resulting in an increased number of “climate refugees” and social unrest.

An increase in global temperatures also means the possible expansion of vectors and the increased likelihood of vector-borne diseases, which will put further pressure on health services, especially in developing countries.

Climate change is also expected to impact tourism across the continent, significantly contributing to the African economy. In 2019, wildlife tourism supported 21.8-million jobs across the world or 6.8% of total travel and tourism jobs. In Africa, where wildlife tourism is a drawcard to the sector, the percentage was much higher at 36.3%. Therefore, mitigating the impacts of climate change on the wildlife economy is vital to conservation and the very existence of people living in the vast communities adjacent to conservation areas.

African scientists are often excluded from critical discussions about climate change, despite the fact that Africa is projected to have a significant decrease in annual rainfall by the end of the century. Therefore, information on the self-healing rates of rural and urban environments in response to climate change will assist in understanding development pathways for the continent. We require African solutions to climate issues across the continent. These include strategies about mitigation and the cutting of emissions. Africa, country for country, it is necessary to set more ambitious targets and often enact good policies.

A review of procedures is required

COP25 failed to deliver on a promise of providing a “financial support mechanism” for developing countries which was agreed to at COP19, as climate change would have significant repercussions for developing communities. COP25 also failed to achieve consensus about establishing a global carbon market system that deals with the core issues of carbon trading and carbon markets.

To match the scale, magnitude and urgency of environmental issues facing Africa, new climate-related programmes need to be developed to have a meaningful impact across the continent and these should be focused on climate resilience at the ecosystem level. The private sector has a critical role in financing these programmes, encouraging lower emissions and climate-resilient economies.

As Oppenheimer Generation Research & Conservation we have partnered with key research institutions in the global change sector to investigate and mitigate key climate issues and/or concerns across Africa. We believe that the private sector needs to work closely with governments to develop programmes that address climate issues across Africa. Many of these climate change solutions can deliver economic benefits while improving the lives of Africans and protecting the environment.

Where to from here?

The engagement of African scientists with global decisionmakers will be critical to building a continental programme that meets expectations. It is time for the African continent to initiate a climate expert meeting explicitly focused on Africa’s needs, relevant to global concerns.

Africa is well-placed to become a leader in climate science, as it is the custodian of many of the largest and unique wilderness areas globally, which should provide some of the world’s most effective renewable energy sources.

Undoubtedly, climate change is happening fast, and it is time for society to take the lead in making significant lifestyle changes should we wish to counteract its drastic impact on our everyday lives. Society needs to ensure that they are more knowledgeable and better-informed on the global effects of climate change. It is up to every one of us to drive the necessary change.


Duncan MacFadyen, Rendani Nenguda



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