Although it contributes little to climate change, southern Africa is one of the most affected regions in the world. And those who pay the price are those who have the least resources to adapt.
Governments in the region have not prioritized adaptation measures such as early warning systems, climate resilient infrastructure, dryland agriculture, mangrove protection and resilient water sources. . And the costs of these measures are rising much faster than funding is provided. As COP26 kicks off this week, countries in the region need to raise funds and step up adaptation planning efforts.
The World Food Program has called southern Africa an “embodiment” of the link between climate and the water-energy-food nexus. The 16 states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have recorded 36% of all weather-related disasters in Africa over the past four decades. These affected 177 million people, left 2.7 million homeless and caused damage to excess of $ 14 billion. Climate change will continue to increase the frequency, intensity, duration and locations of these slow and sudden onset phenomena. impacts.
Many communities in these countries are poor, with little adaptive capacity. Their dependence on natural resources and their exposure to repeated and extreme hazards such as floods, droughts, storms and forest fires make them extremely vulnerable.
Tropical cyclones and severe thunderstorms tend to be the most destructive in southern Africa, posing the greatest threat to infrastructure and displacing the most people. Water is the region’s Achilles heel, with 90% of people needing emergency help because of too much or too little water. Since 1980, there have been 314 floods and 102 droughts in the region (Figure 1).
A total of 606 weather-related disasters have been recorded in SADC countries since 1980. Malawi and Mozambique were the most affected, with Zimbabwe and South Africa in third and fourth place respectively. Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Comoros had the fewest incidents. South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar and Zimbabwe recorded the largest economic losses while Lesotho, Tanzania and Seychelles recorded the least.
Figure 1: Meteorological disasters in southern Africa, 1980-2020
As the impacts of climate change worsen, these vulnerable countries will be hit hard. Southern Africa urgently needs adaptation measures, which means accessing and allocating more finance, a major challenge in itself.
Globally, the least developed countries have the fewest resources to plan, finance and implement adaptation actions, but they are the ones who bear the greatest risk. costs compared to their savings. In 2018, Cyclone Ava caused losses of $ 156 million in Madagascar, representing 2.9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017. In 2019, Cyclone Idai Cost Zimbabwe $ 274 million and Mozambique $ 3 billion, 1.6% and 19.6% of their respective GDP that year.
Climate finance is unevenly distributed around the world. Africa has only received 26% funding available between 2016 and 2019. Three quarters of this was in the form of ready and other instruments other than grants that must be repaid. Most have been geared towards cutting emissions (mitigation), with adaptation only affecting 21% of global climate finance in 2018.
South Africa has received the most multilateral climate finance on the continent and ranks sixth internationally. But only 2% is devoted to adaptation, the rest to mitigation (graph 2). Zambia, Tanzania and the Comoros have received relatively large amounts of adaptation finance relative to their climate vulnerabilities, but the amounts are still insufficient to meet their needs. Botswana has not received any funding for adaptation.
Figure 2: Number of people affected relative to total climate finance and adaptation finance in southern Africa
While climate financiers regularly talk about prioritizing the most vulnerable countries, vulnerability is not a key factor in determining where funds go. Germanwatch’s global climate risk Index 2021 ranked Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi 1stst, 2sd and 5e most affected countries in the world in 2019. Yet they placed 32sd, 108e and 75e in the climate funding received.
Many countries with the highest risks are being left behind. Funding tends to flow to places where donors are present and to countries with strong institutional capacity to implement projects. Investors seek predictable environments in which to generate returns and are reluctant to invest in countries with poor institutional and business frameworks and a history of corruption.
In Zimbabwe, for example, awareness raising grown up and climate change is becoming a government priority. Yet policy and adaptation planning is still in its infancy, and Zimbabwe has not been able to attract the funding it desperately needed. Government and multilateral funding agencies view adaptation differently, and the discord between the public and private sectors does not inspire confidence.
When vulnerable countries receive adaptation funding, it does not always reach the communities most at risk. Adaptation funding is typically piloted internationally and nationally led with little input from the local level, where expertise is often lacking. For example, more than 70% of respondents in a study of people displaced by the cyclone, Idai was not aware of climate change or adaptation. And in many cases, funds are lost through corruption long before they reach their beneficiaries.
Despite these challenges, climate adaptation is progressing. By 2021, 72% of all countries had at least one national adaptation planning instrument. All southern African states except Angola and Botswana have adopted national plans and Botswana has launched an adaptation framework.
Some donor countries have started to develop “green taxonomies” to help identify investments that help mitigate or adapt to climate impacts. More innovative models and more grant instruments are needed to increase the quantity and quality of funding and adaptation projects. Early action is imperative as costs increase rapidly over time.
Southern African countries should focus on mobilizing finance for adaptation at COP26. They need to mainstream climate adaptation into policies and projects across sectors so that adaptation planning becomes the norm and the need for funds decreases over time. The economic, social and environmental costs of non-adaptation are enormous. DM
Aimée-Noël Mbiyozo, Senior Research Consultant, Migration and Alize le Roux, Senior Researcher, African Futures and Innovation, ISS Pretoria.
First published by The ISS today