Let’s talk about Africa. Let’s talk about the stereotype of naked, starving children in the midst of a deserted village, with no roads or infrastructure in sight. And then, let’s talk about what African challenges countries in Africa are ready to undertake, and what the reality looks like.
First, let’s start with a couple of facts, just to put you in the right mindset. In 2006 (not very recent, but still fairly representative), the CO2 emissions of the whole African continent accounted for 3.62% of the global emissions. Neat. Yet, from 1970 to 2012, there were slightly more than 1300 disasters reported in Africa, which took the lives of around 700 thousand people, and did around 26.5 billion dollars of damage. Compare this to North and Central America and the Caribbean in the same time period, who’ve witnessed the deaths of around 70 thousand people in around 1600 disasters.
It might just be me, but I see sort of a misbalance here. But wait, doesn’t this only further prove the stereotype of starving children with no infrastructure?
Although we can see that Africa is being disproportionately affected by climate change, leaders from African countries have united and begun to form concrete plans for action. COP21 this year is attended by a Conference of African Heads of State on Climate Change, joined by an expert team of around 200 climate negotiators that have formed a well-defined, thorough and straightforward position: opportunities for low-carbon and sustainable development in the continent. 47 out of 53 African countries have filled in their INDCs (the documents with carbon-commitments) before the intended deadline, further proving their readiness to commit to actual action. Combine their willingness with the amount of renewable energy potential they have to offer, and the continent suddenly seems like a very attractive opportunity.
And just last night, 14 African countries began and initiative with the World Bank (worth around 1.6 billion dollars- not a lot of money for a whole continent, but a very good start) that aims to restore around 100 million hectares (approximately the size of 40 Macedonias, or 2.8 Germanys) for forestation. The investments would flow in over the span of 15 years, with a billion dollars coming in from the World Bank, and 600 million from the private sector. That’s quite a bit of forest. Quuuuiite a bit.
So Africa comes into the negotiations with a couple of requests. One, very simply, is financing. Funds for climate change adaptation work very well- but investments work better. The potential for growth in many of the African countries, especially in the field of renewable energies, almost guarantees profit for investors while improving the livelihoods of millions. Another one is a revision of the maximum temperature rise cap- instead of a 2 degree cap which would lead to many catastrophes all over the continent, a 1.5 degree one.
What I conclude from the participation of African countries in COP21 is an incredible opportunity that we need to take. Those stereotypes of lacking infrastructure are probably more applicable to Macedonia at this point, rather than to Ethiopia, and we’ve witnessed, time and time again, the willingness that Africa has to cooperate and make a better world. Are we, “westerners” up for the challenge?