It’s not too late for Africa to avoid a climate disaster

By Marie Toulemonde
Posted on Monday, 16 May 2022 12:02

Photo montage. The Africa Report.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report lists the radical measures that need to be taken immediately to limit global warming. Here is a visual overview to decipher the list.

Humanity has three years left to reverse the curve of greenhouse gas emissions and avoid a one-way trip to climate chaos, i.e. a planet that will be 3.4°C warmer – than during the pre-industrial era – by 2100. The conclusions of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published on 4 April, clearly state that even though the urgency is absolute and the challenge colossal, the worst is not yet certain.

This third report (out of a total of four) proposes solutions, which are applicable today, to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “We know what to do, we know how to do it and now we have to decide to do it,” said IPCC co-chair Jim Skea, underlining the lack of political will and consistency.

“It is a record of shame, a catalogue of empty promises that put us firmly on the path to an unliveable world,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez in a video shared on the day of the report’s release.

The antithesis of the Western model

In order to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2100, we need to radically transform production and consumption patterns across all sectors, starting with energy.

This is a heavy sentence for the continent, which has only emitted 4% of GHG emissions since 1850. Africa, which is already vulnerable, is suffering and will continue to suffer the consequences of this upheaval far more than any other region. The IPCC report cites, among other things, worsening droughts, which have caused more deaths there than all climate-related events combined in the rest of the world over the past three decades.

African governments will also have the difficult task of developing their countries on an ultra-limited carbon budget, in other words, using a model that is the antithesis of the Western model. This is against a backdrop of exploding populations, growing dependence on fossil fuels, rampant urbanisation and legitimate ambitions for industrialisation and consumption.

Miracle or mirage

Is there any hope? Theoretically, yes. The IPCC’s proposals can help improve the quality and pace of development in Africa while guaranteeing a viable future for the planet.

For example, exploiting the continent’s immense solar and wind potential could – on paper – create a huge number of jobs and electrify millions of homes. Urbanisation could be used to build the cities of tomorrow: modern, green and healthy cities. The continent, which still makes little use of inputs and intensive agriculture, could also switch to agroecology and agroforestry.

The problem is that many countries perceive this vision as unrealistic and as an injunction to remain poor so that the planet can breathe, and even though this transition could be the advent of a real third way, the obstacles remain colossal and mainly financial.

There is enough capital

Africa has only received 26% of the $100bn package intended to help developing countries prepare for climate change, and yet the authors of this third report categorically state that there is enough capital and liquidity at the global level to finance the ecological transition. Above all, action will cost much less than inaction.

What are the proposed solutions? What will Africa look like at 1.5°C? What are the levers that the continent has to pull through? Here are some infographics to decipher the situation.

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