Despite recent pledges, rich countries still owe Africa over $100bn climate money — Expert

Rich countries still owe Africa and other poor countries trillions of dollars and a minimum of $100 billion to Africa to urgently help the continent address the twin challenges of climate catastrophe and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

This is according to Professor Chukwumerije Okereke, Director, Centre for Climate Change and Development, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State.

Professor Okereke, reacting to proceedings at the recent 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) , said that despite the fanfare that greeted the UNGA and the climate pledges world leaders have made, the plight of Africa actually received little attention from world leaders.

Recall that US President Joe Biden, among other leaders, pledged to increase climate finance to $11 billion.

According to the professor, “Recently, because of the unprecedented floods in Western countries including Spain, Germany, and the United States of America, rich countries are beginning to awake to the devastating impact of climate change and the need for emergency measures to deal with climate change-induced loss and damage within their territories.

“However, Africa, and many poor countries around the world have long been living with the crippling impact of climate change and much of this impact has not been fully appreciated by rich countries who are mostly responsible for climate change.

“Indeed, the African climate change context had passed dangerously-epic proportions. Nigeria, for example, has witnessed intense and unprecedented scale of flooding in the past five years. The International Federation of the Red Cross and Crescent Societies reports that in September 2020 alone, torrential rainfall, river floods, and flash floods affected 192,594 people across 22 states in Nigeria (including 826 injuries, 155 fatalities, and 24,134 displacements). Little, if any of this, was reported by international news agencies.

“An estimated 27 to 53 million people in Nigeria might have to relocate with a (0.5 m) increase in sea level.

“Sea level rise is threatening other low-lying countries in Africa with research suggesting that cities like Abidjan, Cape Town, and Dar es Salaam will be totally submerged with (1.0m) global sea level rise.”

Okereke, a professor of Global Climate and Environmental Governance, added that “Climate change is also causing a decrease in productivity of many staple food crops in Africa.

“About 86 per cent of Africa’s agriculture is rain-fed, implying that even moderate variations in rainfall, temperature and precipitation patterns could have immediate impact on agricultural production. Analysts determine that climate change will reduce crop productivity by up to 20 per cent, 30 per cent and, in some cases, 50 per cent over the next 20 or 30 years.”

“Again, the anticipated loss runs into several billions of dollars and the situation is bound to worsen food and other dimensions of insecurity in Africa.”

He said, “The impact of climate change in Africa has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Climate and COVID-19 have indeed put Africa in the eye of the storm and many of the governments have no idea how to recover from the worst recession that has befallen them in more than half a century.

“Given the role of rich countries in imposing the risk of climate change and COVID-19 pandemic on Africa, it is arguable that 50 per cent of the projected $200 billion cost of climate change to Africa should be borne by rich countries.  This would imply that rich countries owe Africa at least $100 billion for climate related loss and damage and several billions to help boost recovery from COVID-19 pandemic.”

Professor Okereke noted that African leaders at the UNGA “should have been a lot more united and forceful in requesting the United Nations General Assembly to reaffirm that climate change is threatening development in Africa and pushing millions into poverty.

“They should have made it clear that Africa deserves, not handouts, but generous compensation and meaningful investment to help it address the impact of climate change imposed on it by the rich countries.”

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