Climate Justice: funding and compensation for Africa
Currently, the African continent contributes only 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it is heavily affected by climate change. Climate justice recognises that climate change has a disproportionate financial and social impact on disadvantaged communities. Gumede calls for a just energy transition and a fair distribution of the costs of climate action.
Various regions in Zimbabwe are affected by catastrophic weather extremes: devastating floods, cyclones, prolonged droughts and heat waves. These lead to food insecurity, loss of livelihoods and slower economic growth. In 2019, Cyclone Idai claimed more than 1,500 lives and caused an estimated US$3.3 billion in damage in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and Madagascar. The affected countries are still struggling with the effects today. This year, Cyclone Freddy passed over Zimbabwe, but hit Malawi in particular with devastating consequences.
Irregular rainfall and chronic droughts affect the water supply and reduce production. Yet many African economies depend primarily on the agricultural sector, not only to meet local food consumption but also to generate income from exports. Many local farmers lack the capital and expertise to adapt their farms to climate change. Water scarcity also contributes to the outbreak of diseases such as cholera. Women, children and people with disabilities are most affected.
A just energy transition
Energy production is one of the main causes of greenhouse gas emissions. That is why there is a global call today to move away from fossil fuels and towards green energy. While green energy is a good solution to significantly reduce emissions, a just energy transition must take into account the limited capabilities of developing countries. Africa has an abundance of sunlight and could actually become a solar energy giant: The continent has 40% of the world’s potential for solar energy. But most African governments have too little seed money for solar farms and compatible electricity grids. Nevertheless, the pressure on developing countries to use clean energy is growing. Developed countries have had the unfair advantage of being able to industrialise quickly by using cheap fossil fuels like coal. Now this opportunity is no longer available to developing countries like Zimbabwe with abundant coal reserves? Meanwhile, the population suffers from electricity shortages. Climate change is also contributing to this. Zimbabwe actually has a fairly good infrastructure for harnessing hydropower, but its capacity has declined due to climate change-related droughts.
Climate justice: adaptation costs and compensation
Given all this, it is clear that those responsible for high greenhouse gas emissions should be held accountable. At least when it comes to helping vulnerable communities cope with climate shocks. Funding should go towards developing adaptation and mitigation measures for affected regions. But as activists from the Global South, we are not only asking for assistance in the transition, but also compensation for the loss and damage we have not caused.
«The costs of climate shocks should be borne by the biggest polluters.»
Our movement for climate justice
Climate action is and will remain insufficient unless climate justice is addressed first and foremost. Investing in training disadvantaged communities to deal with climate change will help reduce poverty, increase economic growth and accelerate sustainability efforts. Funding is needed for measures such as smart agriculture, green infrastructure and clean energy. Organisations such as Greenhut Trust, Earth Uprising Zimbabwe and Climate Change Coalition are working to raise awareness about climate change mitigation and adaptation, develop green solutions for their communities and advocate for policy reform. African governments are also committed to tackling climate change, but without adequate global support, their efforts cannot go far enough. While the fight for climate change mitigation and adaptation continues, it is important to move forward with climate justice. In addition, pressure must be increased on large emitters to significantly reduce their emissions and demonstrate compliance. Otherwise, the crisis will continue to worsen and less developed communities will continue to bear the brunt.
A few statistics
- In the last 50 years, half a million people have died due to droughts
- 337 million people were affected by climate-related disasters
- The total amount of rainfall has decreased by 5% since 1900
- Co2 emissions compared (per capita)
- South Africa: 7.34t
- Zimbabwe: 0.71t
- Switzerland: 13.51t
The impact of the climate crisis in Africa is enormous. In the last two decades alone, over 337 million Africans have been affected by climate-related disasters. The climate crisis has accelerated droughts that have claimed over half a million lives in the last 50 years. The economic impact of droughts is also devastating: these droughts massively reduce GDP, especially considering that the total amount of rainfall during the rainy season has decreased by 5% since 1900.
The African continent contributes significantly less to the climate crisis than Western countries: per capita, South Africa, one of Africa’s largest emitters, emitted 7.34 tonnes of climate-heating emissions. Zimbabwe, which is far more typical for most African climate balances, even emitted only 0.71 tonnes per capita. A comparison with Switzerland: the latter emits around 13.51 tonnes per capita.
In South Africa, 85% of electricity comes from coal. This is another reason why South Africa is the world’s 14th largest Co2 polluter. In Zimbabwe, an upswing in hydropower at the turn of the millennium has contributed significantly to a marked reduction in Co2 emissions in the energy sector since 1990. The coal sector, however, remains significant. Nevertheless, South Africa and Zimbabwe are facing a tremendous power supply crisis. Power cuts lasting for hours paralyse the economy and make everyday life difficult. International investment interest in the energy sector is high. The US Trade Administration, for example, speaks of a «best prospect industry».
Anna Brazier: Climate Change in Zimbabwe. Facts for Planners and Decision Makers. Edited by Alwyn Francis. 2015 Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.
About the author
Nonkanyiso «Nonoe» Gumede works as an environmentalist and climate activist for the Green Hut Trust. She focuses on the causes and impacts of climate change in the African context and works directly with affected communities on climate change adaptation.