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African nations forced to spend on climate adaptation: Study

NAIROBI (AFP) – African countries are having to spend up to five per cent of their annual economic output to shield themselves against the impacts of climate change, even though they emit the least greenhouse gases in the world, a report released yesterday said.

The findings, published by the Nairobi-based think tank Power Shift Africa, focus on the costs of warding off climate impacts by strengthening transport infrastructure, shoring up communications, building flood defences and other preventative measures.

The threat is forcing nations to divert “already stretched” resources to climate self-defence, the report said.

The survey focussed on seven countries from around the continent. Ethiopia was the hardest-hit, spending up to 5.6 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to ward off climate-related disasters, it said. South Sudan, which has been reeling from heavy rains and flash floods affecting more than 850,000 people, is on track to spend up to 3.1 per cent of its GDP every year, the report said.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone will be spending as much as USD90 million a year – 2.3 per cent of its economic output – on climate adaptation, even though its citizens on average generate 80 times less carbon than United States (US) residents.

“This report shows the deep injustice of the climate emergency,” said head of the Power Shift Africa Mohamed Adow. “It is simply not acceptable for the costs to fall on those people who are suffering the most while contributing the least to climate change.”

Adow said African nations needed a “massive” amount of help to withstand the onslaught of climate change. African economies have long struggled to find funds to limit emissions while also adapting to climate change.

A study published last November warned that the world’s 65 most vulnerable nations will see GDP drop 20 per cent on average by 2050 and 64 per cent by 2100 if the world heats up by 2.9 degrees Celsius. That research, commissioned by Christian Aid, found that eight of the top 10 most affected countries are in Africa, with the remaining two in South America.

All 10 countries would see their GDP fall by 40 per cent even if global temperature rises are capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius, in keeping with the most ambitious Paris Agreement goal, the study said. To date, Earth’s average surface temperature has risen 1.1 degrees Celsius compared to late 19th-Century levels.

Pledges were made at COP26 to phase down coal-fired power, curb methane emissions and boost financial aid to developing countries. Rich countries have also vowed to muster USD100 billion annually in climate aid for poor nations.

A woman pushes a sack containing recycled plastic bottles. PHOTO: AFP

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