Africa, a continent known for its diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and abundance of opportunities, is currently facing the significant and daunting issue of climate change. Africa bears a disproportionate share of the negative consequences of climate change despite accounting for nearly 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to World Bank data, approximately 66% of Africa’s population will be vulnerable to the effects of climate change by 2030. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the African climate is warming significantly, with average temperatures rising roughly faster than the global average.
Climate change’s effects can be seen in various ways across continents. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), changes in precipitation patterns have resulted in extended periods of drought in areas heavily reliant on agricultural activities. These occurrences have significantly reduced agricultural productivity, exacerbated food shortages, and jeopardised many people’s economic well-being. On the other hand, unpredictable and increased floods harm societies by causing casualties, forced migration, and the destruction of critical infrastructure.
The vulnerability of African coastal regions to sea-level rise is a major and urgent concern. Over a quarter of Africa’s population lives within 100 kilometres of the coast, posing a serious threat to the continent’s urban centres and coastal ecosystems. According to an African Development Bank report, the projected rise in sea levels by 2100 could have economic ramifications amounting to approximately 3% of the African continent’s GDP. Cities characterised by vulnerability, such as Lagos, Abidjan, and Dar es Salaam, are more vulnerable to rising tides, exacerbating pre-existing issues associated with urbanisation, population density, and inadequate infrastructure.
Given the vulnerability and significant consequences, political determination emerges as a symbol of hope and transformation. Recognising these challenges is not enough; concerted efforts and strategic actions are required to keep Africa from becoming a climate disaster. Political will is the determination and dedication of governmental entities to prioritising and addressing complex challenges. Political will drives policies, strategies, and initiatives to address and mitigate climate change’s effects. Subnational entities, such as county and city governments, play an important role in climate governance.
Local governments frequently take the lead in addressing climate change’s immediate consequences. County governments have the potential to make significant advances in the mitigation and adaptation to climate change. This is primarily due to their close proximity to constituents and ability to tailor policies to local circumstances. By implementing sustainable urban planning, promoting green infrastructure, and encouraging eco-friendly transportation options, local governments have the potential to set exemplary precedents for broader climate action.
African nations must actively participate in the ongoing climate crisis because they lack the financial resources to take a passive stance. Given the high stakes, political will becomes critical and indispensable. Governments must establish clear priorities, develop comprehensive climate policies, and engage in collaborative efforts at both the domestic and global levels to ensure a sustainable future. Furthermore, political will serves as a catalyst for attracting investments and securing funding, facilitating the implementation of climate initiatives to improve resilience, encouraging the use of renewable energy sources, and fostering disaster preparedness.
Political will has multiple implications for African nations.
- For starters, it makes it easier to establish distinct priorities. Governments with strong political will can effectively incorporate climate considerations into national development agendas. This alignment ensures that climate action is not treated as an afterthought but as a necessary and integrated component of overall progress.
- Furthermore, firms significantly impact the development of comprehensive climate policies and the determination of political will. These policies outline adaptation and mitigation strategies, promote renewable energy sources, promote sustainable agricultural practices, and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities.
- Furthermore, political will strengthens African nations’ global influence and agency. Countries demonstrating strong domestic commitment are better positioned to participate in international climate negotiations. Because of this positioning, they can foster collaboration, exchange knowledge, and implement the best strategies and approaches worldwide.
- Importantly, political will serves as a catalyst for attracting investment and funding. Governments that prioritise climate action effectively communicate with domestic and international stakeholders about their commitment to constructing a climate-resilient future. As a result, funds can be directed towards more important projects, such as the construction of climate-resilient infrastructure, initiatives promoting the use of renewable energy sources, and projects aimed at improving disaster preparedness.
- Furthermore, a government concerned about climate change demonstrates its commitment to its constituents’ well-being. By demonstrating exemplary behaviour and allocating resources to sustainable solutions, political leaders can help raise public awareness and encourage adopting environmentally sustainable practices in their communities.
Although some African countries have demonstrated commendable political will in addressing climate change, challenges remain. Political insecurity, competing developmental priorities, and limited financial resources may all impede policy implementation. Furthermore, certain governmental bodies may face difficulties effectively implementing their intended policies due to a lack of knowledge or institutional capacity.
Several critical measures must be implemented in Africa to increase political commitment to climate adaptation and mitigation. Prioritising education and awareness campaigns is critical to ensuring that policymakers and the general public understand the gravity of the climate crisis. Developing and implementing effective climate policies requires institutional capacity and expertise. Collaborations between civil society, the private sector, and local communities contribute to developing a collective sense of ownership and a broad perspective on climate initiatives. Incorporating climate considerations into diverse sectors such as agriculture, energy, and urban planning makes climate resilience easier to integrate into all aspects of society.
George is a passionate and driven researcher and writer on climate change, gender equality, and food security. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Agriculture and Food Security at the University of Edinburgh, where he is developing locally-led anticipatory measures to mitigate, adapt, and respond to humanitarian crises caused by climate shocks and stresses. He is also a Research Fellow at Jameel Observatory and Save the Children International, where he contributes to advancing locally-led early actions and disaster risk reduction in the Horn of Africa. Additionally, he is the Writer and Founder of Afrocism and Climate Change, a platform that explores the intersections of African history, culture, and politics with climate change. George holds an MS in Climate Change Science and Policy from the University of Bristol, where he was a Commonwealth Scholar and a Postgraduate Taught Students' Representative. He has extensive experience in data analysis, communication, and climate change impacts and has received multiple awards and certifications for his work.