Thursday, November 30, 2023

Time for urgent action and funds to make water central to African climate policies.


Climate change threatens critical water supplies for Africa’s most vulnerable people. This is the central theme WaterAid regional programmes in Africa want to ensure delegates to Africa Climate Week 2021 incorporate in their demands to world leaders meeting at COP26 in November. Africa Climate Week, to be hosted virtually by Uganda and UN partners, begins on Sunday (26th-29th September) as African countries prepare their positions in advance of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) climate summit in the UK. Africa is the most-exposed region to the adverse effects of climate change despite contributing the least to global warming. The entire continent accounts for less than 4% of total global carbon emissions  but is home to 33 of the top 50 countries most vulnerable to climate change. 
This year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows a clear link between climate change and water. It makes a stark warning that urgent action is needed to tackle the dangerous effects of climate change, which is most felt through access to water: flooding, drought, unpredictable weather patterns and salination from rising seas.  Current examples:the UN declared that Madagascar is on the brink of experiencing the world’s first “climate change famine” in the south of the island nation.The fluctuations in the levels of Malawi’s 2nd largest body of water, Lake Chilwa, have become ever more extreme affecting the lives of 1.5 million who live in that densely populated basin region. Pictured above and available here.

In addition to the challenges of coping with the effects of extreme weather events, almost 1 in 3 Africans lack access to clean water close to their homes. The continent still depends on surface water for drinking, washing and cleaning. But these sources of water are unreliable and easily contaminated. These issues, combined with rising temperatures, can facilitate the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera across Africa.  

“We need urgent action to make sure that the most vulnerable in Africa can cope in the face of climate change,” says WaterAid’s Regional Director for East Africa Olutayo Bankole-Bolawole. “Given the undeniable links between climate change and water, this means that everyone must have a reliable and sustainable source of clean water and access to toilet that is clean, safe and climate-resilient.” 

Africa Climate Week is expected to build momentum towards ambitious political action. The leadup to COP26 is also an opportunity for African countries as they prepare their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). These are national climate plans which need to include commitments for climate-resilient water, sanitation and hygiene services.  Achieving these national climate plans requires significant financing to use to adapt to climate change. 

At present, only 5% of total global climate funding is spent on helping countries adapt to the changing climate, and that money is not targeted at the communities most vulnerable to climate change. Indeed, some of the most climate vulnerable countries only receive $1 per person annually for investment in water resources and services. “This level of funding is a completely inadequate response to the growing crisis and to the critical need to begin adaptation initiatives now to build resilience for the future,” says Olutayo Bankole-Bolawole. “Africa Climate Week is a major opportunity to highlight to national governments, regional donors and institutions the value that climate-resilient WASH brings to climate change adaptation for national action, and to advocate for the funding needed to make climate adaptation sustainable and resilient. 

“We calling for all governments to urgently address the effects of the climate crisis and ensure sustainable access to clean water is a fundamental part of their national strategies for both adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.” 

Distributed by African Media Agency on behalf of Water Aid.
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