WORLD Climate efforts in Africa must incorporate lessons from pandemic


Climate efforts in Africa must incorporate lessons from pandemic

China Daily

16:37, June 24, 2020

Workers harvest spinach at a farm amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Eikenhof, South Africa, May 19, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)

A report released by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on Tuesday said a post-coronavirus recovery in Africa should address the fundamental causes of vulnerabilities and go beyond fiscal and monetary adjustments, whose sole aim is to ensure the survival and perpetuation of the current system of production, consumption and distribution — the very system responsible for the climate crisis.

In the report, entitled "Climate Change and Development in Africa Post-COVID-19", the commission says Africa's post-coronavirus fight against climate crisis should be fought with the same urgency as the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also addresses lessons from financing crises, climate change perceptions and whether coronavirus lessons can benefit climate action in Africa.

"Funds required to underwrite climate actions actually exist, and the same approach used to mobilize COVID-19 funds should secure even greater investment in a carbon-neutral economy. Sustainability in a post COVID-19 world should be based on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the environment,"UNECA said in the report.

The report also highlights the fact the urgency with which coronavirus has been treated as opposed to the urgency being given to climate change is as a result of the pandemic being viewed as an immediate and present threat to global development, while climate change continues to be viewed as a long-term and uncertain threat to some remote communities of the world.

While drawing parallels between the devastating effects of both the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, the report calls for a fundamental shift in perceptions and attitudes in order to engender a development-centric understanding of climate change in Africa.

"The systemic weaknesses in public health systems exposed by the pandemic are mirrored in the meteorological sector in Africa. The continent is characterized by extremely low levels of investment in weather and climate observation infrastructure, limited capacities to analyze and interpret existing climate information, and limited uptake and use of climate information in policy and decision-making," UNECA said.

"According to the World Bank, only 10 out of 54 African countries offer adequate meteorological services, and fewer than 300 of its weather stations meet the World Meteorological Organization's observation standards," the commission added.

Through the report, the commission advocates for a massive injection of resources into national meteorological and hydrological services across Africa, in line with the scale of the climate threat, to all sectors of the continent's economies.

"We have learned from the coronavirus pandemic that timely response is of the essence. It marks the difference between containing a crisis and allowing it to spill over and completely overwhelm public organizations' ability to function effectively," UNECA experts said.

According to the regional body, the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated scientific evidence is key in garnering public support for radical measures. The report therefore urges African governments to increase investment in national hydrological and meteorological services in order to ensure the production of world-class early warning weather and climate information from reliable observation infrastructure.

"A post-coronavirus African economy should be based on a complete system reset. We should not seek to simply restore the pre-pandemic status quo. What is required is a paradigm shift. A whole-of-society approach is required to ensure all stakeholders, especially those most vulnerable to long-term climate impacts, are principal actors in the system reset," UNECA said.

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