Africa-Press – Rwanda. The two-week-long United Nations Climate Conference (COP27) ended on November 18. The summit hosted by Egypt was set to be Africa’s COP, yet many are now saying the decisions made were not meaningful enough.
Developing countries, and African countries in particular, arrived at COP27 with a critical demand: wealthier countries must compensate them for the rising costs of extreme climate impacts. The final days of negotiations brought an agreement on a compensation fund for the most vulnerable countries. The logic behind the demands is clear – the 20 wealthiest countries produce about 80% of the world’s emissions, annually, while low-income countries produce little heat-trapping pollution (Africa produces only 3-5% of global emissions). But despite the overwhelming gap, developing countries are experiencing the devastating effects of climate change much harder and are paying the toll economically and culturally.
“If the planet is burning up, we are burning up on the front line,” said Sherry Rehman, climate change minister for Pakistan, during one of the COP events. “We are the ground-zero of that climate change. So while we are seeing that burn, we are not contributing to that burn.”
While a fund was set, it was unclear which countries would pay for the damages and which countries would be eligible to receive them. It also does not set a firm timeline for the funds’ arrival. Looking ahead at the billions of dollars set to reach Africa in climate financing, one must wonder – what would be the best way to spend them?
Under the weather
Extreme weather events are happening all over the world, but Africa is not able to adapt for various reasons. One of those reasons is the availability of weather info and data. Africa has just one-eighth the minimum density of weather stations recommended by the World Meteorological Organization, which means there is a problematic lack of data across the entire continent, including countries that are the most vulnerable to climate change. On the ground, the lack of data means inaccurate forecasts and poor or nonexistent early-warning systems for deadly cyclones, prolonged droughts, and intense floods. In terms of research, the lack of data leads to challenges in measuring the extent of climate change. Like many other infrastructure gaps in Africa, insufficient funding is primarily responsible.
In a continent that relies heavily on agriculture for its GDP and food security, unknown droughts or floods could mean months of low income and entire crops lost. According to the World Bank, about 282 million of Africa’s population is currently undernourished, with environmental factors such as drought, environmental degradation, and displacement playing a leading role. With each flood or drought, food security declines by 5-20%, and the continent’s food import bill could top $110 billion by 2025 unless significant change.
What kind of change are we talking about? Let’s explore.
Data where data is due
Africa’s infrastructure gaps cause a growing public-private partnerships sector, where companies worldwide are realizing Africa’s massive potential for both impact and business. With growing advancements in cloud computing and satellite technologies, the global weather information sector is booming, and Africa could be enjoying accurate, actionable data sooner than we might think. As the global weather forecasting market, valued at $2.14 billion in 2021 and predicted to reach $3.78 billion by 2030, rapidly grows, local governments must step up their funding and establish attractive regulations that could draw service providers. While funding to vulnerable countries was promised yet again, the lack of data on how climate change affects those countries could mean funding will not arrive at its needed destinations.
Knowledge-based demands will be the most successful, and the key to that knowledge is a firm investment. By taking some of the funds provided today and outing them to use in weather data, African countries can promise that compensation will continue coming their way while also providing their farmers with meaningful insights that could save lives and nourish hundreds of millions.
COP27 ended with the compensation fund being promised. But even if wealthy nations come through on their pledges, which historically they have not, it will still be a drop in the sea of what developing countries actually need to respond to climate change – $5.8 trillion up to 2030, according to the final agreement. “No one can deny the scale of loss and damage we see around the globe,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in Egypt. “The world is burning and drowning before our eyes.”
Starting to build on better, more accurate weather data could go a long way in both mitigation and adaptation activities.
Yariv Cohen is an entrepreneur and investor, leading sustainability-driven companies in Africa and the Middle East.