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COP26: Africa’s challenges must steer the climate change conference

COP26: Africa’s challenges must steer the climate change conference

The 26th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties, popularly known as COP26, is happening at a time when the world has just experienced one of the warmest years on record. The year 2020 reached temperatures that were about 1.02°C warmer than average. These kinds of extremes, driven by climate change, are being felt intensely across Africa.

Greenhouse gases – such as carbon dioxide and methane – are largely to blame for the changes to the climate. Some of the sun’s energy is reflected back to space and is trapped by these gases leading to a warming of the earth. Increased concentrations of these gases in our atmosphere leads to global warming and consequently climate climate.

Africa carries the heaviest burden of the associated climate change effects, despite contributing less than 5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Industrialised countries – namely China, the US, India, Russia and Japan – top the list in the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide.

Africa is the most vulnerable continent to the effects of climate change due to its low adaptive capacity, as a result of financial and technological limitations, and an over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture. The continent is also witnessing a higher rate of warming than the global average of 0.15°C per decade between 1951 and 2020. Given the observed global warming, it is projected that the continent will experience an increase in hot extremes and more frequent and intense rainfall extremes.

The projected changes in climate are likely to cause devastating impacts across the continent. The current case of food insecurity as a result of drought in East Africa is a case in point.

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