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Experts Call for Improved African Representation on Climate Negotiation Table

As changes in climate and adverse weather conditions which have led to harsh livelihood continue to appear on the front burners of discussion, experts have called for collaboration among critical stakeholders to ensure adequate representation of the Africa continent on the climate negotiation table.

The call was made during a webinar organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-West Africa) on Thursday, January 21, 2021.

The webinar themed: The Impact of Climate Change in Africa, sort to address the increasing effect of climate change especially on the low-income populations who are likely to be most affected and vulnerable to these challenges.

Moderated by a Development Consultant, Jamie Hitchen, the webinar also sort need to promote the efforts undertaken at local, national, and regional levels to adapt or mitigate climate change, as well as encourage the government to review climate change policies or increase their efforts. 

In her opening remarks, CDD’s Director, Idayat Hassan, said the Centre appreciates the moderator, panelists, and participants who have made out time to be part of the event.

Speaking on the intricacies of climate change and the challenges faced in the African continent, Saratu Abiola, the lead, Economic Inclusion – Global Humanitarian Team at Oxfam, said while climate change is a problem not necessarily caused by human, we must continue to find ways to survive it through mitigation or adaptation processes.

Noting that these processes include financing, access to technology, policies, and strategies that improve survival, Abiola said the extreme weather conditions have become a reality.

 She said: “We look at questions like; how do we adapt to the changes that we are faced with due to climate change? Do farmers know the major challenges there would face like drought and what they could do to strengthen their livelihood?”

Addressing issues of environmental policies, Abiola said Nigeria has several good policies that have not been implemented and the same thing goes for climate change.

Stating that Mali and Burkina Faso have been making efforts to develop laws that could address the challenges of climate change, Abiola said: “We (Nigeria) have forestry laws that need to be updated and of course implemented.

“Our laws on violating laws such as gas flaring for example are as old as the 1960s. The oil companies can easily pay them so they wouldn’t mind,” Abiola said.

According to Abiola, many Nigerian lawmakers are disconnected from the effects of climate change and the reality.

She said: “A lot of our lawmakers don’t live in the communities and they don’t have a connection with the people resident in these communities; even those who live there do not have an understanding that what is happening is climate change.”

Also, she said several residents of communities affected by climate change see these challenges as a phenomenon from “God”.

On financing, she said notes that it is very difficult to get climate grants or finance as a majority of the countries in West Africa have to access climate finance through loans.

“Majority of the climate available right now goes to western countries. Only about 20% of climate funding in 2019 came to Africa,” she added.

Also speaking, Hindou Ibrahim, the coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous People of Chad, said the most glaring impact of climate change is the drying up of the Lake Chad region.

Ibrahim said the drying up of the Lake Chad region is one of the leading causes of food insecurity, social insecurity, and crisis in the region.

Ibrahim said: “Climate impact is making people poorer. Climate change is now leading to social injustice in West Africa. Our knowledge and understanding of climate change can help us create the best adaptation for our community.”

She said an understanding of patterns and possible outcome of the weather could help in planning and storage.

“This is what I do with my organisation by putting the traditional knowledge with the technology. I do this with collaboration from the meteorological agencies,” Ibrahim said.

“In parts of West Africa, the seasons are eco-systemic. Africans need to merge African knowledge with scientific knowledge to mitigate the impact of Climate change which will involve locals who are affected by this,” she said.

Ibrahim also decried the poor representation of African countries in climate negotiations.

“We have the numbers at the meetings but the voices are not strong enough to make any difference. Most countries see climate change as an issue for the Ministry of Environment. It is not, it is a case for all because climate change affects or impact all aspect of our lives,” Ibrahim said.

She further called for collaboration among Civil Society Organisations, the media, politicians, and other critical stakeholders to accelerate survival.