Climate Change and Fragility Framing in Africa

On the African continent, climate change poses significant risks, i.a. for food and water security. Concurrently, certain regions suffer from high fragility and weak governance. It is thus essential to better understand the linkages between climate change and fragility in Africa. To discuss the topic, adelphi and the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) organised a side event during the fourth annual conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa under the theme: Africa Can Feed Africa Now:Translating Climate Knowledge into Action held in Marrakech, Morocco on 8-10 October.

Rather than a security issue, climate change is perceived mostly as a development issue that can impact food and water security, agricultural production and economic development. It is seen as a secondary issue to jobs, basic needs and opportunities for growth. There is, however, openness for engagement with international partners on climate change that differs from the more closed attitude toward engagement on security issues.

The debate was peppered with tensions over trade-offs: investing in macro vs. micro solutions; openness to foreign investment vs. protection of local sovereignty (e.g. land purchases); land for food vs. land for energy production; energy for poverty reduction vs. green energy; which disclosed uncertainty about approaches in responding to climate change. While climate change will affect food, water and energy supply, changes in demand were recognised as the biggest drivers of scarcity, especially considering African population growth and global interest in African resources. But increasing demand is the outcome of efforts to increase living standards. This complicates the discussion on climate change in Africa.

The participants see climate change as a risk factor in connection with natural disasters such as drought and floods. Both national and traditional community institutions could be weakened and development jeopardised as adverse climate impacts strike. At the same time, clarity on policy frameworks to tackle the challenges is lacking. Appropriate adaptation models from the international arena are hard to come by, while international assistance often follows short-term, top-down patterns. Climate funds are perceived as overly complex.

When discussing policy responses, the need for better data collection, analysis and sharing was highlighted, along with improved risk management capacity. Climate change and disaster reduction must be anchored at the appropriate institutional level to trigger forward-looking planning. There is declared intent to mainstream climate change into different sectors but it has low priority and is surrounded by some confusion. Some components of early warning systems are beginning to be reasonably well developed, but the extent to which they trigger early action is minimal. The majority of internationally financed actions are about crisis response instead of risk management. Actions should support improving adaptive capacity, reducing the vulnerability of populations at risk and supporting local populations in monitoring the situation.