It is widely accepted that climate change is a multiplier threat in Africa, exacerbating existing socio-economic issues. Extreme weather events such as Tropical Cyclone Freddy cause widespread destruction, wiping out health clinics, schools and farms, leaving people without healthcare and education, and no means of earning a living.
The cyclone has increased food insecurity in Malawi after decimating crops and agricultural land. People in Malawi now face an increased risk of malnutrition as the price of staple foods in the country has skyrocketed.
Cyclone Freddy tore through Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar over five weeks in February and March, leaving behind a trail of destruction that has exacerbated food insecurity, malnutrition, and pollution in the region. The cyclone has also led to a rise in cholera and malaria cases, which is particularly alarming as malaria is one of the most devastating diseases in Africa.
The destruction caused by the cyclone should serve as a wake-up call for African governments and the international community to take proactive steps to mitigate the effects of climate change on the continent. If we do not act now, disasters such as Cyclone Freddy will continue to devastate Africa, making socio-economic progress even more difficult to achieve.
Africa cannot tackle the climate crisis alone; the continent should be sitting at the table where loss and damage funds will be discussed and negotiated. The international community must come together to support measures for loss and damage.
At the same time, African governments must also take steps to protect their citizens, build adaptation and accountability frameworks and create systemic change that is far-reaching enough that it protects the interests of future generations. As the continent most affected by climate change, Africa needs to be at the table and not on the menu.
The African Union has a significant role to play in safeguarding member states and ensuring accountability for the implementation of such frameworks. The AU must develop an accountability framework that oversees the implementation of policies and regulatory frameworks. Policies need to be elevated beyond mere lip-service and politicking; the continent needs to see real change, and this must be achieved by action, not incantation.
Beyond this, the AU can support the development of a climate change policy that takes into account the unique difficulties faced by member states. It must not shy away from bold action that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as promoting the use of renewable energy and supporting just transitions, improving energy efficiency, reducing deforestation, building resilience as well as investing in and supporting research and development in areas such as climate science, renewable energy and climate adaptation.
The AU has already made moves to support Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Freddy. Its department of agriculture, rural development, blue economy and sustainable environment held an extra-ordinary session of the Bureau of the AU Permanent Representatives’ Council Sub-Committee on Special Emergency Assistance Fund for Drought and Famine in Africa on 30 March and called for an international pledging conference of member states and partners within the next three to six months to replenish the fund.
It also urged member states to prioritise investments in early warning and early action systems, disaster risk reduction, climate change resilience and other related areas. Such efforts should be encouraged and continued.
The United Nations must also play a role in decentralising power and resources to people, and develop accountability frameworks to ensure that funds are not wasted on corruption. Citizens must have oversight over such partnerships, transparency and accountability must be at the forefront of these partnerships.
For example, the Just Energy Transition Partnership is a collaboration between the government of South Africa and eight international partners, including Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the European Union. The partnership aims to support South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy, while ensuring that the country’s energy needs are met and the needs of workers and other people are addressed.
The partnership focuses on three areas: energy planning and implementation, industrial transition, and social and economic impact. This includes supporting the development of renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and addressing the effects of climate change on vulnerable people. The partnership also aims to support the development of a just transition framework that ensures that workers and other people are not left behind in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
The partnership is an example of how developed countries can support developing countries in their efforts to address climate change and transition to a more sustainable future. By working together, countries can share knowledge, resources, and expertise to ensure that the transition to a low-carbon economy is inclusive, equitable, and benefits everyone.
Our approach to climate justice and advocacy must differ from that in Europe and the United States. Africa has a unique intersection of problems, so the approach to tackling climate change must be tailored to our conditions. Advocacy campaigns cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach and must consider the specific needs of Africans. Several African countries have made inroads into climate change adaptation plans.
The Moroccan government has developed a comprehensive climate change plan that includes a target to generate 42% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Ethiopia has developed a Climate-Resilient Green Economy Strategy that aims to build a carbon-neutral economy by 2025. The strategy includes investments in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and forestry. Kenya has developed a National Climate Change Action Plan that includes strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The plan focuses on sectors such as energy, agriculture, forestry, and transport.
At every step towards climate justice, Africa must be guided by African values, because they provide a strong foundation for sustainable development and environmental justice. It is an invitation to see our shared interconnectedness, and to build partnerships and collaborations that promote sustainable development and climate action.
Extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones are expected to become more frequent and severe because of climate change. It is essential for all nations, and for big polluters in particular, to take urgent and comprehensive action to address the climate crisis.
As the world tends towards decolonisation, African values must take centre stage. We must incorporate the importance of intergenerational equity into our decision-making, recognising that the actions we take today will have an impact on future generations.
Dr Oulie Keita is the executive director of Greenpeace Africa.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.