May 7, 2008, 6:46 AM
Africa is experiencing the worst impact of climate change. Weather patterns are changing, resulting in more droughts, floods, and similar disasters.
The effects on people, particularly the poor, are severe. Farmers, fishermen and town dwellers are vulnerable to these changes in their life patterns.
As crop yields drop, people need other sources of income to meet their basic needs. A warmer climate increases the risk of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria.
Economic necessity and competition for resources are already resulting in mass movement of people within countries, and across borders, with heightened social tension and, in many cases, violence.
African leaders should endeavour to craft a holistic response to climate change as it cannot be treated merely as a sectoral issue.
Addressing the impacts of climate change is fundamental to the success of economic growth and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, as well as our national development blueprints.
African governments need to decide how they will adapt their economies, and protect their people, and clearly spell out what they expect the international community to do to support them.
Firstly, they need to take the lead in crafting development strategies that adapt to climate change, as well as invest in infrastructure and clean energy.
Perhaps, they also need to consider finding a lasting solution to global warming by shifting to alternative sources of energy that would not do more harm to the environment.
Secondly, international organisations, including the African Development Bank, regional economic commissions, UN and Bretton Woods institutions, need the funds, leadership and technical competence to support governments in responding to climate change.
The best way for the voie of poor countries to be heard is by promoting a clear position on key issues, including the steps that they and their partners will take to ensure financing of adaptation and appropriate mitigation actions.
This could be done by using new and additional sources of funding, that is, funding which is swiftly accessible, and to ensure that existing international aid commitments are met.
Also, adaptation and mitigation measures when implemented must be done bearing in mind that Africa is not homogeneous, and that the needs of the countries vary. Thus, there will be need for centralised coordination.