Many regions of Africa felt the health impacts of the Covid pandemic less strongly than other parts of the world, but the economic and social effects have still been keenly felt – and none more so than in efforts to tackle climate change.
Construction of projects vital to the greening of the power system dropped behind schedule, while companies charged with supplying solar panels and clean cooking equipment struggled to keep going in the face of disrupted supply chains, movement restrictions and a fall in financial support from the international donor community. At the same time, Africans on low incomes seeking to buy clean energy products such as household solar panels deferred their purchases in the face of an uncertain future.
But there are signs of a revival in the clean energy sector as Covid restrictions ease and business and daily life return to something approximating normal. But it remains to be seen whether the mechanism likely to bring the greatest improvement in climate outcomes on the continent – the UN climate change process – can be cranked up to full speed.
Africa continues to feel the brunt of negative global warming impacts in terms of harsh weather conditions, despite accounting for only around 4% of global carbon emissions. Droughts are becoming longer and hotter and flooding more widespread and intense, shifting some fragile environments from being barely habitable to being uninhabitable. And there are wider impacts such as the effects on the energy sector of rising demand for cooling products, putting strain on electricity supply.
Accounting for current pledges to combat climate change, children born in Africa in 2020 are likely to be exposed to 5-10 times more heatwaves compared to those born in 1960, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The continent still relies to a large extent on funding from rich nations to finance the measures needed to reverse this process or deal with the consequences, through aid, technology and dealing with the impact of migration.
Credit: James Gavin