The opportunities in climate change

While it is acknowledged that climate change represents an enormous challenge to humanity, it is increasingly also recognized that it is an opportunity to catalyze a transition to a more energy efficient green economy UNEP 2010. National economies can be assisted to transition from carbon intensive to green technologies. National and global enterprises can be developed and grow around the provision of appropriate technologies, and green growth can contribute towards poverty reduction in sustainable ways. The transition to efficient green economies has sectoral implications for climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water, energy as well as the environment. In the agriculture sector, structural transformations will be required to respond to rainfall and seasonal variability. These will include innovations in seed technologies as well as water harvesting, storage and utilization. In the energy sectors, technological innovations will include improving energy efficiency, investments in ‘green ‘ energy technologies, and improving access to sustainable energy for all. In the water sector, improvements in water storage, distribution and use are indicated. Other responses such as flood control, management of underground water resources, and improvements in urban water and sewerage reticulation systems, are also required.


However, climate change is also a constraint on growth and development. Addressing climate change has become central to the continent’s development and poverty reduction agenda. Poorer countries and communities will suffer earliest and hardest because of weaker resilience and greater reliance on climate‐sensitive sectors like agriculture. In Africa, recent modelling indicates that a temperature increase of 20c could mean a loss of 4.7% of GNP, most of it as a result of loss in the agricultural sector. A temperature rise of 2.5‐50c would be worse; hunger for 128 million, 108 million affected by flooding and a sea‐level rise of 15‐95cm. Climate variability lies behind much of the prevailing poverty, food insecurity, and weak economic growth in Africa today.  Climate change will increase this variability; the severity and frequency of droughts, floods and storms will increase, leading to more water stress. Changes in agricultural, livestock and fisheries productivity will occur, and the continent will face further food insecurity as well as a spread of water‐related diseases, particularly in tropical areas. Some 200 million of the poorest people in Africa are food insecure, many through their dependence on climate sensitive livelihoods – predominantly rain‐fed agriculture. Temperature increases and changes in mean rainfall and evaporation are likely to become ever greater and more damaging to livelihoods through the 21st century.


The ability to adapt production and manufacturing technologies is constrained by limited financial, resources in developing countries and is thus dependent on technology transfers. Adaptation also means the reallocation of available finances from limited resources towards responding to immediate and local needs, including responding to climate related disasters and emergencies.  Thus while climate is an opportunity for development, it is also a significant cost.


This session will critically examine the opportunities from climate change narrative by discussing the implications of climate change for the various climate sensitive sectors of African economies, the opportunities that are available for the transformation of these sectors in response to climate change impacts, as well as the structural and other limitations to adaptive capacities within these sectors.