African countries to call for climate emergency declaration

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Maputo (Thompson Reuters Foundation-New Ziana) African countries plan to call on the United Nations to declare a global climate emergency, among a set of demands to be presented at a climate summit to be on Monday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the United States.

Backed by African climate change negotiators, the statement is also expected to say that countries’ climate action plans should be made legally binding, to ensure the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement are met.

African governments will also likely request more international funding to implement their plans to halt heat-trapping emissions and help their people adapt to more extreme weather and rising seas.

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, the current chair of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, is scheduled to deliver the demands, drawn up at an August meeting in Ethiopia to prepare Africa’s position for the UN summit.

“Declaring a climate emergency enables the adoption of certain actions at a global level,” which could include a boost in financial support for African states, said James Murombedzi, head of the African Climate Policy Centre, a joint African Union and UN initiative which convened the Addis Ababa meeting.

Specifically, African governments are seeking ways to raise money to improve monitoring and forecasting of weather and seasonal climate trends, as worsening floods, storms and drought ruin homes, livelihoods and food crops across the continent.

Kenya and Somalia are suffering from drought this year, after weak rainfall in late 2018 was followed by a major cyclone further south that pulled moisture away from the Horn of Africa.

The Kenyan Agriculture Ministry has declared a food crisis as the maize harvest is set to drop by about a quarter.

In Mozambique, cyclones Idai and Kenneth killed more than 600 people earlier this year when they struck one after the other while floods wreaked havoc on the lives of more than 2 million in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

While attributing individual weather disasters to climate change remains a complex task, scientists say droughts and floods are likely to happen more frequently and become more intense, while storms are fueled by warmer seas.

They also expect more unpredictable rainfall and declining crop yields in large parts of Africa.

Murombedzi said it was getting harder for most African countries to meet a set of global development goals, including ending hunger and poverty by 2030, as their economies and ecosystems are hurt by climate change.

Mohamed Adow, who leads climate change work at international charity Christian Aid, believes Africa is already suffering the damaging effects of global warming.

“Africans have known about the climate emergency longer than most,” he said, adding that Governments should cut emissions urgently to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The world has already heated up by close to 1 C since pre-industrial times.

African nations have for years called for more funding from rich countries to assist them combat global warming and integrate climate risks into their long-term economic planning — and that plea will be heard in New York again this week.

New Ziana

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