Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa and President of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) statement for the high-level launch of the 2019 state of the climate in Africa

26 October 2020

 

H.E. Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission;
Prof. Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organisation;
H.E. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa;
H.E. Mohamed Manar Enabah, Minister of Civil Aviation, Egypt, Chair of the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET); 
H.E. Gilberto Silva, Minister of Agriculture and Environment of Cape Verde;
Ms Maria Elena M. Q. Semedo, Deputy Director General, of the Food and Agriculture Organisation;
Mr. Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth, African Development Bank;
Mr. Amjad Abbashar, Chief Regional Office for Africa of the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction;
Mr. Muhammed Mukhair, Regional Director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies;
Representatives of the International Maritime Organisation;

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to attend this launch of the State of the Climate in Africa 2019 report as the President of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). This multi-agency report led by the World Meteorological Organisation provides an invaluable source of information and a snapshot of climate trends, extreme weather, and associated risks and impacts in key sensitive sectors in Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It has been well-documented that Africa more than any other continent is already facing widespread impacts of climate change that are diverting revenue required for broader development objectives into adaptation initiatives and emergency interventions to address climate related loss and damage.

The increased instances and frequency of heavy rains, flooding, drought, cyclones, and sea level rise causing costal erosion and degradation, are all exacerbating environmental degradation and causing devastating disasters in the continent. These trends are expected to persist or worsen, and threaten the attainment of Africa’s goals and aspirations as espoused in its Agenda 2063, and the overall stability of African nations. 

It is therefore vital that we have access to science-based knowledge that is regularly updated and derived from robust data in order for governments and individuals to enable effective action to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change and extreme weather. Furthermore, understanding and interpreting climate indicators in Africa and their trends into the future, based on science and robust data, is essential for African nations and communities in pursuing efforts to promote prosperity, increase resilience against climate impacts, and adapt to climate variability. In this regard, we appreciate that the report highlights lessons for climate action in Africa and identifies pathways for addressing critical gaps and challenges.

There is no doubt that Africa needs robust climate information, services and knowledge to enable informed decisions that will allow us to move away from reactive and crises-driven approaches towards proactive disaster risk reduction programmes. It is not enough to know that the continent is warming, but also the rate at which it is warming, where this is happening most, as well as the risks and impacts that the warming will cause.

The increasing frequency of occurrence of extreme weather events calls for an urgent need to develop robust integrated multi-hazard early warning systems. These must incorporate relevant risk management systems, but should also be centered on community engagement and participation; in order to improve resilience at local levels, and localise responses to climate change.

 A key part of our mitigation and adaptation efforts must be our efforts to conscientise local communities as to how they will be affected by climate change – we cannot have a situation where we are speaking about the effects of climate change on the continent without including those that be most affected by the phenomenon.  In this regard, we are particularly proud that efforts are being made towards enhancing continental collaboration and cooperation between African countries, especially in the meteorological sector.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The events of 2019 such as the tropical cyclone Idai, which decimated one of Mozambique’s largest cities and also affected inaldn communities in Malawi and Zimbabwe last year, as well as the exceptional KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) & the Eastern Cape floods in South Africa have taught us some valuable lessons.

We learnt that as African nations our forecasting has improved, and is in some ways on a par with those in developed countries -it may be noted that weather forecasts, including those of the South African Weather Service, gave early warning of the KZN heavy rainfall event, as well as of the Mozambique/Zimbabwe floods, about three days in advance.

We have also learnt that being able to provide early warning, as in these cases, and having the capability to respond timeously and appropriately, are two different things.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Some of the important conclusions we can draw from the above are:

  1. There is an opportunity for southern African countries to improve their resilience and preparedness for such events, so that we can reduce the loss of life and economic damage that occurs as a result of such extreme weather events.
  2. We also need to plan on the long-term, for the increasingly frequent and severe impacts of such storm systems on the southern African region as a result of climate change.
  3. We need to make the necessary investments to enhance generation of risk knowledge and early warning system capabilities, including in infrastructure and in-country expertise.
  4. We need to empower the youth through training to obtain the knowledge and skills needed in the short, medium and long term.
  5. We must empower women, who are disproportionally impacted by extreme events, to access tailored information that would help them to protect their livelihoods and those of their families. By accepting the fact that climate change can exacerbate and deepen cleavages in society, we will need to take such intersectional approaches to developing adaption and mitigation strategies.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to emphasise how crucial it is for the global North to acknowledge the importance of Africa’s contribution to the development of scientific knowledge on these issues.

It is high time that reports such as the one we are launching today, and others such as the UNEP Emission gap report, and the UNEP Adaptation gap report, contain effective and appropriately proportional contributions by Africans. This is so that we do not lose the African perspective, and the African narrative. What we have generally observed is that when such reports about Africa are not led by Africans, we turn to lose the authenticity of the story. We therefore must avoid the situation where authors of these reports come from a very small number of organisations that are almost entirely from developed countries.

As I conclude, let us remind each other that we can only win the war against climate change if we all work together. These scientific reports should help Africa to build resilience and its adaptative capacity. The Covid-19 pandemic has also reinforced our view that investing in adaptation actions bring multiple benefits such as:

  • Reducing risk, increasing productivity, and driving innovation through  adaptation;
  • The ability of investments to reduce future losses; and  
  • Social and environmental co- benefits.

Our appeal to our partners in the global North is that we work together in providing the financing for adaptation. We need to move away from a piecemeal approach when it comes to implementing adaptation plans, and see this as part of broader development plan that need to be financed differently; we appeal to the developed world to assist Africa in its quest to build adaptive capacity and resilience for its economy and her peoples. Together we can do this, in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation.

Once again, I wish to thank you all once again and congratulate you on the compilation and production of State of the Climate in Africa 2019 report which is being launched today.

 

I thank you.