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SUSTAINABILITY & CLIMATE CHANGE

Five Ways in Which Finance for Climate Adaptation in Africa Falls Short

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By Georgia Savvidou

Back in 2009, the world’s wealthier nations pledged to mobilise US$100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries cope with climate change. The funding would be used to adapt to the impacts of climate change and reduce or prevent emissions.

The world’s poorest countries are expected to be hit hardest by climate change extremes such as droughts, floods and cyclones. And African countries are among the most vulnerable to those impacts on food security, health, economies and ecosystems. For example, crop yield loss projections are larger for tropical regions of Africa. And poorer populations in sub-Saharan Africa are at highest risk of malnutrition.

At the same time, Africa’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming are among the lowest globallyWithout financial support, climate change is projected to push tens of millions more Africans into extreme poverty by 2030.

Our new research, based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), tracked funding for adaptation to African nations from 2014 to 2018. The funding came from governments in wealthy countries and development banks. The work is important as there has been no extensive mapping of climate finance to Africa to date.

We identified five ways in which finance for adaptation to climate change in Africa falls short. These are: quantity; variation among countries; neglect of some sectors; difficulty spending funds and debt.

Adaptation finance doesn’t match the needs

Roughly US$5 per year, per person. That’s what adaptation funding to each African amounted to between 2014 and 2018, at a grand total of less than US$5.5 billion per year.

African governments estimate that they need at least US$7.4 billion per year by 2020. They also expect that they will need much more as the world gets ever hotter – reaching tens of billions of dollars per year by 2050.

It’s clear that the world’s poorest countries will be hit hardest by climate hazards and extreme weather events. The World Bank estimates that sub-Saharan Africa will face the highest adaptation costs per unit of gross domestic product (GDP). This is because of lower GDPs and higher costs of adaptation for water resources, due to changes in precipitation patterns.

But we found that funding from 2014 to 2018 targeting adaptation (US$16.5 billion) was only about half of the funding aimed at reducing emissions (mitigation), which was US$30.6 billion. While finance for mitigation is important because it addresses the root cause of climate change, for African countries that already face severe climate impacts, increased funding for adaptation is urgent.

Map of Africa showing funded allocated to countries.
Some countries are more vulnerable than others

Funders haven’t strategically targeted adaptation finance to the most vulnerable African countries. Per capita funding levels are almost the same for least-developed and more developed countries.

Graphic showing adaptation related commitments for African countries.

Generally, least-developed countries are also more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Niger, Somalia, Chad, Sudan and Liberia rank among the most vulnerable countries in the world. Yet they receive less than US$5 per person per year to adapt to weather extremes.

Not all sectors in need receive adaptation finance

Only two sectors, agriculture and water supply & sanitation, received half of the adaptation-related funding. To some extent this aligns with the expected vulnerability and exposure of these sectors to climate impacts. Also, African governments prioritise these sectors in their climate plans.

But money also needs to go to sectors such as education, health and biodiversity and have gender equality as a main objective. Healthy, educated people are more resilient to climate shocks, both socially and economically. And healthy natural ecosystems reduce direct and indirect climate risks. Funded programmes that empower women and take into account the unique needs and priorities of both women and men are found to be more effective.

Unspent adaptation finance

We need to ensure that funding is doing what it set out to do once it reaches poor countries, instead of having negative impacts as some literature suggests. But our research shows that most of it doesn’t even reach countries. Only 46% of adaptation finance committed to Africa was actually disbursed.

By contrast, finance for reducing greenhouse gas emissions was being spent at a rate of 56%. And 96% of overall development finance that funders committed to Africa over the same period was actually spent.

This suggests some major barriers to spending on climate projects, particularly for adaptation projects. Literature that has looked at this problem in more detail suggests that administrations in less developed countries are often not set up to properly plan procurement. They often have to comply with strict funding conditions and guidelines, find counterpart funding within the time that’s agreed, or comply with rigid rules of multilateral climate funds.

Adaptation finance leads to more debt

More adaptation related finance was provided as loans (57%) than as grants (42%). Poor and often highly indebted countries are largely expected to pay back money for adapting to climate hazards they’ve done very little to cause.

Aside from climate justice, on a practical level, grant-based finance has higher disbursement rates than loans. Adaptation finance could make a bigger difference if more of it was provided in the form of grants.

Looking ahead

Climate finance is probably the biggest key – or obstacle – to success at the upcoming UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. The OECD has found that the promise of $100 billion per year for developing nations by 2020 has fallen short by $20 billion.

But our research suggests that climate finance is about more than just one aggregate number. The money must match the needs, in terms of amount and purpose. It must go to all the sectors where it’s needed to put people in a better position to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Funders and recipients must identify and solve the problems preventing money from actually making a difference on the ground. And funders must reconsider the quality of the finance, especially whether it’s provided in a just and effective form.

Georgia Savvidou is a PhD candidate , Chalmers University of Technology

Courtesy: The Conversation


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AGRIBUSINESS & AGRICULTURE

Sweet Sorghum offers Solutions in Drought-hit Southern Africa

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By Hamond Motsi

The southern African region is battling with drought at present. This is the result of El Niño, a natural climate cycle characterised by changes in Pacific Ocean temperatures. It has effects on global weather patterns, particularly rainfall and temperature.

The drought has hit the region’s agricultural productivity hard. MalawiZambia and Zimbabwe have declared a state of disaster with respect to their current agricultural outputs. They are seeking humanitarian assistance in the form of food aid to feed their people. The downturn also has economic implications, since over 70% of people residing in the region’s rural areas rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

The dire situation underscores how important it is for the agricultural sector to prevent, avoid or prepare for the impacts of climate change, which will also bring extremes of weather.

One measure the sector can take is to cultivate biofuel crops. These are crops rich in starch, sugar or oils that can be converted into bioethanol directly or through a fermentation process. Bioethanol, a type of ethanol produced from biological or plant based sources, emits fewer greenhouse gases compared to fossil fuels like petroleum, natural gas and coal. Commonly used biofuel crops include sugarcane, maize, grain sorghum, sugar beet, rapeseeds and sunflower.

These conventional biofuel crops do have drawbacks, however. They are highly susceptible to extreme weather events. They require high upfront investment for fertilisers, chemicals and irrigation. And they compete with food production – if they’re grown as biofuels they can’t also be used as food because of how they have to be processed.

So, researchers are always on the lookout for crops that might be good biofuels without those problems. Sweet sorghum, which is indigenous to the African continent, is one such crop. Unlike the better-known sorghum, it has sweet juice in its stems. In a recent study, I reviewed scientific literature to analyse the potential significance of sweet sorghum to African farmers because of its multipurpose nature and ability to adapt under harsh climatic conditions.

Multiple uses

Sweet sorghum has many uses. It can produce grains, animal feed and sugary juice, making it unique among crops. The grains from sweet sorghum are prepared as steamed bread or porridge malt for traditional beer, as well as in commercial beer production across the continent.

They’re nutritionally rich, with high energy values (342 calories/100 g), proteins (10g/100 grains), carbohydrates (72.7g/100 grains), and fibre (2.2g/100 grains) as well as essential minerals such as potassium (44mg/100 grains), calcium (22mg/100 grains), sodium (8mg/100 grains) and iron (3.8mg/100 grains).

The nutritional value of maize is fairly similar: proteins (8.84g/100 grains), carbohydrates (71.88g/100 grains), fibre (2.1g/100 grains), potassium (286mg/100 grains), calcium (10mg/100 grains), sodium (15.9mg/100 grains) and iron (2.3mg/100 grains).

What sets sweet sorghum apart from a crop like maize is that it’s also resilient in arid climates and has multiple other uses. For instance, it produces a lot of plant material (biomass) as it grows, which is left over after harvest. That’s why it’s useful as animal feed too.

Animal feed is made from what remains once the sweet sorghum crop has been harvested and its grains and stem juice stripped off. The residue is high in nutritional content, which can improve the quality of diets of animals, including cattle. The grains can also be used for animal feed.

The sweet juice in the crop’s stalks is what’s used to create bioethanol. Sweet sorghum contains sucrose, glucose and fructose, which are essential for bioethanol production. Of the conventional biofuel crops I’ve mentioned, only sugarcane yields more ethanol. Studies in the United States have shown that sweet sorghum far outstrips maize when it comes to bioethanol production: it yields 8,102 litres per hectare planted, while maize yields just 4,209 litres per hectare.

Resilient

Perhaps most importantly given the southern African region’s current drought struggles, sweet sorghum is well-suited for cultivation in the sorts of adverse conditions that are typically challenging for conventional biofuel crops.

One of the key characteristics of sweet sorghum varieties is their drought resistance. It allows them to enter a dormant state during extended periods of dryness and resume growth afterwards. Research has shown that, under intense water scarcity conditions, sweet sorghum makes use of its stalk juice to supplement its plant needs.

Sweet sorghum’s ability to withstand low water and nitrogen inputs, as well as its tolerance for salinity and drought stress, makes it an ideal crop for farmers in arid regions. This is why it’s widely used in other parts of the world, including the USBrazil and China.

Investing in sweet sorghum

The continent’s current agriculture value chain is dominated by major crops like maize, wheat and rice, which all originate from outside Africa. Not enough attention is given to crops of African origin, like sweet sorghum, even though it is a multipurpose, hardy crop with great potential for farmers. People are more familiar with sorghum, not the sweet variety, and it is also under-researched.

Governments should be using their agriculture extension services to raise awareness among farmers and consumers about the benefits and practical applications of sweet sorghum in people’s diets.

Developing recipes and secondary or industrial products can enhance the feasibility and awareness of sweet sorghum farming. By investing in research and development, the full potential of sweet sorghum cultivation can be unlocked through governments and the private sector.

Hamond Motsi is a PhD Student in Agriscience, Stellenbosch University

Courtesy: The Conversation


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SUSTAINABILITY & CLIMATE CHANGE

Lithium Boom: Zimbabwe Looks to China to Secure a Place in the EV Battery Supply Chain

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Chinese investors have flocked to Zimbabwe to secure lithium supplies, promising local development. But analysts warn Zimbabwe needs more robust governance for communities to reap the benefits. Reports Andrew Mambondiyani

Wonder Mushove stared blankly at plumes of red dust billowing into the sky as more than 30 trucks carrying loads of lithium ore rumbled past his newly-built house in Buhera, in eastern Zimbabwe.

The trucks drive by Mukwasi village on the dirt road linking the Chinese-owned Sabi Star lithium mine to the tarred highway. They travel through the border town of Mutare to the port of Beira in neighbouring Mozambique. From there, the lithium-containing minerals are loaded onto ships and exported to China – the world’s largest manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries.

The dust hung in the air after the trucks’ passage. Mushove and his family were among dozens of households displaced by the $130million-mining project, which began operating in May. They were relocated to new houses built by the mining company about a kilometre from their old homes.

And yet, Mushove is hopeful the mine could “uplift the area and put it on the world map,” he told Climate Home News. For decades, the vast, hard-rock lithium deposits buried under his home were of little interest to foreign investors. Now, Chinese companies are paying a high price to access Zimbabwe’s reserves – the largest in Africa and among the largest in the world.

A lightweight metal with the ability to store lots of energy, lithium is critical for the manufacture of batteries for electric cars. Global efforts to move away from combustion-engine vehicles have pushed demand for the silvery metal, also known as “white gold”, to soar.

Chinese companies have flocked to Zimbabwe’s untapped reserves of high-grade lithium to shore up the country’s supplies, benefiting from the Southern African nation’s cheap labour and deregulated mining sector. In the past two years, Chinese companies invested over $1.4 billion acquiring lithium projects in Zimbabwe.

And more money is on its way. Last year, Chinese companies were awarded licenses that could see $2.79 billion in investment flow into the country, mostly in the mining and energy sectors. These investments could turn Zimbabwe into a key player in the global lithium-ion battery supply chain. Chinese battery manufacturing giant BYD could source some of its lithium from Zimbabwe, after buying a stake in the Chinese owners of the Sabi Star mine.

But Zimbabwe’s poor progress on establishing robust resource governance threatens to keep communities like Mushove’s from seeing any of the benefits, analysts told Climate Home.

While endowed with vast mineral wealth, Zimbabwe has so far failed to turn its underground riches, including diamonds and gold, into revenues for development. Regulatory gapshuman rights abusesillegal trade, and alleged corruption have all been barriers.

recent investigation by NGO Global Witness in Zimbabwe, Namibia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo found that there is a danger of history repeating itself with lithium mining without rigorous screening for corruption and social and environmental harms.

But Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa is betting on the lithium rush to catapult the country into an upper-middle-income economy by 2030. To achieve this, Mnangagwa aspires to turn Zimbabwe into a battery manufacturing hub.

China’s lithium rush

China towers over the lithium-ion battery supply chain. But its own lithium resources are limited and it has sought to secure access to deposits overseas.

Isolated by the West and slapped with 20 years of sanctions because of human rights violations, Zimbabwe has turned towards China, now the country’s largest foreign investor.

Since the 1950s, China’s foreign policy has been guided by “five principles of peaceful co-existence“, including a commitment not to interfere in another country’s internal affairs. This principle, which encapsulates China’s approach, has set it apart from western investors.

Zimbabwe’s “opacity and disregard for human rights has made it cheap for the Chinese to exploit minerals” in the country, said James Mupfumi, director of the Centre for Research and Development, a local NGO advocating for accountability in the natural resource sector.

Zimbabwean law vests all mineral rights to the president. With no requirements to disclose the beneficial owners of mining projects, “there is no due diligence and parliamentary oversight on Chinese investments,” Mupfumi explained.

“Above all, Zimbabwe requires a government that prioritises public accountability of mineral wealth, not the self-enrichment of a few political elites,” he added.

The ministry of mines did not respond to a request for comment.


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SUSTAINABILITY & CLIMATE CHANGE

EARTH DAY 2024: Packaging Is the Biggest Driver of Global Plastics Use

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Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22, marks a global commitment to environmental protection and sustainability. The first Earth Day took place in 1970, ignited by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who aimed to raise awareness about environmental issues and mobilize action to address them. Since then, Earth Day has evolved into a worldwide movement, engaging millions of people across the globe in activities such as tree planting, clean-up campaigns and advocacy for environmental policies. Its organizer is EARTHDAY.ORG, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting environmental conservation and mobilizing communities to take action for a healthier planet.

The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “Planet vs. Plastics” – a theme chosen to raise awareness of the damage done by plastic to humans, animals and the planet and to promote policies aiming to reduce global plastic production by 60 percent by 2040.

As our chart shows, global plastics use has increased rapidly over the past few decades, growing 250 percent since 1990 to reach 460 million tonnes in 2019, according to the OECD’s Global Plastics Outlook, which projects another 67-percent increase in global plastics use by 2040 and for the world’s annual plastic use to exceed one billion tonnes by 2052. As our chart shows, packaging is the largest driver of global plastics use, which is why a rapid phasing out of all single use plastics by 2030 is one of the policy measures proposed under EARTHDAY.ORG’s 60X40 framework.

Other major applications of plastics include building and construction, transportation as well as textiles, with the fast fashion industry particularly guilty of adding to the world’s plastic footprint. “The fast fashion industry annually produces over 100 billion garments,” the Earth Day organizers write. “Overproduction and overconsumption have transformed the industry, leading to the disposability of fashion. People now buy 60 percent more clothing than 15 years ago, but each item is kept for only half as long.” Most importantly, the organization points out that 85 percent of disposed garments end up in landfills or incinerators, while just 1 percent are being recycled.

  1. Infographic: Packaging Is the Biggest Driver of Global Plastics Use | Statista

Felix Richter is a Data Journalist


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