Christiana Figueres calls on Africa to drive adaptation agenda at COP18

By Tierney Smith

Figueres said the Convention has "not done enough" on adaptation but that the adoption of the Committee shows concrete steps (Source: UNFCCC/Flickr)

Africa must take control of negotiations over adaptation at the forthcoming COP18 climate conference in Doha, according to UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. 

Speaking at the 14th African Ministerial Conference on the Environment in Arusha, Tanzania, Christiana Figueres said the newly adopted Adaptation Committee must also work harder to give the issue prominence at COP18.

“The Committee must ensure action on adaption is coherent, effective and that it addresses the needs of Africa,” she said. “I call upon you [African nations] to move forward the adaptation agenda in Doha, including on further clarity of financing for adaptation and a work programme for agriculture that you have long worked on.”

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which include 33 countries in Africa, where climate change impacts are already being felt, are set to benefit most of the establishment of NAPs.

Poverty on the continent makes African countries some of the most threatened and the least able to adapt to oncoming climate change.

The continent is also least responsible for rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, accounting for just 4% of global emissions.

600 million people across the region are still living without electricity and while the World Bank says around a quarter of the countries grew 6% or more in 2011, African nations still remain vulnerable to energy and food shocks – even without climate change.

This year West Africa’s Sahel region is experiencing drought severe enough to spark a food crisis and famine. In the Eastern Horn of Africa last year, similar drought conditions are estimated to have caused between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths.

According to the Red Cross, flooding in Nigeria has killed 137 people since July this year, displacing 35,000 more. Officials in the country are now urging a mass evacuation along the River Niger and warn cholera outbreaks have killed at least eight people.

Africa must lead

Figueres acknowledged that the climate convention had “not done enough on adaptation” but said the steps taken in Durban last December showed concrete moves towards making the issue a priority.

She called on African nations to be ready to play their part in moving the agenda forward.

“African nations should be ready to design and implement NAPs based on your technical and financial needs and your national circumstances,” she said. “So, be ready for a good opportunity.

“I call upon all of you, because Africa must identify its very unique needs in loss and damage and develop measures, with the support of industrialised countries, to address those unique circumstances,” she added.

Addressing loss and damage from climate change impacts of a country – after mitigation and adaptation have been implemented – should also be top of agenda, said Figueres.

Issues being considered under this work programme include the possible development of climate risk insurance and ways to address rehabilitation from impacts such as sea-level rise.


The first meeting of the Adaptation Committee, established at COP16 in Cancun, was held in Bangkok last week (7-10 September), electing its first chair, Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe from Zimbabwe.

The Committee will set out the guidelines for countries to draw-up and carry out their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). It will also promote technical and financial assistance for countries carrying out their NAPs, although how much funding will be available to aid developing countries is still not clear.

The World Bank estimates that between $10 and $40 billion will be needed annually for adaptation in Africa by 2020. In 2007, the UNDP said this figure was more likely to be $86 billion by 2015.

In 2008, $1.2 billion of adaptation finance went to North Africa and the Middle East and $168 million more to Sub-Saharan Africa.

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