A chorus of voices from West Africa has called upon world leaders to recognize the unique challenges and opportunities the region confronts in the battle against climate change. Ahead of the Global Stocktake event at the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28), 22 pre-eminent climate change experts from West Africa have issued a letter outlining their concerns and suggestions.
West Africa's Climate Challenges
Climate change is not a future threat for West Africa; it is a present reality. The experts highlighted the adverse effects of climate change on agriculture and coastal industries, with rising sea levels and coastal erosion posing severe threats. Political instability often complicates the execution of climate initiatives, and the experts have urged for the inclusion of civil society in capacity-building efforts.
Demands from the Experts
Amidst these challenges, the West African experts have proposed a series of demands to address these issues effectively. They called on the world leaders to incorporate regional perspectives into their decision-making processes and advocate for adaptation measures that consider transboundary natural resources. Simplified access to climate finance was another point, with a focus on policies that support local livelihoods rather than adopting a top-down approach.
The experts also stressed that Africa will present a united front at COP28. They seek commitments from developed nations on climate financing, agreements on carbon markets, and phasing out fossil fuels. The COP28 conference, taking place from November 30 to December 12, 2023, in Dubai's Expo City, will be an important platform for these discussions.
Health and Climate Change
Beyond the economic and environmental impacts, the experts pointed out the health implications of climate change. High heat and polluted air directly affect health and can exacerbate noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). They argue for greater inclusion of health in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agenda, especially addressing NCDs related to heat stress and air pollution.
The experts also highlighted the interplay of climate change with education and the lives of children. Climate shocks disproportionately affect children and adolescents, leading to hunger, malnutrition, and disrupted education.