People carry their belongings in Kenya after floods

People carry their belongings while crossing the section of a road collapsing due to flash floods at the Mwingi-Garissa Road near Garissa on November 22, 2023.

(Photo: Luis Tato/AFP via Getty Images)

UN Official Warns Africa Will Be Trillions Short of Needed Climate Funds by 2030

"Let's face it, we are on the brink of failing future generations."

A top U.N. official on Monday warned that Africa will be $2.5 trillion short of the funding it needs to fight climate change by 2030—a reality characterized as devastating for a continent that has suffered disproportionately from the impacts of global heating it has done little to cause compared to Europe and nations in North America.

"The world is at an inflection point and countries are facing impossible policy choices with far-reaching social and economic consequences. But we have chosen the theme of green transitions because, whether we like it or not, we cannot ignore the challenges of climate change and the need to respond accordingly," Claver Gatete, United Nations under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the economic commission for Africa (ECA), said Monday at a conference in Zimbabwe.

"In 2020, Africa's total greenhouse emission was about 3% of global emissions," Gatete added. "But we are the region with the most burden of impact."

Gatete noted that the G20 estimates Africa needs an additional $1.8 trillion for climate action and $1.2 trillion for development financing by 2030, but funds designated for Africa will fall well short of that.

"The natural question that confronts us is ‘where will all these resources come from?’" Gatete said.

The issue of climate finance, he added, is compounded by runaway debt payments for nations across the continent that amount to $100 billion annually.

"Let's face it," said Gatete, "we are on the brink of failing future generations."

As Gatete noted, Africa contributes a small amount to greenhouse gas emissions compared to many other parts of the world but faces some of the worst effects of climate change—from extreme heat to famine to flooding.

The Global South has struggled to get rich nations to provide adequate funding to help them adapt to climate change and invest in renewable energy, despite many rich nations promising to provide aid. An Oxfam report from September found rich nations have delivered a "pittance" of what East Africa needs to meet their climate goals, for example.

Rich nations agreed to help fund mitigation and transition efforts in the Global South at the COP27 global climate summit in November of 2022 but have yet to deliver at the scale anywhere near what was promised.

As Washington Post reporter Steven Mufson put it two months after the summit:

Less than three months later, there are few signs that the United States and other wealthy nations will step up to bankroll the much-hyped fund... Two months after the U.N. Climate Change Conference ended in Egypt, the hopes and promises of that COP27 summit are fading. Countries are struggling to raise large and steady streams of capital needed to shut down fossil fuel plants, switch to renewables, retrain workers, and establish a fund for losses and damages suffered by poor nations after climate-induced disasters and a century of wealthy countries' carbon emissions.

It's estimated that the amount of funding going into Africa to address climate issues may be approximately 10 times less than what is needed. Without that funding, nations are struggling to adapt to the effects of the climate crisis and can't adopt cleaner energy sources.

Climate scientists have warned that the whole world—not just the richest countries—must have adequate funding for combatting and adapting to climate change. If Africa gets left behind, they say, it will harm this fight that affects all nations.

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