U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday hosted a virtual summit of 40 world leaders, including five from Africa, to discuss global efforts to combat climate change, a crisis which is more detrimental in Africa than any other continent.
“Meeting this moment is about more than preserving our planet. It’s about providing a better future for all of us,” said Biden.
Throughout the meeting, world leaders asserted that international cooperation and collaboration is the only way to effectively combat the pressing reality of climate change, which disproportionately harms developing countries throughout Africa.
“Africa, the least emitter, suffers the worst of the impacts of climate change,” said Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.
Climate change is not simply an African crisis but a global crisis, meaning that the actions taken by other countries around the world have a direct and profound impact on the continent’s prosperity.
Despite its limited contributions to carbon emissions, the continent of Africa has exhibited many adverse effects from the world’s pollution and the mounting global climate crisis. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday that climate change “is the most pressing issue of our time. It is a phenomenon from which developing economies are particularly vulnerable.”
Ramaphosa explained that the effects of climate change and carbon emissions pose a threat to the economic and infrastructure progress that has been made in Africa, saying, “Without effective adaptation, climate change has the potential to reverse the development gains in our countries, and push millions further into poverty.”
Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba asserted that “food production systems and water supplies are threatened” by the detrimental effects of climate change. Many parts of Africa are already suffering from food shortages, locust infestations, and chronic droughts, raising immense concern that these problems could be exacerbated in the coming years if no serious action is taken.
While many African leaders have affirmed their commitment to doing their part against climate change, President Ondimba explained Thursday that “no individual country can escape the catastrophic results of our collective actions.”
“Africa only contributes a fraction of global emissions, but we are the continent which is paying the biggest price,” said Ondimba.
President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reiterated similar sentiments, saying, “Africa is one of the continents that is most impacted by the negative effects of climate change.”
President Tshisekedi went on to affirm Africa’s commitment to fighting against the impending global crisis and outlined a hopeful view for the continent’s role in global action, saying, “I have no doubt that African nations are part of the solution that is required to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
Akinwumi A. Adesina of the African Development Bank estimated that the continent of Africa loses 7 to 15 billion dollars per year to climate change, a number that the IMF estimates will rise to $50 billion per year by 2040.
As many African nations continue to develop, the effects of climate change pose a legitimate threat to economic and humanitarian progress. If left unchecked in the coming years, the harmful effects of pollution and carbon emissions will likely worsen existing food shortages and economic crises throughout the continent.
Effectively combatting the climate crisis will need to be a global effort. In order to minimize its adverse and detrimental effects in Africa, collective and dynamic action is needed from high-emitting countries around the globe such as the United States, China, Russia, and India.
The five African heads of state that attended Thursday’s meeting were President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, and President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.