Transboundary climate change, adaptation risks in Africa over next 10 years of great concern among policymakers: Survey

Insecurity from climate crises perceived as risk with most severe consequences

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Wednesday 03 November 2021

Transboundary climate change and adaptation risks (TCAR) that can affect agricultural value chains were perceived as in Africa, according to a new report. 

TCARs are climate and adaptation risks that result from climate change events that flow beyond national borders. They can spread in the following ways: 

  • Biophysical
  • Financial (the flow of capital)
  • Trade
  • People
  • Geopolitical (laws and policies around movement, regional cooperation and border sovereignty)

The research was done by Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) Knowledge. It is a global advocacy organisation that strives to make research and education open and equitable. October 29, 2021. 

A risk perception survey was conducted to understand what transboundary risks face individuals working at the frontline of adaptation. 

Biophysical pathway refers to transboundary climate risks that manifest through alterations to flow within biophysical systems such as river basins, arid lands or oceans.

The trade pathway refers to transboundary climate risks that manifest through disruptions to the price, quality and availability of goods and services on international markets and supply chains.

The people pathway refers to transboundary climate risks that manifest through changes to the flow of human beings around the world, including migration and tourism.

The five pathways were drawn from national adaptation plans, national adaptation programmes of action, intended nationally determined contributions as well as national economic and agricultural policies of 12 countries: 

  • Burkina Faso
  • Chad
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan 
  • Uganda

SPARC also surveyed representatives from government ministries, regional bodies and research initiatives on the likelihood of such risks occurring in the next 10 years and the severity of the consequences.

Among the five pathways, the biophysical pathway was the greatest concern for the respondents. 

Droughts and floods emerged as the most serious climate change risk facing east and west Africa, according to representatives of the regions. 

Land degradation and loss of biodiversity were ongoing challenges across the Sahel and are affecting livelihoods, water resources as well as human and animal health, the survey found. 

Potential cross-border bushfires in rangelands caused by higher temperatures and heatwaves were also considered a threat.

Among risks related to trade, supply disruptions or price distortions due to extreme events were perceived as most likely and most severe. In West Africa, livestock sales and cotton production were impacted by transboundary climate change, according to the participants of the survey. 

Mining of rare earth metals for global green economies can also have severe environmental and economic consequences for African countries, according to the survey. Respondents perceived it as the most likely to occur in the next 10 years among the financial risks.

Insecurity from climate crises will have the most severe multi-country and regional consequences in the next decade, the survey found. It was also rated as the risk second-most likely to occur across categories. Insecurity was viewed as contributing to cascading risks related to displacement and migration.

Poor coordination of national policy and action with regional policies and initiatives can also prove to be of great concern, felt interviewees. 

National and regional coordination of activities need to be strengthened and implemented through regional institutions along with African Union agencies, activities and frameworks, the report recommended. 

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