New UK projects tackling climate change in Africa a drop in the ocean, experts say

Projects supporting farmers, weather forecasting and water security will get British investment, as Africa bears "the brunt" of global warming.

Displaced families arrive after being rescued by boat from a flooded area of Mozambique in March 2019. AP
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The UK will back more green projects in Africa, as it acknowledges that the continent is “bearing the brunt” of climate change despite being among “those least responsible”.

Funding worth £49 million ($61 million) will be announced at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi on Monday by British Minister for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell.

The summit, co-hosted by the African Union Commission and Kenya, is the first of its kind, and the lack of available data for forecasting extreme weather will be at the heart of the issues on its agenda, from energy to agriculture.

While the UK's existing green partnerships with African countries have been “growing economies and improving lives”, more needs to be done, Mr Mitchell said.

“More action has to be taken, as those least responsible for climate change are increasingly bearing the brunt of its effects,” he said. “The UK is working closely with African partners to fight climate change, boost resilience and help those whose lives are most impacted.”

The African continent is expected to be the worst affected by climate change, which could cost its countries $50 billion a year by 2050, researchers from the University of Cambridge warned in August.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly promised “honest, reliable investments” to support African countries during a visit to Kenya in 2022, in addition to other commitments that were made during Cop26.

Yet African officials at the summit have highlighted the lack of foreign investment in climate initiatives on the continent.

“The countries that have been most affected by climate change are having less than 2 per cent investment,” said African Union Commissioner Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko at a press briefing in Nairobi on Sunday.

“How can [western countries] really keep their pledge? They promised us during the Paris agreement $100bn annually for us to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change. Up until now we haven’t seen anything,” she added.

The new UK funding will go towards financial projects that support environmental action and help people manage the impact of climate change across the continent.

From this, £34 million will go towards new projects across 15 African countries to help women, at-risk communities and more than 400,000 farmers build resilience against the effects of climate change, the FCDO said.

Early warning systems, such as text alerts, radio and social networks, will help hard-to-reach communities take action before extreme climate events occur, and these projects will also improve water security for more than 1.5 million people.

Seven new climate finance projects will also be launched at the summit, with investments worth £15 million from UK-backed FSD Africa Investments.

In Nairobi, Mr Mitchell will reaffirm the UK's commitment to providing £11.6bn in international climate finance over five years. He will also highlight existing projects such as Weza Power, a new partnership between the government of Burundi and UK-backed company Virunga Power, to expand energy access to almost 70% of Burundi’s population.

In addition, he will visit Nairobi Railway City, a regeneration of the city centre designed by British architects with the latest green technology and 11.5bn Kenyan shillings ($79 million) of UK investment, one of six projects that was fast-tracked by Kenyan President William Ruto and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Cop27.

Experts told The National they welcomed the UK’s new pledge, but feared it was just a drop in the ocean compared to what was really needed.

‘It’s encouraging to see these kinds of commitments. But let’s remember the scale of the problem,” said David McNair, executive director of the non-profit ONE Campaign, who also attended the Africa Climate Summit.

“Experts estimate we need $1 trillion a year to prepare for the effects of climate change, and harness the potential of the green energy transition,” he added. “This commitment is roughly 0.0000000061 per cent of that.”

Updated: September 03, 2023, 11:01 PM