Spotlight: ISS links security and development to Africa’s climate risks

ISS is delivering evidence-informed climate action to help Africa withstand the complexities and risks of climate change.

The ISS is guiding climate change to the top of Africa’s security and development agenda, informing the continent’s ability to mitigate risks and seize opportunities emerging from the global transition to a low-carbon economy. 

Climate change intensifies many of Africa’s existing challenges, such as food insecurity and water stress. Human security threats linked to climate change include violent extremism, resource scarcity and mass migration.

Despite contributing less than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is disproportionately affected by climate change. Higher global average temperatures are expected to increase desertification, threaten water resources and shrink livelihood options. Africa’s limited resilience and low adaptive capacity to climate impacts are already restricting growth and development.

‘Climate change combined with weak rule of law could fuel instability,’ says Dhesigen Naidoo, Senior Research Associate and leader of the ISS' African Climate Risk and Human Security project.

The ISS has highlighted how climate-linked resource scarcity contributed to events such as the 2021 coup in Mali. The institute provides insights to the African Union (AU) and regional economic communities, and has helped put the climate-security-development nexus on the agenda of the AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC).

ISS is working with COP28 convenors to ensure African concerns are prioritised at the November conference

Ahead of COP27 in Egypt, the PSC declared its concern at ‘the threat of climate change to African peace and development. The council noted the need for enhanced national resilience, mitigation and adaptation, and greater investments in disaster risk reduction and climate early warning systems.

Africa sponsored the climate security resolution put before the UN Security Council (UNSC) in December 2021. Although supported by 113 countries, the resolution was vetoed by Russia. However, it’s likely to return to the council, and current African member countries Ghana, Gabon and Mozambique, and candidate countries like Denmark and Slovenia, have requested ISS support and briefings on the key issues.

The ISS team is also working with the COP28 convenors to ensure African concerns are prioritised at the November conference in the United Arab Emirates. ‘Top of the agenda is a global partnership to help Africa develop a low-carbon trajectory, with increased resources for climate adaptation and loss and damage in the short term,’ says Naidoo.

ISS research guides African governments, activists and institutions as they develop climate response strategies and assess the skills required to withstand the impacts. ‘Africa needs high levels of innovation to deal with the complexities and risks of climate change, and it needs the capacity of technicians, engineers and scientists to ensure rapid adaptation and mitigation,’ says Naidoo.

He contributed to a climate science and policy discussion in May with South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation and the National Research Foundation. ISS is also advising and empowering climate-related structures set up by the AU, including the Committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change and the climate change commissions for the Sahel, Congo region and island states.

Climate awareness has informed ISS work for at least a decade, with an increased focus since 2021. ‘A key component is linking local, regional and global climate programmes and capacities to deliver effective anticipatory and response action,’ says ISS Executive Director Fonteh Akum.

The ISS has led dialogues and workshops connecting people across the continent, including the Nile River Basin, UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, UN Economic Commission for Africa and International Organisation for Migration.

ISS works closely with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance – a network of over a thousand organisations from 51 countries, including NGOs, community organisations, indigenous communities, farmers and religious bodies. ‘We are helping develop an African team of state and non-state actors who can facilitate a pan-African approach to climate change,’ says Naidoo.

For more information, contact:

Dhesigen Naidoo, ISS: [email protected] 

Image: © Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

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