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UNEP’s ‘Africa Adaptation Gap’ Report Estimates Costs in Face of ‘Emissions Gap’

UNEP19 November 2013: A report released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reviews the financial and environmental costs that Africa will face if governments fail to close the ‘emissions gap' needed to keep warming below 2°C. The report, titled 'Africa's Adaptation Gap: Technical Report,' confirms the assessment of the World Bank's November 2012 report,  titled 'Turn Down the Heat,' that there is a 40 per cent chance global temperature will increase by 3.5-4°C if mitigation efforts are not stepped up.

The report, which is subtitled 'Climate-change impacts, adaptation challenges and costs for Africa,' emphasizes the financial challenges that Africa faces in adapting to climate change if temperatures reach such levels. The report, which was endorsed by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), notes that adaptation costs for Africa could reach approximately US$350 billion annually by 2070, should the two-degree target be significantly exceeded, compared to US$150 billion lower per year if the target were met.

Costs will not be purely financial, the report suggests, but also humanitarian and ecological. According to UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, failure to meet the 2°C window will also risk the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people in Africa and beyond. The report also notes that a '3.5-4°C world' would bring about a 10 per cent higher sea-level rise in Africa than the rest of the world, with several countries particularly hard hit, and that arid areas in Africa, already about half its land mass, would increase by four per cent. The report indicates that Africa's capacity to deal with these climate impacts, with measures such as early-warning systems, irrigation, sanitation, and city infrastructure changes, will be co-determined by the funding it receives.

The report echoes another UNEP report, titled 'Emissions Gap Report,' which was launched days ahead of the Warsaw Climate Change Conference. This report analyzes and confirms that current pledges by individual countries to limit emissions by 2020 would lead to a global temperature increase of about 3.5-4°C warming by 2100, unless emissions are reduced now and substantially reduced afterwards. [UNEP Press Release] [Publication: Africa's Adaptation Gap Technical Report: Climate-change impacts, adaptation challenges and costs for Africa]