Climate change should be treated as an emergency: Study


  • Climate change should be treated as an emergency in the same way as the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Funding for developing countries must not be stopped despite economic fallout caused by the pandemic in wealthier nations
  • Four-month project explored the impact of COVID-19 on climate-change efforts by compiling case studies of policymakers from eight African countries

Climate change should be treated as an emergency in the same way as the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study led by Glasgow Caledonian University(GCU)’s Centre for Climate Justice.

The study, which focused on the experiences of policymakers in climate-hit regions of Africa, recommends that climate emergencies should require governments to keep the public informed in the same way they have during the pandemic, with real-time data given as it has been for infection rates, death tolls and vaccination numbers.

The study also concluded that funding for developing countries must not be stopped or curtailed despite the economic fallout caused by the pandemic in wealthier nations.

GCU’s Dr Sennan Mattar, who coordinated the work alongside Dr Michael Mikulewicz and partners from Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), said: “Although Africa accounts for a very small portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, African governments are committed to doing their share in stopping the climate crisis.

However, many of their NDCs are conditional on receiving adequate financial support from industrialized nations. Combined with the existing considerable development challenges across the African continent, it is crucial that NDC and development funding is not stopped or curtailed despite the economic fallout caused by the pandemic in wealthier nations.”

The research consortium, led by the (PACJA) in partnership with the Glasgow Caledonia University’s Centre for Climate Justice and academic partners from eight African universities , undertook the four-month project to explore the impact of COVID-19 on climate-change efforts by compiling case studies of policymakers from Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa.

The study adopted a mixed-methods approach, which included a desk-based review of literature, an online qualitative survey and semi-structured interviews with representatives of 68 public, private and third-sector organizations based in all eight countries.

A number of interviewees observed that climate change, despite “ultimately being deadlier than the COVID-19 pandemic”, has failed to elicit the same level of urgency among governments and civil society.

It was suggested that climate change should receive the same kind of attention from decision makers. The study recommends treating climate change with the same severity as COVID-19, replicating the real-time reporting used during the pandemic for climate disasters, as well as adopting a precautionary approach to climate policy and programming.

Another common concern reported was a fear that resources towards the coronavirus pandemic response would detract from resources previously allocated to climate action, or that there would be a “downright reduction” of future financial commitments due to the resulting economic fallout.

“It is amazing how the global leaders have dilly dallied in committing to their pledges on meeting USD100 billion in green fund but mobilised resources amounting to billions of dollars towards the fight against COVID-19,” said Dr Mithika Mwenda.

The study recommends industrialised nations must be encouraged to commit higher levels of financial support and technology transfer to the developing world.

More specifically, the study focused on the way the pandemic has affected the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the Paris Agreement, a global pact aimed at alleviating the impact of climate change while building resilience of countries and communities around the world.

NDCs are national commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pursuing adaptation to climate impact.

It was found that the public health restrictions placed on gatherings and face-to-face contact for consultations were singled out as the most devastating impact of the pandemic for the NDC development process, which caused “significant delays” while workarounds were developed.

Another key consequence of the disruptions caused by the pandemic, the study says, has been economic shock and the deterioration of livelihoods for many people in local communities.

The gathered data and recommendations will be used to inform policy makers on how best to shape post-COVID-19 reconstruction on the continent, as well as inform climate conversations ahead of COP 26.

But commanding on the report, Elizabeth Jeiyo, the executive director, Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiatives (GERL), Nelson Nnanna Nwafor, the exuective director of the foundation for environmental rights, advocacy and development (FENRAD) both of Nigeria lamented the lack of focus on gender and grassroot communities.

Ms Jeiyo said there was no need for the study to be shy on the issues of women at community and at the family level since the African woman, who make up 70 per cent of rural farmers and whose contribution to the national GDP range to 45 per cent in some countries and who are mostly landless should never be left out of any discussion on climate change even in the context of COVID-19.

Nwafor on the other hand noted that nationally determined contributions speak to climate response at the grassroot community and wondered why the study was not loud on that.

“Successes or failure of any response to climate change will be measured on its impact at the grassroot therefore leaving community behind any study design will perpetuate the exclusion of such communities not just at the national levels but even at the international levels,” he said.


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