Thematic Areas


Overall theme

From a people-centered livelihood and sustainable development perspective, ADF-VII will focus on “Acting on Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa.”


Discussion at ADF-VII will be articulated around specific sub-themes closely associated with the main theme of the Forum.

Setting the stage

The following three sub-themes will be considered in setting the stage for the three-day dialogue:

1. Evidence and impact of climate change

It is now a scientifically established fact that the earth’s climate is changing. The fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (AR4-2007) concludes that our climate system is warming as a result of human activities. Not only do rising greenhouse gas emissions threaten the environment, they also undermine development and have dramatic and negative consequences for Africa’s economic and social well-being. Without adequate knowledge of future climate change trends to enable us to address our unstable climate, Africa may not achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

While all countries in the world will be affected by climate change, African countries are particularly vulnerable and will suffer the most. According to different models, the effects for Africa of a temperature increase of around 2°C - that is highly expected - could mean a loss of US$ 133 billion or 4.7 per cent of GNP, mostly as a result of loss in the agricultural sector. A temperature rise of 2.5-5°C, would mean 128 million more people affected by hunger and 108 million by flooding, and sea levels rising by as much as 15-95 cm, with devastating effects.

A good starting point for serious action-oriented debate on climate change, therefore, is reaching a common understanding of the very evidence of the phenomenon and the extent of its present and projected impacts on economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability in Africa.

2. Climate change challenges and opportunities

Climate change issues need to be integrated into national decision-making on development policies, programmes and practices so as to reduce the negative effects of climate change on resources, livelihoods and the wider economy. Such integration should encompass both the challenges that climate change poses and the opportunities – especially those associated with the green economy - it offers for future pathways to sustainable development. Dialogue on such challenges and opportunities would also help raise the issue of climate change to a higher political priority, and from an environmental challenge to a developmental challenge.

3. Africa and the international climate change negotiations

20.       The ongoing climate change negotiations are complex and challenging, as the issues under discussions relate to all aspects of development. In order to ensure that African countries participate effectively in the negotiations and develop well-informed positions for Cancun, all relevant stakeholders, including government actors, the private sector and civil society should be effectively involved and engaged in the process. This calls for raising awareness about the key issues and elements under discussion, and building/strengthening consensus on key concerns and expectations of the continent in the context of the international negotiations.

Focus sub-themes

ADF-VII will offer a platform for more focused and in-depth discussion of the following sub-themes:

4. Climate science, monitoring, assessment and early warning

Based on current evidence, a consensus now exists within the global scientific community on the fact that human activities are the main source of climate change. Yet, Africa is faced with scientific and socio-economic challenges such as, understanding the science of climate change; monitoring, mitigating and developing resilience to natural and human-induced hazards and disasters in Africa (e.g. droughts, floods, landslides, tropical cyclones, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, submerging islands and desertification); and producing and using adequate climate information for policymaking and good climate risk management and adaptation practices. Under this sub-theme would be discussed: the use of scientific research and analytical work for the improvement of policymaking; the current status of research on climate change in Africa; technologies and innovations available to Africa for mitigation and adaptation actions; and the cost of the deployment of such climate change technologies and innovations.

5. Climate Change, Peace and Security

Extreme climate events such as floods, droughts, desertification and sea-level rise are likely to force increasing numbers of African population to migrate from rural to urban areas, as well as away from increasingly arid areas, low lying coastal areas and small islands productivity. The resulting massive migrations could spark violent conflicts for access to and control of key livelihood resources such as land and water, and further complicate the already complex issue of management of migration flows within and between the continent and the rest of the world.

6. Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security

Climate change is projected to severely compromise agricultural production - the backbone of most African economies - and exacerbate poverty and food insecurity in many subregions of the continent. The area suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and yield potential, particularly along the margins of semi-arid and arid areas, are expected to decrease significantly. More frequent and severe droughts, floods and weather extremes would compound the constraints on crop and livestock production systems. Local food supplies would also be affected negatively by decreasing fisheries resources in large lakes due to rising water temperatures. The combined impacts of these events would threaten the livelihoods of large proportions of the African population and curtail the prospects for broad-based economic growth, poverty reduction and food security in the continent.

Smallholder farmers in developing countries like in Africa are on the front lines of climate change. Quite often, this poor segment of society has to bear the brunt of the impact of climate change. Climate change and food security are the greatest challenges to be faced by Africa in the coming years. Serious studies indicate that “unchecked climate change” will result in a 20 per cent increase in child malnutrition by 2050. It is thus vital to twin the climate change and agriculture agendas, and adapt agriculture to the new climate reality. To this effect, all actors should be involved at the outset, in initiatives to widen the development scope beyond traditional actors, and engage stakeholders and partners in a true positive process.

Addressing the effects of climate change on agriculture, including crops, livestock and fishing activities, will require new analytical approaches supported by appropriate institutional setups. The current decision-making process involving steps such as vulnerability and risk analysis, agricultural monitoring, food security early warning, environmental assessment, and resource mobilization activities need to be reviewed and adjusted, taking into consideration current realities. Also important is the adoption of policies and strategies that will allow communities to respond and adapt to the new complex challenges.

7. Climate Change and Infrastructure Development

Africa's water resources have been decreasing over time mainly as a result of persistent droughts, rapid melting of snow caps, drying of lakes and rivers and land use patterns. Climate change will exacerbate this situation and further increase water stress and water shortage in Africa. Decreasing water level is expected to affect water quality, worsen water borne diseases, and reduce available hydropower. Coupled with increased demand on water for different uses (agriculture, industry, energy, etc.), this will adversely affect the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people and aggravate water-related problems, such as conflicts resulting from competing demands and management of shared water resources.

A combination of reduced water flows to major hydropower dams and worsening depletion of biomass energy resources resulting from climate change could seriously compound the already dire state of energy availability and accessibility. It is also expected that offshore oil production will be negatively impacted by rise in sea levels. The resulting constraints on energy production and access would further impede industrial development throughout the continent. This notwithstanding, Africa is still blessed with considerable opportunities for developing renewable energy resources.

Discussions under this theme will encompass challenges, opportunities and effective actions for coping with climate change in the development of economic and social infrastructure, with emphasis on the water, energy, transport and ICT sectors.

8. Climate Change, Trade and Industrial Development

Climate change is impacting African trade and industrial development in several ways. For instance, climate-induced reduction of agricultural output would make Africa more dependent on imports. In this regard, General Circulation Model (GCM) projections, which take into account climate change, predict an increase of such import dependency by 10 to 40 per cent. Furthermore, significant declines have also been predicted for Africa’s net agricultural exports ranging from 9 per cent in Mozambique to 74 per cent in Zambia. At the same time, prospects for a green economy offer new opportunities for future pathways to industrial and trade development in Africa. Effective action at coping with climate change for sustained economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa requires a good understanding of such challenges and opportunities for trade and industrial development.

9. Climate Change and Human Development (health, education, employment)

Climate change is expected to produce changes in temperature and rainfall. This will result in warmer environments and altered rainfall patterns resulting in increased incidences of vector-borne diseases in Africa. It is predicted that many subregions, including the Sahel, Southern and Eastern Africa, will experience increased outbreaks and severe vector borne diseases such as malaria, cholera, yellow fever, trypanosomiasis and rift valley fever. These diseases will prevent children, the most vulnerable segment of the population, from attending school. Climate change would thus add to the challenge of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with the poor being the worst hit due to paltry living environments and lack of access to health care. Furthermore, agriculture remains the main provider of employment in most African countries; hence, climate-induced reduction of agricultural output will seriously affect the most vulnerable, namely women and children. Dialogue under this sub-theme will focus on core drivers of human and social development, with emphasis on gender, youth, health and education.

10. Climate Change and Ecosystem Sustainability

Life on earth relies directly or indirectly on ecosystems and ecosystem services. However, we know very little about the natural limits or the risks of collapse of these ecosystems, which are under increasing pressure from climate change and other environmental factors. Over the years, the increasing pressure on ecosystems, which are the source of economic well-being, is underscoring the need to prescribe  an economic value to ecosystems, thereby prompting trans-disciplinary shifts in how we recognize and manage the environment, social responsibility, business opportunities, and the future for both man and nature.

In the context of the current threat of climate change, ecosystem management and sustainability is key to adapting and mitigating the related impacts. Coping with sea level rise, for instance, will require improved management of coral reefs, mangroves and coastal areas to increase their resilience. Similarly, prevention of and coping with extreme flood events will require securing catchment forests and reforestation in degraded areas. Under conditions of climate change, therefore, the management of ecosystems and the services they provide becomes even more important.
Discussion under this sub-theme will focus on:

  1. How the role of ecosystem management and sustainability can be better enhanced as a tool for adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change;
  2. Effective practices and tools in developing countries and in Africa for ensuring ecosystem management and sustainability; and
  3. Priority areas of action to ensure ecosystem sustainability and the establishment of climate resilient economies.

In addition to the above focus topics, the Forum will consider the following action-oriented sub-themes for effective response to climate change in Africa:

  1. Governance and Leadership Response to Climate Change;
  2. Financing Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Actions;
  3. Harnessing Science, Technology and Innovation for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation; and
  4. Building Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.