Climate Governance in Africa



Climate Governance in Africa - Adaptation Strategies and Institutions

Executive Summary

By Masego Madzwamuse

Developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate change due to their low adaptive capacity and growing dependence on resources sensitive to changes in climate. Climate change will undermine development efforts in Africa and the rest of the developing world, and will hit the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society hard. Its potential impacts threaten to reverse the gains of sustainable development and put additional pressure on already overstretched human and financial resources in developing countries. Key economic sectors such as agriculture, water, energy, health, wildlife and tourism and efforts towards poverty reduction are identified as the most vulnerable. The majority - 96% - of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is dependent on rain-fed agriculture and in some countries crop yields are predicted to fall by 50% by 2050 while arable land will decline by 6%. Food security and access to food will therefore be severely compromised by climate change, and poor rural communities and poor countries with the least financial, institutional and technological capacity to adapt will face the worst impacts.

Though Africa generally contributes less to the total global greenhouse emissions, the scale of the impacts on Africa and its poor is devastating and will be even more significant in the future. The implications of climate change on development make both mitigation and, in particular adaptation, essential to responding to the impacts of climate change. Policy makers have therefore recognised the need to integrate climate change adaptation into all spheres of public policy-making. This integration requires a focus on key climate change governance issues, some of which are highlighted in this summary report. Regarding the governance of climate change, important questions to raise are among others: the state of adaptation preparedness; institutional arrangements and capacities; the scale of funding required for adaptation; the best ways to administer development cooperation support; effective mechanisms for delivery; and mechanisms to ensure that adaptation efforts target and benefit the most vulnerable sectors of society.

Numerous studies have been carried out on different aspects of climate change, including its impacts and adaptation needs in Africa, but few have looked into the capacities for adaptation governance. Priorities for the agenda for adaptation governance need to be driven and informed by the realities of the countries and regions that are directly affected by climate change. In order to understand these realities, and the state of adaptation preparedness in Africa, Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS) regional offices for East, West and Southern Africa commissioned case studies in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria (with references to Ghana). For each country, the studies assessed the following; impacts of and vulnerabilities to climate change; climate change adaptation policies, plans and strategies in the country, their genesis and appropriateness in relation to the current state of knowledge on vulnerability at a national level; main institutional actors involved in climate change policy and responses, including their capacity to effectively play their role; the level of public awareness on climate change; and the role played by state and non-state actors in international climate change negotiations. This report provides a synthesis of climate change governance issues emerging from the case studies.

Key Findings

Climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions, but the nature of the problem and its impacts require the active involvement of multiple national and local-level stakeholders in shaping and implementing the solutions. Adaptive capacity is dependent on policies and strategies that are put in place to respond to the needs as well as enhance the resilience of the most vulnerable systems and groups in society. A lack of appropriate policies and legislative frameworks may present barriers to the implementation of adaptation responses, and possibly increase the vulnerabilities of certain groups such as women and the poor. Inadequate institutional support and inappropriate policies can act as a constraint to adaptation and limit access to much needed natural resources by communities dependent on such resources for both survival and adaptation to environmental change and climate variability. The crosscutting impacts of climate change and the imperative need for an integrated response requires resilient and adaptive institutions and exemplary actors to lead the process towards creating an enabling environment for adaptation to climate change. The country studies highlight a number of policy and institutional issues and the extent to which these facilitate or undermine the capacity of some groups and sectors to adapt to climate change. The key findings are summarised below;

Policy frameworks for adaptation governance:

  • The policy framework for climate change adaptation governance is inadequate – Most countries lack a coherent policy framework for climate change adaptation. This is particularly the case in countries which have not embarked on a comprehensive planning process for adapting to climate change, often articulated in National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPA) and/or National Climate Change Response Strategies (NCCRS). Countries such as Zimbabwe and Nigeria lack such plans and strategies. Where such plans do not exist, adaptation tends to be addressed by a plethora of fragmented environment and development policies. Where NAPAs/NCCRS exist, these tend to be narrowly focused on biophysical vulnerabilities, follow sectoral and project approaches to adaptation and fail to facilitate integrated responses as well as account for micro-level adaptation requirements. As a result of these shortcomings the needs of the most vulnerable sectors in society (women, the poor and small-scale farmers) are not adequately catered for.
  • Positioning of climate change adaptation within the environment sector limits effective integration – A review of the environment and development policy frameworks reveals a tendency to place climate change adaptation solely with the environment sector with no reference to other sectoral plans. This has been found to limit public and decision makers’ understanding of climate change impacts and the implications for national economies, and thus undermines political buy-in for prioritisation and resource mobilisation for climate change adaptation. Often guidelines for mainstreaming climate change adaptation into national level planning are not availed to economic planners. Addressing the impacts of climate change and planning for adaptation is therefore done ex post facto and in an ad hoc manner.
  • Macro-economic development frameworks undermine adaptive capacity – The drive towards attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and towards securing industrial competitiveness, fiscal policy, and moderation of wage increases so as to attract foreign investment and facilitate economic growth, marginalises the poor and undermines their adaptive capacity. A review of agricultural policy revealed a bias towards macro-economic interests in terms of commercial agriculture and technological transfer while the needs of subsistence farmers were under-represented. The focus of most vulnerability and adaptation (V&A) assessments in the agricultural sector point to this bias. Furthermore, capital interests have led to displacements of local land owners and resource users in rural communities to make way for tourism, commercial forestry and agriculture for export – leaving a significant number of rural dwellers landless, without access to biodiversity and natural resources and highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
  • Gender is not mainstreamed into key adaptation response frameworks – National adaptation strategies do not adequately address aspects of inequality and gender. Adaptation strategies for most of the vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, biodiversity and water have major gaps in terms of making provisions for gender-related differential impacts of climate change. Enabling provisions which include, among others, security of tenure, provision of technical information such as meteorological and weather forecasts and access to micro-finance, as well as opportunities for productive employment are often not adequately and appropriately extended to women. Packaging solutions to suit the needs of the recipients is as important as providing the solutions.

The state of institutional adaptive capacity:

  • The development of adaptation policies and strategies is highly dominated by state actors – Civil society organisations and local communities have so far played a limited role in the formulation of national climate change adaptation policies and strategies. This situation undermines key governance principles such as equity, stakeholder participation, accountability and transparency. Stakeholder needs and interests are therefore not adequately reflected in adaptation responses. Of the eight countries covered in this review only three (Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania) followed a participatory approach to V&A assessments and the development of adaptation responses.
  • Government institutions are faced with major challenges that undermine adaptive capacity – These include weak coordination as a result of conflicting and overlapping mandates, dysfunctional arrangements for inter-agency integration, overburden of external (UNFCCC and donor) reporting requirements and inadequate financing for adaptation. Low income countries such as Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have challenges with attracting and retaining skilled people and the decentralisation of adaption responses needs to be strengthened by empowering local governments and building their capacity for adaptation.
  • There is inadequate investment in strategic areas for climate change adaptation – Most actors are involved in climate change awareness-raising, capacity building and research with fewer investments in legislative aspects, coordination, advocacy and financial cooperation.
  • There is limited space for civic engagement (particularly for Non-Governmental Organisation and Community-Based Organisation participation) due to financial, human resources and political constraints – International NGOs tend to dominate climate change adaptation agendas at the national level and implementation is externally driven and reflects disparate interests. The activities led by NGOs in such cases have resulted in intangible outcomes and a lack of oversight at the national level. Very few concrete adaptation activities have been observed at the local level. Where networks of local NGOs are actively involved in climate adaptation, very little exchange of experiences and lessons learned takes place.
  • Research does not respond to national knowledge gaps on climate change – African research capacities are forced to collaborate on disparate, foreign-led research which responds to external research interests and agendas.
  • Coordination mechanisms within the donor community are weak and project approaches continue to dominate development assistance – Donor coordination on climate change related matters is confined to environment working groups. As a result coordination and communication is restricted and fails to integrate other important sectors such as agriculture, energy and poverty reduction where the bulk of development assistance is channeled. In some cases donors merely rebrand existing initiatives as climate change activities, making it difficult for government and other actors to access the funding they require to develop adaptation strategies.

Key recommendations

Faced with these challenges a multi-tier approach is required to build the capacities of governments and communities in Africa to effectively respond to and adapt to climate change.

On policies:

  • Mainstreaming climate change into economic frameworks and sectoral policies is of paramount importance in order to ensure integrated adaptation responses. The current state of national adaptation strategies and the confinement of the climate change agenda to the environment sector makes it difficult for development planners to have a holistic perspective of adaptation priorities at both macro (national) and micro (local) levels.
  • The assessment of social and economic vulnerabilities needs to be strengthened so as to inform processes for identifying adaptation priorities.
  • There is a need for national adaptation policies that provide clear guidelines for integration and implementation of strategies, programmes and activities. • Macro-economic policies need to be reviewed to ensure that they build the resilience of the poor and enhance their capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

On institutional frameworks:

  • Coordination capacity needs to be strengthened and placed within a state agency (ministry or department) with political clout and convening power to facilitate integration across other agencies and sectors. Responding to the national agenda must be a core function.
  • Adaptation should be integrated into the planning frameworks of decentralised governance structures and adaptive capacity built at that level. The success of climate change adaptation will depend on the extent to which responses are felt at the local level.
  • There is a need for increased adaptation funding at local and national levels. However, priority must be given to the adaptation needs of the most vulnerable in society (ie women, small-scale farmers, subsistence fishers, the poor). Systemic capacities to improve accountability must be built at all levels of governance.
  • Individual capacities located within donor partners and other non-state actors (NGOs, CBOs, private sector and research institutions) ought to be harnessed to support national adaptation needs.

Overall, adaptation governance in Africa calls for a review of the quality of growth and development processes, an emphasis on equity as well as improvement of the level of public engagement in the formulation of national responses.


Download the complete publication (pdf, 113 pages, 2.5 MB)

Product details
All rights reserved