While the entire world is struggling with the challenges presented by the changing global climate, Southern Africa is uniquely susceptible to the impacts of climate change. In coming decades, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is expected to experience higher land and ocean surface temperatures than in the past, which will affect rainfall, winds, and the timing and intensity of weather events.
Climate change poses a number of risks to SADC goals for regional economic development. Increased frequency of floods, cyclones, and droughts may damage infrastructure, destroy agricultural crops, disrupt livelihoods, and cause loss of life.
As adaptation to climate change involves many factors of progress in Southern Africa, SADC is committed to several international conventions and programmes on climate change.
Conventions and Programmes
International Conventions and regional programmes are in place to provide guidance for climate change adaptation and mitigation. All SADC Member States are party to the following conventions:
- The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which advocates for reduced emissions toward lowering global temperatures and offers guidance on coping with impacts of climate change.
- The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which specifically targets the preservation of internationally important wetlands; it also contains a resolution covering climate change impacts, adaptation, and mitigation.
- The Convention on Biological Diversity, which has resulted in numerous decisions and technical papers describing the links between biodiversity and mitigation of climate change effects..
Furthermore, a Memorandum of Understanding between SADC and the World Food Program highlights adaptation to climate change as one of six main areas for cooperation. Similarly, a framework of sub-regional climate change programmes has been developed under the auspices of The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and the regional climate change programme, which is currently being finalised.
Adaptation in the Water Sector
Although many sectors are dealing with the impacts of climate change, water resources are particularly affected. Already unreliable in much of the SADC region, access to water is predicted to become more challenging with the continued onset of climate change. Consequently, the SADC Secretariat has been working on the development of a Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) Strategy for the Water Sector.
The main goal of the strategy is to lessen impacts of climate change through adaptive water resources development and management in the Southern African region. SADC intends to achieve this goal through development of all aspects of the water sector as a means for decreasing climate vulnerability and ensuring that water management practices cope with increased climate variability.
The Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) Strategy recognises that water issues impact a range of sectors, including Energy, Health, and Agriculture. Likewise, adaptation measures are required at different levels of governance and management oversight. Therefore, water use in the region requires an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach, which offers a goal-oriented system of controlling use of water as a means of slowing the effects of climate change in the region. Read more about SADC Water Division and their efforts to manage the region's water resources in a sustainable way.
At the regional level, SADC Region has responded to the impacts of climate change by initiating the development of a regional programme on climate change which is still in the development phase. The development of this programme was guided by the report on the Southern Africa Sub-regional Framework of Climate Change Programmes. The report was an assessment of the stop gap measures being undertaken in the region to combat climate change. Its development was supported by the AMCEN Secretariat following the African Ministerial Conference on Environment’s decision that mandated the AMCEN Secretariat to facilitate the development of these sub-regional reports. The sub-regional report also provided input into the African Framework of sub regional climate change Programmes.
The SADC Secretariat is also jointly with the Common Market for Eastern and and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) facilitating the implementation of a Tripartite Programme on Climate Change that is jointly funded by the Norwegian Government through the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union Commission (EUC) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The programme “aims to inject Africa’s Unified Position on Climate Change into the post-2012 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) global agreement so as to unlock resources for promoting strategic interventions that sustain productivity and livelihood improvements for millions of climate-vulnerable people in the region.