Adaption presents a great opportunity for Africa

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thezimbabwean.co.uk, Paris, France

Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change as much of the continent's economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base, including rain-fed subsistence agriculture.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki Moon raised the issue during a meeting of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment at COP21 in Paris.

He was quick to add that this was an area of great opportunity for adaptation and mitigation measures - among the contested topics at COP21.

“Some of your [African] governments are already encouraging agricultural practices that are adapted to climate change and are reducing emissions,” he said.

On the other hand, he added, disruptions in food or water supplies pose serious risks, not only for African economies but also for political stability, particularly in vulnerable states.

Many countries in Southern Africa are being ravaged by drought, and there are indications that Zimbabwe faces drought conditions during the 2015/16 farming season.

The UN recently issued an urgent appeal for $86 million in food aid for Zimbabwe as a result of an economic downturn that has made food supplies unstable. Bishow Parajuli, the UN's resident coordinator in Zimbabwe, reportedly said 1.5 million people in the Southern African nation need food aid.

Food insecurity is aggravated by the effects of climate change and the current El Nino weather system , said Paula Vazquez Horyaans, the European Union's ambassador to Zimbabwe.

Predictions by the Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum of a normal to below-normal rainfall season this year spell disaster for Southern Africa’s agricultural sector in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa.

The forecasts have been corroborated by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which in August 2015 predicted El Nino would prevail from October to December, resulting in below-average rainfall for parts of the Southern African region.

“I am encouraged by the strong contribution Africa is making, against this challenging backdrop, to shift the narrative on climate action from burden sharing to opportunity sharing,” Ban Ki Moon said.

He said Africa had an enormous stake in the conference’s success.

“Your personal engagement and ownership are essential to securing the ambitious agreement that Africa’s people and the entire world need,” he said.

He said in July, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development was adopted.

And at the historic gathering in New York in September this year, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals were also adopted.

“Now, here in Paris, governments have the opportunity to secure a global climate change agreement that can pave the way towards a safer, healthier, more prosperous and sustainable future,” he said.

He added that climate Change may be just one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, but without addressing it properly, all remaining 16 goals could not be fully implemented.

“It is critically important that we have a vision implemented in Paris,” he said.

He said through cooperative action, countries and regions could accelerate the transformation to low-emissions climate-resilient economies that meet the development needs of citizens in a sustainable manner.

He commended Africa’s commitment to speaking with one voice in the negotiations.

He said he understood a number of key issues of importance to Africa have yet to find resolution in the emerging Paris package.