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The impact of the industrialized nation’s CO2 emissions on climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa: Case studies from South Africa, Nigeria and the DR Congo

Kohnert, Dirk (2024): The impact of the industrialized nation’s CO2 emissions on climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa: Case studies from South Africa, Nigeria and the DR Congo.

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Human activity has transformed the planet at a pace and scale unprecedented in recorded history, causing irreversible damage to communities and ecosystems. Countries have focused their capacities on economic growth, with too little attention to externalities in terms of environmental quality. The world will not avoid catastrophic warming unless wealthy nations accelerate their reduction of own emissions and help poorer countries to do the same. North America and Europe have contributed 62 % of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution, while Africa has contributed only 3%. However, it is in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) that the impacts are most severe and the people most vulnerable. Developed countries, in their own interests, should focus on ways to help developing countries phase out fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy. However, there are tensions between richer and poorer nations over who should pay the costs of global warming. Rich countries have a responsibility to act more quickly than their low-income counterparts. Yet governments continue to subsidise the use of fossil fuels, and banks and companies still invest more in polluting industries than in climate solutions. The consumption habits of the richest 10 % of people generate three times more pollution than those of the poorest 50 %. Emerging economies such as China and India, which plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060 and 2070 respectively, should join the developed world in accelerating emissions reductions. It is not just the way we produce and use energy that needs to change quickly. It's the way we consume food, the way we protect nature. It's everything, everywhere, all at once. The agricultural sector is particularly vulnerable, especially in SSA countries where agriculture is central to the economy. Among the top eight countries with the highest cumulative net emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use are two SSA countries, Nigeria and DR Congo. Most of these emissions are embodied in trade and are caused by consumption in regions such as Europe, the United States and China. The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund agreed at COP27 will not be enough to turn the tide, nor will it necessarily translate into climate finance commitments, given the lack of progress in delivering the promised US$100 billion in annual climate finance from rich countries. African countries themselves need to reflect on their own strengths and step up their efforts in a timely and substantial way.

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