Better use of climate information could bolster African development, says new report

Better use of climate information could bolster African development, says new report
13 February 2015

Better use of climate information could help promote development in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a report out this week that incorporates results from the scoping phase of the new “Future Climate For Africa” (FCFA) programme.

Promoting the use of climate information to achieve long-term development objectives in sub-Saharan Africa is based on research into the use of 5- to 40-year climate information in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia, as well as the coastal cities of Accra and (photo) Maputo – capitals of Ghana and Mozambique.

The study, supported by the Netherlands and the UK, also assesses how climate information is being used by planners of large dams and ports in Africa.

It finds that governments and business are not considering climate information when planning investments – meaning new infrastructure and programmes may be “highly vulnerable to future climate impacts”.

The report – from the UK Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and SouthSouthNorth for FCFA and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) – was jointly launched with a mini-site containing full details from the scoping exercise.  

‘Designing healthcare’

It consolidates learning from a number of country case-studies, including reports on Zambia compiled by the Climate Centre.

“Understandably, African decision-makers are overwhelmed by a large number of immediate, short-term development needs, said Lindsey Jones, an ODI research fellow and a study author.

“However, even some short-term interventions, like designing healthcare systems, could have consequences far into the future.

“Climate information – especially when it’s linked with tools for economic analysis – can guide decision-makers towards modest changes in design to make programmes more climate resilient.”

The report also noted “big opportunities” for decision-makers, scientists and think tanks to work together to assess when climate predictions are relevant to decision-making, arguing that better use of predictions in planning could boost the resilience of development programmes in Africa’s future climate.

Climate risk

The inter-agency FCFA programme, under CDKN’s overall management, aims to further scientific understanding and prediction of Africa’s climate – in terms of both natural variability and climate change – and support the integration of science into longer-term decision-making.

It’s hoped this will improve the management of climate risk and protect lives and livelihoods.

Two workshops in 2014 that the Climate Centre facilitated with the Zambian Red Cross, the IFRC and the UKMet Office provided input to a detailed policy brief, recently published by CDKN.

The Climate Centre also produced a full-length technical report on near-term climate change in Zambia andanother on the pilot phase of FCFA in Zambia. 

Orphan girls at the Boa Esperanca day centre in the Mozambique capital, Maputo, one of the coastal cities the new FCFA report focused on, learn a marketable skill – needlework – with the country’s Red Cross society. Their economic future could be made more secure by better use of climate information to inform investment decisions, the new report argues. (Library photo: Mika Joukhi/Finnish Red Cross via IFRC)