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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 17th December 2020

UN flashes warning lights on climate crisis

Blue Lines

'Warning lights – for our societies and the planet – are flashing red' thunders the UNDP's latest report, which introduces a new variable – a country's emissions of carbon dioxide and its material footprint – into its Human Development Index.

The big idea of the report, 'Human Development and the Anthropocene', is that as the earth moves from the Holocene to Anthropocene epoch it will require a radical spirit of cooperation and policy coordination to save the planet. Trying to frame solutions to discrete problems won't work, it argues. Technology and innovation alone will not avert environmental disaster. It will also take the kind of global cooperation meant to emerge at the COP26 Climate summit in Glasgow in November 2021.

Failure at that summit will exact a devastating price: especially, for the just over 800 million people, many in Africa, whose lives will be wrecked by rising sea levels.

By 2100 the poorest countries in the world could experience up to 100 more days of extreme weather each year if policy commitments agreed in Paris in 2015 are not respected. The report also calls for an international system of carbon taxation. The big oil companies would have to change tack, as would the many states – including in Africa – that offer hefty subsidies via tax rules to fossil fuel producers. The IMF estimates fossil fuel subsidies at over US$5 trillion a year, or 6.5% of global GDP. The stakes are rising.