African countries face 34% GDP hit due to climate change even at 1.5C of global heating

By Christian Aid

African countries face 34% GDP hit due to climate change even at 1.5C of global heating

A study published by Christian Aid highlights the devastating economic impact climate change will inflict on the African continent. With delegates discussing finance issues at COP27, the first African COP for six years, the new report lays out the grim economic future some of the poorest countries in the world will face.

The analysis in the report, titled The cost to Africa: drastic economic damage from climate change, was led by Marina Andrijevic, an economist at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna. By 2050 and 2100 the economies of these countries are still expected to be higher than they are today. This study highlights the amount of damage caused to their GDP by climate change, compared to a scenario where climate change didn’t take place.

Estimates based on peer-reviewed methodology by Burke et al show that based on current climate policies, where global temperature rise reaches 2.7C by the end of the century, African countries can expect to suffer an average GDP hit of -20% by 2050 and -64% by 2100. Even if countries keep global temperature rise to 1.5C as set out in the Paris Agreement, African countries face an average GDP reduction of -14% by 2050 and -34% by 2100. This underlines the fact that a robust loss and damage mechanism will be needed, even if countries succeed in keeping global heating to under 1.5C.

African countries are already suffering a reversal in development gains since Covid-19, with the World Bank showing that half a billion people around the world have been pushed into extreme poverty since the pandemic. This is exacerbated by climate impacts such as the drought in the Horn of Africa which is inflicting a devasting human toll on people who have done little to cause the climate crisis. This report highlights how climate change will rob African countries of the vital funds needed to tackle poverty, boost healthcare and build the infrastructure that underpins economic development.

Despite the harrowing economic future outlined in the report, it’s notable that Africa is the least responsible continent in terms of causing the climate crisis. The top 20 worst-affected countries in the report generate average emissions of just 0.43 tonnes of C02 per person. By comparison, the USA and Canada generate 14.2 tonnes per person, Australia 15.4, and Saudi Arabia 18.

The country facing the worst projected GDP hit is Sudan, which this year faced one of its worst rainy seasons in living memory. Heavy rains and flash floods affected more than 258,000 people, in 15 out of 18 provinces. The Christian Aid study shows that under current climate policies Sudan faces a GDP reduction of -32.4% by 2050 and -84% by 2100 compared to if there was no climate change. Even in a 1.5C scenario, Sudan can expect a GDP hit of -22.4% by 2050 and -51.6% by 2100.

Last year Christian Aid published a similar analysis across a selection of countries that make up vulnerable country negotiating blocs at the UNFCCC; the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). With this year’s summit in Egypt, the charity has focussed on all the African countries where data is available (50 out of 54).

The report shows that eight countries face GDP hits of more than 25% by 2050 and 75% by 2100 under current policies. These eight are Sudan, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, and Nigeria.

The methodology used here doesn’t factor in adaptation measures so greater investment in adaptation could potentially alleviate some of the damage. The current lack of adaptation support is one of the key issues being discussed at COP27. According to the UN’s Adaptation Gap report, published November 1, 2022, international adaptation finance flows to developing countries are 5-10 times below estimated needs and the gap is widening. Estimated annual adaptation needs are $160-340 billion by 2030 and $315-565 billion by 2050.

The countries most affected are also the ones with very low capacities to adapt, as outlined by the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative which ranks the country’s vulnerability and adaptative capacity, so it is unreasonable to expect that they will be able to reduce these damages very substantially.

Marina Andrijevic, an economist at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, who contributed to the study, said the findings only looked at the impact of temperature rise meaning the added damage from extreme weather events could actually make the economic outlook for these countries even worse.

She said: “This analysis shows the huge drag that climate change will be on the economic development of Africa. African countries face a number of challenges and the climate crisis poses a major threat to their ability to sustainably develop their economies. These numbers are only a function of rising annual temperatures, not the effects of extreme weather events. This means that they might be conservative estimates because the economic harm of extreme weather events cause massive losses on their own that might affect both economic growth and the level from which African economies start to grow again.”

Oliver Pearce, report author, and Chief of Policy, Public Affairs & Campaigns at Christian Aid, said: “These findings are stark and deserve to act as a wake-up call to leaders of all countries about the economic devastation African countries face unless we put the brakes on our rising emissions. However, even if we limit global heating to 1.5C this report shows that African nations will still suffer substantial economic harm, underlining the need for much greater financial support for people who face permanent harm from climate change. It’s why at COP27 in Egypt we need to see much greater adaptation finance for vulnerable countries and a fund to compensate communities for loss and damage due to climate change they did not cause. The war in Ukraine and the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic continue to stretch the economies of poorer nations. Add climate change to the mix and it will be the poorest who suffer most, for example, the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa has now pushed people in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia to the brink of famine.”

Dr. Friederike Otto, the Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, at Imperial College London, said: “Africa is already being hit by the effects of climate change, with floods and extreme heat becoming increasingly common and severe. In fact, scientists are probably underestimating how dangerous climate change is in Africa because there is a lack of monitoring and reporting extreme weather that is hitting the continent, especially heat. But we do know that these dangers will get even greater as temperatures rise – meaning it’s essential that polluting countries eliminate greenhouse gas emissions much faster than they currently plan to do so.”

Mohamed Adow, Director of the climate think tank Power Shift Africa, said: “Africa has huge potential. It has a youthful population and is blessed with an abundance of clean energy from the wind and sun. But it also is bearing the brunt of the climate crisis which threatens to rob us of our future. African leaders must speak with one voice at COP27 and demand the climate finance that has been promised to help fend off these coming economic challenges.”