African leaders welcomed the opening of a regional office of the Global Center on Adaptation on Wednesday, voicing hopes it will spur the continent’s efforts to combat climate change.
In speeches marking the virtual launch of GCA Africa, the leaders said the Center could also provide an impetus for a more resilient recovery after COVID-19, which they said had compounded climate-induced vulnerabilities.
“In the post-COVID period, our objective should not only be to recover and build better but to do so in a climate-conscious way,” said Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde.
“There is no (more) stark reminder of the need for us to take urgent action than the devastating impact of climate change that we are witnessing now. We have no other option but to mobilize ourselves more than ever before to safeguard the planet. Time is not on our side,” Zewde noted.
Hosted by the African Development Bank at its headquarters in the Ivorian commercial capital, Abidjan, GCA Africa will work with partners across the continent to accelerate adaptation action that protects African communities from climate change.
Several regional and global leaders attended the high-level launch. Key speakers included the 8th UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, co-chair of the Global Center on Adaptation, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo; Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group and Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of GCA.
There were also speeches by representatives from the African Union Commission, Dutch businessman and co-chair of the GCA Feike Sijbesma, United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, Gabonese President Ali Bongo, who is also chairperson of the African Adaptation Initiative, Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister of International Development for Norway, and Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation for Sweden.
Welcoming the opening of GCA Africa, President Akufo-Addo expressed the hope that it will work to scale up the “bright spots” of adaptation on the continent, including Ghana, where development partners have kicked off a project to enhance the resilience of national infrastructure systems against threats of climate change.
“We look forward to working with GCA and its partners to meet the challenges of climate change and ensuring resilience is built into Africa’s economic recovery plans.”
President Kenyatta noted that the climate change challenge is no longer a projected crisis. “It’s indeed a reality that we need to control urgently,” he said, citing the incidence of El-Nino-triggered floods and droughts in parts of East Africa, which has also been hit by a locust invasion.
He commended the partnership between the Bank and the African Adaptation Initiative under the GCA. “I am optimistic that through this partnership Kenya and other African counties will attract more financing and other resources that we need to implement our various national adaptation plans.”
Opening the regional office, Adesina said the occasion marked a major milestone in the Bank’s drive to build climate resilience for Africa. Adesina, who began his second five-year term as Bank President this month, said one of his key priorities over the next five years is for the Bank to drive investments in green growth and climate finance for Africa.
“As a Bank, we are committed to helping Africa build back from the COVID-19 crisis, better, stronger and with greater health and climate resilience,” he said, adding that the Bank’s financing for climate had quadrupled, from 9% of its total portfolio in 2016 to 36% by 2019. “By the end of 2021, we will reach our target of 40% of the total portfolio.”
Also, the Bank has committed to providing $25 billion in climate financing by 2025, Adesina stated.
The GCA Africa programs include improving the food security of one billion people in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 through a program on rural well-being and food security, as well as projects to support communities through water for urban growth and resilience; using nature for more resilient infrastructure; adaptation finance and building youth leadership.