Tropical Africa and the Political Economy of Climate Change Mitigation

Authors: Abe Goldman*, University of Florida
Topics: Africa, Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Climate change policy, Africa, energy use, agriculture
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom D, Sheraton, 5th Floor


Tropical Africa (TA) – i.e., sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa – is the world region that has been least responsible for but that has also benefited least from the use of fossil fuels and other activities responsible for anthropogenic climate change. Most African countries joined the Paris Climate Accord, but their miniscule use of fossil fuels and related activities meant that their contributions to global mitigation have focused on land use activities in agriculture, forestry, etc. that are presumed to play a significant role in global climate change. However, few if any of the mitigation measures incorporated into their “national contributions” would be either locally practical or globally meaningful, particularly given: (a) current and impending land use and livelihood needs in TA; and (b) the scale of continuing fossil fuel and land use trajectories by China, India, and other major actors. Moreover, the key adaptations that TA will need to cope with the greater frequency and intensity of climatic extremes together with rapidly growing food, energy, and other needs over the next 30 years will necessarily generate increased greenhouse gas emissions. Critical needs for adaptation will include substantial growth in agricultural production, as well as major increases in transport capacity and the scale and distribution of electricity and other energy sources. Based both on local field research and macro analysis, this paper argues that neither Tropical Africa’s key needs nor its promised mitigation contributions represent equity for TA in the global political economy of climate change policy.

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