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Better use of long-term climate information could reduce risks for African investments

African governments and businesses are putting their investments at risk from the long-term impacts of climate change because they are failing to take climate information into account, says a new report from the Overseas Development Institute and SouthSouthNorth for the Future Climate For Africa (FCFA) programme and Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), launched today.

African countries are investing in infrastructure and development programmes that will last for decades—and could be deeply affected by climate change from mid-century onwards. Ports, large dams, and social infrastructure such as hospitals and schools built today could last well beyond 2050. By then, Africa’s climate could look quite different than it does now – or has in the last century.

The report, Promoting the use of climate information to achieve long-term development objectives in sub-Saharan Africa is based on initial research into the use of long-term (5-40 year) climate information in Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and the coastal cities of Accra, Ghana and Maputo, Mozambique. The study also assesses how long-term climate information is being used by planners of large dams and ports in Africa.

The report finds that governments and businesses are failing to consider long-term climate information in investment planning: in most of the case study countries, not a single example of climate information being effectively taken up into long-term decision making was found. As a consequence, new infrastructure and programmes may be highly vulnerable to future climate impacts.

Lindsey Jones, a Research Fellow at Overseas Development Institute and author of the study, said: “Understandably, African decision-makers are overwhelmed by a large number of immediate, short-term development needs and this can eclipse longer-term concerns. However, even some short-term interventions today, like designing healthcare systems, could have consequences far in 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. Doing so requires a step change in the way we currently conduct and communicate climate science.”

Sam Bickersteth, CDKN’s Chief Executive, said: “The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment has indicated that climate change will have substantial impacts on Africa.  With so much infrastructure yet to be built to meet African countries’ development needs, there is an opportunity to apply science more fully to the policy and planning processes.  This report shows some of the constraints as well as the opportunities to communicate science to meet the particular needs of decision-makers.”

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CDKN (Climate and Development Knowledge Network)
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9 February 2015

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