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US, Africa to Work Together on Climate Change


FILE - Clouds gather but produce no rain as cracks are seen in the dried up municipal dam in drought-stricken Graaff-Reinet, South Africa, Nov. 14, 2019.

The U.S. government says it wants to partner with African countries to combat climate change.

A U.S. climate envoy, who is in South Africa to prepare for a key conference next month, said the fight must be an international one.

"These kinds of damages do not limit themselves to one country," said Jonathan Pershing, U.S. deputy special presidential envoy for climate change. "You can't say I have got a problem and nobody else does. But neither would any country be immune. You don't have to be a landlocked country or an island country or coastal country. We are all in this together.

"That brings me to why I have come to Africa. It's the fastest growing continent, it's a continent in many ways it represents the future, what it chooses to do could either leapfrog the past or follow the previous historical trajectory."

The State of the Climate in Africa 2019 report, a publication coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization, showed increasing climate change threats to people's health, food and water.

FILE - Jonathan Pershing, deputy U.S. climate change envoy, speaks at the U.N. World Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 14, 2016.
FILE - Jonathan Pershing, deputy U.S. climate change envoy, speaks at the U.N. World Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 14, 2016.

The predictions on weather patterns, covering the years between 2020 and 2024, call for a continued warming trend and less rainfall in northern and southern Africa.

This has major consequences for the continent. Farmers in Africa depend on their natural environment to grow crops, and due to unpredictable weather patterns, they are getting less food from the farms.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the number of undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by 45% since 2012.

Pershing said despite the challenges, Africa's natural resources can transform the economic fortunes of many countries.

"We could have the critical minerals Africa has in abundance servicing that global demand, that is countries like Kenya, it's countries like Namibia," he said. "We have forest opportunities in countries like the Congo, both of the Congos — Brazzaville and Kinshasa — real windows of opportunities. We have an extraordinary capacity around ports, fishing choices that could be all of our coastal nations. This is an opportunity that is continent-wide."

Pershing said climate issues matter to Americans and said the U.S. wants to work with Africa to solve the global problem.

Developed countries have pledged some $100 billion per year to help developing countries mitigate climate change. In 2019, $80 billion was collected.

Wanjira Mathai, vice president and regional director for Africa at the World Resources Institute, based in Nairobi, said Africa needs to invest in its people and lands to mitigate climate change.

"We have to invest in adaptation, we have to invest in cushioning and building resilience in our cities, in our rural settings and certainly investing in energy because energy will ensure that we can make the necessary transition that will cushion us building resilience, especially in the rural areas will require protecting and restoring nature," she said.

High-level officials are expected to gather in Glasgow next month for the COP26 climate summit to accelerate action toward the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The 2016 agreement set out to limit global warming caused by climate change to 1.5 degrees. It also supports countries' efforts to deal with the impacts of climate change.

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