Responding to climate change

No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa. Given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the considerably limited adaptive capacity, and exacerbated by widespread poverty. Climate change is a particular threat to continued economic growth and to livelihoods of vulnerable populations.

By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people on the continent are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. In the same year in some countries yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent. Global warming of 2˚C would put over 50 percent of the continent's population at risk of undernourishment. Projections estimate that climate change will lead to an equivalent of 2 percent to 4 percent annual loss in GDP in the region by 2040. Assuming international efforts keep global warming below 2°C the continent could face climate change adaptation costs of US$ 50 billion per year by 2050.

The goal of UN Environment’s climate change related activities in Africa is twofold:

  • Support African countries to reduce vulnerability and build resilience to the impacts of climate change through ecosystem based adaptation.
  • Promote the development of renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency as part of the sustainable energy for all initiative and climate mitigation effort.


  • Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) for food security: resilience strengthening projects are ongoing in the Zambezi River Basin, specifically Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.
  • Coastal EbA for SIDS: project focused on Seychelles to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of communities that depend on coastal ecosystem services provided by coral reefs and associated ecosystems.
  • EbA for mountains: in Uganda a Vulnerability Impact Assessment has been launched which is informing the EbA interventions at Mount Elgon.


  • Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC): supporting countries to reduce short lived climate pollutants.
  • LEDS Development: assisting countries in defining, building support for, and launching pathways for low-emission, climate-resilient and resource-efficient growth.
  • African Rift Geothermal Development Facility: activities to promote the technology and reduce exploration risk.

Research for Policy

  • Africa Adaptation Gap reports 1: exploring scientific rigor and policy relevance to provide an overview of the crucial challenges for adaptation to climate change in Africa over the coming decades to century.
  • Africa's Adaptation Gap 2: Exploring options for addressing finance needs at international, regional and domestic levels.
  • Keeping Track of Adaptation Actions in Africa report: the report illustrates the future situation of Africa under climate change and the adaptation actions in place.
  • Climate Change and Africa’s Economic Growth study: providing policy-makers with climate change adjusted short and long-term GDP projections.