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COP22: Africa hit hardest by climate change

Vast quantities of floodwater is ejected from the swollen Licungo River, Mozambique, January 2015 Vast quantities of floodwater is ejected from the swollen Licungo River, Mozambique, January 2015 NASA/GSFC
11 Nov
Last year saw several African countries the worst hit by extreme weather events, as developing nations continue to be most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change

It's been unofficially called the ‘African COP’. It may be an essential global step in building upon the finalising of the Paris Agreement at COP21 last year (and rapidly brought into force in just eleven months) but that hasn't stopped COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, from being seen as the developing world's opportunity to speak loudly on the impact of climate change, away from the long shadows cast by President Obama and other world leaders who stole much of the limelight in Paris last year.

And not a moment too soon either, given the latest findings from Bonn-and-Berlin-based development and environmental organisation Germanwatch. Their latest Global Climate Risk Index, unveiled at COP22, finds four of the world's top ten countries worst hit by extreme climate events last year were in Africa: Mozambique (1), Malawi (3), and Ghana and Madagascar (equal 8). The continent as a whole was hit hard by the El Niño of 2015-16, while Mozambique and Malawi in particular both experienced heavy, prolonged flooding in late 2014 and early 2015, which saw the collapse of some significant infrastructure and many drownings. Nearly one million people were affected in both countries, with more than 200,000 people required to leave their homes.

 The Climate Risk Index for 2015 the 10 most affected countries The Climate Risk Index for 2015: the 10 most affected countries (Image: Germanwatch)

It also continues a pattern whereby those countries worst hit over the past two decades – including over 530,000 deaths caused by more than 11,000 extreme weather events – are all developing nations, with the most affected being Honduras (1), Burma/Myanmar (2), and Haiti (3). However, over this time period, climate extremes have had the most severe impacts in Central America and the Caribbean, as well as across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Over the longer term, the only African nations to show up in the fifty most ‘at risk’ countries are Madagascar (19), Mozambique (22) and Djibouti (37).

‘The distribution of climatic events is not fair,’ stresses Sönke Kreft, Team Leader in International Climate Policy at Germanwatch, and author of the Index. ‘In our 20 year analysis of weather extremes, nine out of the ten most affected countries are developing countries in the “low” or “lower-middle” income category. These are mostly countries with very low emissions, which are least responsible for climate change.’

World Map of the Global Climate Risk Index 1996 2015World Map of the Global Climate Risk Index 1996–2015 (Image: Germanwatch)

The Global Climate Risk Index is based on the most recent annual dataset from the MunichRe NatCatSERVICE, as well as socio-economic data from the IMF's World Economic Outlook.

‘The results of the Global Climate Risk Index remind us of the importance to support resilience policy,’ continues Kreft, ‘to mitigate the negative effects of climatic events on people and countries’.

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