This Op-Ed was published on This îs Africa in the November-December 2011 edition.
For smallholder farmers, climate change is no future threat. It is happening now.
As I learnt on a recent visit to Mali, a smallholder farmer, Issa, talked to me about how his farming methods have been affected by the unusual changes in the patterns of rainfall in his district.
The rains on which farmers depend are starting later and finishing earlier.
A similar worrying story of farmers facing more uncertain conditions is being heard in many areas on our continent. The worst, however, is yet to come. Scientists warn that temperatures could exceed the maximum which major staple crops will tolerate
Rainy seasons will become even shorter and more erratic, seriously worsening Africa’s already grave food crisis.
Given these changes and the scientific consensus over what will happen, Mali’s farmers struggle to understand why so little had been done to tackle climate change even though they amazingly managed to rise-up to the challenges.
This local knowledge and wisdom must guide those in power to work towards a more balanced and sustainable world.
I share their frustration.
We are witnessing an abject failure of leadership which, unless urgently repaired, will leave a terrible legacy for future generations.
This is why the climate conference in Durban next month is so important. Durban sadly might not see the universal agreement we need to limit greenhouse gas emissions to the level required to hold temperatures rises to below 2°C.
Putting in place proper climate finance is critical to these goals. Progress is being made in designing the Green Climate Fund, which must be launched at Durban.
Yet, to become an effective tool that can meet the needs of Africa and other poor countries the Fund must meet two challenges.
First, wealthy countries must not be allowed to break their promises to the most vulnerable on the planet who have not caused climate change.
The $100 billion of commitments made in Cancun last year need to be delivered. To this end, the Green Climate Fund must receive sustained and predictable funding in the range of several tens of billions of dollars per year.
In spite of their promises, wealthy countries are unlikely to provide adequate and predictable multi-year funding for the Green Climate Fund from their national budgets.
This is why I support innovative financing solutions, such as a fair maritime bunker fuel tax, a levy on airline tickets, or the Financial Transaction Tax.
Each of these mechanisms can provide the long-term funding needed to support climate finance.
Second, the Green Climate Fund must not only finance mitigation in advanced emerging countries. Adapting to the unavoidable consequences of climate change is vital to Africa’s future.
We have already seen how, through access to new techniques, drought-resistant crop varieties and financial support, small-holder farmers in Africa can dramatically increase yields and improve their resilience to the vagaries of the harsh climate they live in.
If implemented right, the Green Climate Fund can become a critical tool for investing in a uniquely African Green Revolution which in turn will accelerate wider development across the continent.
This needs to include increased funding for research into Africa’s unique agricultural challenges and to put results into practice. Robust national strategies for farming and rural communities need to be supported in a way that brings in additional private financing.
The Durban conference becomes a crucial test of the ability of our leaders to look beyond narrow national and short-term interests.
Annan is chair of the Africa Progress Panel and AGRA