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Climate Change Gets Top Billing

In another major move by the UN General Assembly, delegates debated Climate Change and the urgent need for remedial action. Again UNCTAD has come out with a well-timed report, Commodities and Development Report 2019, which highlights how commodity-dependent developing countries will be directly affected by climate change, and indirectly by mitigation and adaptation policies pursued not only by themselves but also by third countries. The Report suggests that economic and export diversification is the best response to the challenges posed by climate change in developing countries that depend on commodities. This diversification could be horizontal, which entails venturing into new goods and sectors to reduce dependence on a narrow range of commodities; or vertical, which involves moving the value chain of a commodity up to increase its worth (ie processing minerals in the country of extraction, rather than exporting the raw materials to third countries). According to the report, a successful diversification strategy will likely include a combination of horizontal policies, such as strengthening human capital through investments in education and health, and targeted measures to promote individual sectors.

The report shows that, although commodity-dependent developing countries contribute only modestly to climate change, the climate crisis puts them at most risk. They are more vulnerable because they are economically dependent on sectors that are highly exposed to extreme weather events.  Further, developed countries need to meet their commitment under the Paris Agreement to transfer environmentally friendly technologies to developing countries to help them effectively participate in global efforts to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.

As this Newsletter has pointed out previously, Intra-trade between African countries is only 17% of Africa’s trade, which means that 83% of Africa’s trade is vulnerable to global trade swings. Africa has to turn this around and trade more within the Continent, while also developing a far greater degree of diversity on manufactured goods and services.

Meanwhile, Africa Climate Week has been held in Accra, Ghana, jointly organised by the government of Ghana and civil society organisations. Many participants have launched startups that address climate change, protect the environment and provide jobs, including a bamboo bike, a plastic recycling company, and a project that recycles used tires and denim, turning that waste into shoes.

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Alastair Tempest

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