02 May 2019

United Kingdom on Climate Change: Fuel to Conflict

In September the United Kingdom will take on co-leadership on resilience and adaptation at the UN Climate Action Summit. They also submitted a bid to host COP26 in 2020 and pledged £5.8 billion on climate finance between 2016 and 2020 exhibiting an increasing national commitment to tackle climate change. Yesterday UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke in Nigeria as part of a 5 day Africa trip and addressed among others the role of climate change in instability and conflict .

Hunt highlighted the UK's central role in tackling climate change, which he described as the most critical challenge facing future generations, amplified in countries, such as Nigeria where he held his speech, that are specifically affected by climate change and instability.

African communities are especially vulnerable to climate related conflict in an international comparison. In the 'middle belt" region of Nigeria for example, the impact of climate change affects grazing lands detrimentally, increasing the violence between farmers and herders. Other examples are the desertification and land degradation in the Lake Chad Basin leading to extreme poverty, driving terrorism, migration and conflict

At a round-table meeting in Abuja, Hunt was briefed on the very real impact of climate change on people and communities across Nigeria, including the role it plays fueling violent conflict in certain parts of the country. Later he said:

 “We know that if we don’t work together to tackle climate change it will have a catastrophic impact on hundreds of millions of people across Nigeria, the Sahel and more widely across Africa, and indeed the world, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. 9.6 million people living in Nigeria and the Sahel can’t reliably get food – and nearly 40% of people across the Sahel live on less than a $2 a day.

“Countries across the Sahel are among the most exposed to the consequences of climate change. We need to prevent the escalation of conflict and instability by tackling the root causes. Africa cannot be left to manage this crisis alone. That’s why the UK will lead efforts on climate resilience in the poorest and most vulnerable countries at this year’s UN Climate Summit, and has bid to host the vital COP26 in 2020.”

To support tackling this threat, the Foreign Secretary has announced £153 million worth of aid spread over three UK aid programs supporting Africa as a whole, and South Africa and Ethiopia in particular

  1. Enhancing Digital and Innovation for Agri-food Systems and Livelihoods (eDIAL) supported by partners like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the global network of mobile providers (GSMA), and other agribusinesses, aims to develop digital solutions to improve returns for business and generate new evidence on how digital solutions can improve farmers’ productivity and resilience to climate shocks.
  2. Strengthening Impact Investing Markets in Agriculture (SIIMA) supported by the Shell Foundation and Acumen joining with additional investment (£125 million) encourages future investment in innovative agri-tech businesses. This will enable the scaling up of climate-smart technologies – such as pay-as-you-go solar powered irrigation systems – across Africa which will equip farmers with the tools they need to adapt to the effects of climate change.
  3. Up to £95 million over five years (2019 – 2024) will support sustainable access to climate resilient clean water, improved sanitation services and good hygiene practices in Ethiopia.