OCTOBER 4, 2021
ACCELERATING URBAN ACTION FOR A CARBON-FREE WORLD
Cities globally are the manifestation of modern cultural, economic, and social progress. Fifty percent of Africans live in cities today, and a significant proportion in slum like conditions. An increase in urban populations leads to an increase in various carbon-intensive human activities including energy use, food consumption, transportation, water consumption, and waste generation. Individual and household environmental pressures from these activities are significant, and their consequences are likely to worsen in the coming years if not well understood and effectively managed. There is an urgent need to acieve a carbon-free world while keeping global warming within acceptable limits.
We recognize the following core issues as some of the most impactful human activities in Africa contributing to the threat of climate change:
a) Energy consumption by individuals, households, and society as a whole: Many households use fossil fuels to meet their domestic heating needs. Pollutants are released into the environment as a direct result with a resulting environmental health consequence.
b) Agricultural practices: Deforestation, forest degradation and bush clearing, especially through burning, in preparation for the farming season all contribute to the release of stored carbon as Co2 into the atmosphere. This contributes directly to green house gasses and global warming.
c) Transport choices:Africa’s major contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is driven by a sharp increase in fossil fuels from imported vehicles and weak public transport systems.
d) Waste Generation: Sub-Saharan Africa produces waste with a carbon content that is 40% greater than that of many developed countries. In many cities, waste is poorly managed hence uncontrolled refuse dumps and landfill sites produce large amounts of methane gas, which is linked to greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, challenges of e-waste, produced from discarded electronic devices, is becoming a serious urban challenge.
e) Water Usage: Fresh water reserves have been shrinking all over the world at an alarming rate. Given humans’ consumption patterns and with the rate of population growth, urbanisation, household and industrial use, fresh water reserves in Africa are in danger of being depleted at an alarming rate.
While many African countries are working to effect climate resilient futures, there is need for accelerated action especially since we have only 29years to achieve net-zero emissions globally.
Given the strategic role of knowledge institutions in the production of the evidence base required for targeted impactful action, we recommend the following urgent research and policy interventions in order to accelerate efforts towards a carbon-free Africa.
- Amplifying data collection on emissions at various scales – individuals, households, communities, city, and national – in order to better understand which areas require immediate attention.
- Prioritizing Policy action to reduce the energy generated from fossil fuels and enhancing opportunities for increasing energy from clean, renewable sources such as solar, hydro and wind.
- Implementing carbon pricing, carbon taxes, and other regulatory measures to discourage environmentally harmful activities. Such disincentives will encourage industries and individuals to transit from unsustainable approaches to more enduring strategies. For example, countries with high gasoline taxes tend to have fewer single-passenger drivers less than in countries with low taxes.
- Enacting and enforcing stronger laws to prevent tree clearing, while encouraging the planting of more trees through reforestation and afforestation.
- Adequately funding research and policy uptake of research in the relevant areas
- Enhancing the capacity of urban planning and management frameworks to effectively regulate the environment, including urban renewal and regeneration.
- Encouraging pubic participation by incentivising environmentally friendly behaviour and ensuring public information on climate change consequences and responsibilities, especially in local communities that are under-served.
- Increasing the provision of affordable and accessible environmentally friendly infrastructure such as waste recycling facilities, reliable public transportation and bicycle lanes.
Finally, in order to assist people in making decisions that will result in a carbon-free world, every effort must be made to accelerate the engagement of individuals and groups in environmentally responsible behaviours, reinforcing actions that promote or result in the sustainable use of natural and built environment resources.
Professor Timothy Nubi
Director, Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, University of Lagos
Director, African Research Network on Urbanisation and Habitable Cities