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Transboundary climate and adaptation risks in Africa: perceptions from 2021

Research reports

Written by Sarah Opitz-Stapleton, Laura Cramer, Fatima Kaba, Leah Gichuki, Olena Borodyna, Todd Crane, Sidi Diabang, Sanjana Bahadur, Aliou Diouf, Emmanuel Seck

In Transboundary climate and adaptation risks in Africa: perceptions from 2021, we document how African policy makers and experts perceive climate change and adaptation risks that have the potential for multi-country to regional consequences. Transboundary climate change and adaptation risks (TCARs) are the potential consequences or outcomes that could occur as the result of transboundary climate change impacts, the transboundary effects of adaptation decisions made by one or more countries or the transboundary effects of mitigation actions on countries’ adaptation options.

TCARs can spread via a number of pathways: biophysical (potential impacts on ecosystem services and natural resources); finance (the flow of capital, such as investments in another country and foreign direct investment, international mitigation actions that reduce national adaptation options through knock-on environmental-economic impacts, etc.); trade (import and export of climate-sensitive goods, such as rice/grains, livestock and livestock products, etc.); people-centred (cross-border movement, ranging from extreme event displacement to transhumance); and geopolitical (laws and policies around movement, regional cooperation, border sovereignty, etc.).

A risk perception survey and interviews were conducted to understand what transboundary risks individuals working at the frontline of adaptation – whether at the national or regional level – perceive to be the most likely and severe if they were to occur in the next 10 years. These TCARs were drawn from national policies and regional and continental initiative documents. The survey found that TCARs along all five pathways that affect agricultural value chains are of particular concern, given the socioeconomic importance of these to so many African countries.

With regards to addressing TCARs, the report recommends that national and regional coordination activities need to be strengthened and implemented through regional institutions, linking these with African Union agencies, activities and frameworks. Without stronger regional coordination and implementation, nations are unlikely to be able to effectively manage such risks that respect no boundaries.