Dry, cracked ground due to drought, with patches of green shrubbery in between. (Photo: Tareq Mnadili/NRC)
Read caption Climate change-related extreme weather in Africa has raised food insecurity on the continent by 40% only last year. (Photo: Tareq Mnadili/NRC)

“Climate change is a massive speed bump to the development of Africa”

Martin Rechsteiner|Published 02. Nov 2021
NORCAP expert Romeo Nkurunziza has taken a substantial part in the recently released State of the Climate in Africa 2020 report, published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Now, he hopes the report will be a central document during the most important climate summit of the year, COP26 in Glasgow.

“COP26 is a crucial event for climate politics because it does not only enhance discussions or the exchange of ideas. It is also a platform where governments of the world show and assure commitment to take measures against climate change and global warming. This is essential because these problems are not solvable if the world does not work together”, he says. 

That the problems are serious, is again highlighted by the 2020-report Nkurunziza brings to the conference in Glasgow: Mount Kenya, Rwenzori and Kilimanjaro are most likely going to be the first entire mountains ranges in the world permanently losing their snow-caps. And climate-change-related extreme weather in Africa has raised food insecurity on the continent by 40% only last year.

“To me, the most concerning are the rising temperatures and the increasing number of disasters such as floods or droughts”, Nkurunziza says. “Climate change is a massive speed bump to the development of Africa. Instead of focussing on progress, people have to deal with rising sea levels or food scarcity.”

Hence, one aim of the State of the Climate in Africa 2020 report is to shrink this speed bump. The report serves as a major scientific foundation on which policymakers of African states but also multilateral organizations such as the African Union base their strategic decisions in the fight against climate change.

“Also, information from the report is crucial for African countries to apply for the urgently needed funds from developed countries and UN agencies”, Nkurunziza says. “Because only with financial support, Africa can invest in more sustainable technologies and infrastructure. Or build live-saving early warning systems for weather extremes.”        

"Eye-opener for policymakers and donors"

Nkurunziza feels proud to have contributed to the report.

“I hope its messages will be an eye-opener for policymakers and donors and that action will be taken.”

In his role as a NORCAP expert and editor of this annual report, he is responsible to collect the climate data provided by the African  national and regional meteorological offices.

“Every year, it is thousands of pages with meteorological information which I condensate to 25 pages in the report and from which I  extract the key messages”, he says.

Also, the data used must fulfil the quality requirements set by WMO.

“I have to thoroughly control what is sent to us by the offices and send it back for review if it does not meet the academic standards  we have.”

All of this is an extensive and sometimes stressful task, Nkurunziza admits and says, laughing: “Let’s put it like this: My last holiday  turned out not to be one so I will have it a bit later this year.”

However, he emphasizes to be very happy with his job which now takes him to Glasgow. And together with the report, Nkurunziza  has  brought high expectations with him:

“I hope COP26 will make us take the turn to limit the global warming to the 1,5 degrees stipulated in the Paris Agreement.” For this,  anticipatory action has to be taken now, he says.

“And specially developed countries will have to take responsibility”.