AWF at COP28: Climate Resilience for Africa

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AWF’s response to climate change is based on the scientific principle of “resilience.” To realize our mission, wildlife, and people will need to prove resilient to the effects of climate change. Communities must adapt to dramatic changes in rainfall, temperature, and related ecological consequences. Technology innovation will be key to progress, including reducing emissions and capturing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, resilience over the long term will require a focus on nature as a part of the solution. Natural systems serve as “buffers” to minimize shocks and “sinks” to store carbon. Unlike many “high emitting regions,” Africa still boasts a natural wealth of intact ecosystems with many global consequences. Choosing growth that leverages these systems for their contributions to resilience will reduce vulnerability in Africa and also grow African economies in a way that leads the world toward lower carbon intensity. 

As a conservation organization, we focus on protecting and restoring essential habitats such as forests. Restoring or reducing the destruction of forests and other African habitats contributes to climate mitigation, as healthy forests help to sequester carbon while destroying forests actually releases carbon. 

Many of our core programs deliver outcomes connected to climate adaptation – helping people and wildlife adjust to current and anticipated climate impacts in their environments. Healthy ecosystems themselves provide opportunities for communities to rebound from climate-related shocks. In addition, biodiversity economies developed with communities can be designed in ways that strengthen their resilience to a changing climate. 

Together, nature-based mitigation and adaptation solutions provide resilience to climate change and represent a significant percentage of what is necessary to limit global temperature rise in line with UNFCCC recommendations. 

As negotiators gather for COP28, three issues of relevance to Africa must be kept in mind:  

First, the global change we have already experienced has led to increasing frequency and intensity of storms and drought in different parts of the continent. These trends have led to human migration and increasing conflict, including between people and wildlife. 

Second, global financing schemes for climate mitigation are failing to deliver funding to people on the frontlines of mitigation. Complex artificial markets rely on “middlemen” to design and verify complex Western approaches. The result is that financing is captured mostly by an artificial industry rather than local people whose daily behavior will actually deliver the necessary results. 

Third, while Africa is not a major contributor to global emissions today, that could rapidly change as economies develop. Economic development must be linked to green growth. This means building economies based on renewable energy, sustainable food production, smart water use, and leveraging nature to mitigate and adapt to climate change while we grow. 

  • We support smallholder farmers, pastoralists, women, Indigenous people, and local communities with critical adaptation interventions that respect land rights and provide sustainable livelihoods. 
  • We support businesses at all levels in developing resilient supply chains that value biodiversity. 
  • We support global financing solutions for addressing climate change and biodiversity loss that deliver funding and resources to people on the ground. 
  • We support climate financing that builds system-level resilience and prioritizes reducing carbon emissions. That means we do not see carbon markets as a good solution for financing climate change action. 
  • Carbon markets, as currently designed, enable heavy emitters to offset their use of carbon without holding them responsible for reducing emissions. The entire world must take responsibility for reducing emissions if we are to limit climate change. We cannot continue to give heavy emitters excuses for using fossil fuels. 
  • Water security, food security, and robust health systems are intricately linked to the health and vitality of Africa’s natural ecosystems. Integrating conservation and development is the best strategy to ensure long-term well-being for all.  


Examples of AWF’s Climate Adaptation Work 

Kilombero, Tanzania: Since 2014, AWF has partnered with local communities and commercial agricultural producers to address climate-based food security issues, including providing drought-tolerant seedlings that have increased crop yields and introducing sustainable farming techniques. 

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda:  AWF partners with the Rwandan government on the Volcanoes National Park Restoration Program. The program is tailored to address the vulnerabilities of over 1.4 million people in the Volcanoes Mountains region and reduce environmental disaster risks to local communities. 

Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe:  This 3-year project started in 2022 and was funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark (Danida). It focuses on climate adaptation through various initiatives that offer sustainable livelihoods whilst safeguarding water resources that are the primary source of human-wildlife conflict in the region. 

Bili-Uele, DRC: In Bili-Uele AWF collaborates with partners, including the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), the European Union, USAID, and Cooperatione Internationale (COOPI). We focus on sustainable agriculture, participatory mapping, governance improvement, and security enhancement. 

Maringa-Lopori-Wamba, DRC: Work in this landscape is funded through USAID through the Central African Regional Program for Environment (CARPE). The goals of the program are to reduce the destruction of habitat and loss of biodiversity through better governance of natural resources on a local, regional, and national level across landscape and gazette the faunal reserve of Lomako-Yokokala.