EAC member states join forces in $212bn battle against climate crisis​

At the heart of East Africa, a silent but potent force is reshaping the lives of its inhabitants — the relentless march of climate change.

As temperatures rise, weather patterns become increasingly erratic, and extreme events unfold with alarming frequency, East Africa finds itself at the forefront of a battle against an adversary that respects neither borders nor boundaries.

The impact of climate change in East Africa is not a distant forecast but a stark reality etched into the daily lives of millions across the region. From the arid plains of Kenya to the lush landscapes of Tanzania, the signs are unmistakable — prolonged droughts, erratic rainfall, and the surge of extreme weather events.

These changes reverberate through the region, threatening food security, water resources, and the delicate balance of nature.

In the face of this unfolding crisis, leaders and communities across East Africa have come to a sobering realisation: adaptation is not a luxury but a necessity.

The urgency is palpable, and the East African Community (EAC) stands united in acknowledging that prioritising adaptation is a strategic choice and a lifeline for its people.

The EAC’s 2022 feasibility report, unveiled against the backdrop of COP28, paints a vivid picture of the challenges ahead. A staggering $212 billion is needed for adaptation and mitigation measures, money that the region does not have.

Deputy Secretary-General Andrea Arrik, speaking at the global climate meet, emphasised the EAC’s pivotal role in responding to the cross-border impacts of climate change, pinpointing food security, water security, and nature-based solutions as priority areas.

“To ensure climate action is at the heart of the East African Community, we have developed concept notes for each identified priority to address the climate shocks and risks,” he said.

The narrative is echoed by Mr Abdi Dubat, the Principal Secretary of the State Department for EAC, who views climate change as the defining issue of our era.

He urges a departure from the blame game and advocates for identifying investment opportunities emerging from the climate crisis — a clarion call for a paradigm shift in the region’s approach to climate resilience.

“The persistent blame game between the global north and south when tackling the climate crisis must change as it has divided us instead of uniting us to face our common existential threat. What investment opportunities must the EAC pursue from the climate crisis for the collective benefit of our people?” he posed.

“My country has seen a quick succession from severe drought to extremely intense rainfall, which has led to intense flooding in Northern and Coastal Kenya.”

According to Mr Dubat, one of the key ways the EAC has been domesticating climate action is by developing and implementing regional policies and strategies.

“The EAC has adopted several policy frameworks to address climate change and promote sustainable development. For instance, the EAC Climate Change Policy provides a comprehensive framework for addressing climate change issues in the region. It outlines strategies for adaptation, mitigation, capacity building, and technology transfer, among others,” he said.

Joint projects

By developing such policies, the EAC ensures that a uniform approach to climate action is integrated into national development plans and strategies across EAC countries.

“Recognising that ecosystems do not adhere to political boundaries, the EAC has facilitated collaboration among member states to address shared challenges related to climate change. Through joint initiatives and projects, such as the Lake Victoria Basin Commission. The EAC promotes information sharing, collaborative research, and coordinated action to address climate change impacts on transboundary ecosystems,” Mr Arrik noted.

“The transboundary approach, therefore, ensures that climate action is not limited to individual countries but takes into account the interconnectedness of ecosystems and communities across borders” he added.

Financial resources for climate action are mobilised through partnerships with organisations like the Adaptation Fund, which is based in Kenya. These funds drive projects that enhance resilience, support livelihoods, and promote sustainable development.

However, Mr Dubat emphasises that the focus should be on mainstreaming climate change mitigation and adaptation into national and local policies, laws, and regulations — a proactive step toward a more resilient future.

When President William Ruto addressed the heads of state and governments at COP28, he called for the region to be more innovative and develop more sustainable measures to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Speaking at the EAC High-Level Forum on Climate Change and Food Security in Arusha a week before the Dubai global meet, Dr Ruto spoke of the bloc’s common goal.

“The East African Community will assume these measures as it heads to Dubai for COP28,” said Dr Ruto, the current chair of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change.

The President further pointed out that these resources offer the globe the best opportunity for green industrialisation and, thus, the ability to decarbonise manufacturing.

“If there is one thing we should achieve at COP28 is climate financing through climate investment,” President Ruto told his counterparts Samia Suluhu (Tanzania), Evariste Ndayishimiye (Burundi) and Salva Kiir (South Sudan).

In the face of an evolving climate crisis, East Africa stands united, championing adaptation as the linchpin for a resilient future.

The challenges are immense, but the resolve is unwavering — because in the crucible of change, adaptation is not just a choice; it's the East African region's indispensable path forward.