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INTERVIEW WITH RAJENDRA KUMAR PACHAURI

INTERVIEW WITH RAJENDRA KUMAR PACHAURI

INTERVIEW WITH RAJENDRA KUMAR PACHAURI (*) ABOUT AFRICA’S CHALLENGES IN THE FACE OF GLOBAL WARMING.

Pierre Prakash (P.P): How do you explain Africa’s vulnerability to climate change?

Rajendra Kumar Pachauri (RKP): Climate change only exacerbates existing situations. Africa is already subject to many pressures: malnutrition and hunger are widespread, water shortages in certain regions, agricultural yields are very low, there are armed conflicts and governance problems. This conjuncture creates conditions where even the smallest decline in well-being, the smallest threat to the stability of the region can have serious consequences. With climate change, these pressures will reach a point which is likely to generate crisis situations of various kinds.
We estimate that currently 250 million Africans will lack water.

P.P.: Does Africa have any assets for combating climate change?

R.K.P. : Its natural resources represent a great wealth, which could be useful to finance projects of all kinds. Unfortunately, they have often been sold at very low prices, and the reality is that much of the revenue generated is not reinvested in promoting development.

P.P.: Couldn’t the fact of being exposed to several facets of climate change make it possible to better understand and therefore better combat the phenomenon?

R.K. P.: The problem is the lack of scientific expertise. With the possible exception of South Africa, the continent severely lacks the capacity to quantitatively model and estimate the nature and extent of future climate change. But without that ability, you can’t plan for adaptation either.

P.P.: To limit the consequences of global warming in Africa, should we better curb the exodus of the population to the cities, or adapt the cities?

R.K.P. : You have to do both. Because faced with a massive influx of population, there is a limit to the improvement of urban infrastructure. Parallel to the adaptation of the cities, it is necessary to ensure rural development, on a massive scale, so that people do not pile up in giant slums.

P.P.: Some contest the emphasis placed on the fight against global warming, and demand that the money invested in helping the South in this area be redirected towards development…

R.K.P. : What you have to understand is that if we do nothing to mitigate emissions, the impact of climate change will reach such a level that our ability to adapt will be far exceeded. We must therefore adapt to these impacts, and strive to reduce emissions globally, with a sense of urgency.

P.P.: Often, reducing emissions and adapting to climate change go through high technology. How can Africa benefit?

R.K.P. : I see only two solutions. First, create partnerships between North and South that would allow joint development. But in many developing countries, the barrier is the lack of local skills and infrastructure needed to maintain these technologies. The other solution would be to facilitate the transfer of these technologies, via loans at reduced rates, subsidies, or a fund set up by developed countries. But these technologies cannot simply be parachuted in: they will have to be adapted to the host regions. However, northerners do not always understand the social and cultural environment in which they are used. And the South lacks technical skills; technologies dropped without follow-up will often not be used optimally. Technologies must therefore be transferred “tailored” for very specific local conditions, which can only be done with the participation of communities. It’s a real challenge.

(*) RAJENDRA KUMAR PACHAURI EX-PRESIDENT OF THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL OF EXPERTS ON CLIMATE CHANGE (IPCC). Interview by Pierre Prakash of Science & Vie

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