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Climate Change: South-east Africa

Volume 699: debated on Monday 10 March 2008

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What financial assistance they are providing to the countries of south-east Africa affected by climate change.

My Lords, south-east Africa is vulnerable to impacts of climate variability. As of mid-February, nearly half a million people in southern Africa were affected by heavy flooding, which started in December 2007. The UK Government have committed more than £1.45 million in response. The Department for International Development is currently designing a £5 million regional climate change programme to help countries and communities to adapt to climate change in southern Africa.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. Does she remember that in September 2007 the Government announced that Africa was, or is, the region most affected by climate change and that in November of that year they produced a document establishing the strong link between climate change and the devastating Zambezi floods? How do the Government intend to combat the devastating effects of climate change in south-east Africa? For example, how will they deal with the secondary consequence of the flooding—as noted today in the press by EU senior foreign policy officials—which is the vast increase in human migration due to climate change?

My Lords, the noble Baroness raises important points about the impact of climate change on this region of Africa. She is right that further climate change will affect countries of this region in sustaining progress towards meeting the millennium development goals. In addition to the immediate humanitarian response that has been made, not only via DfID and in the figures that I gave in my original Answer, we want to implement measures to respond more broadly to climate change, including a disaster risk reduction policy that addresses climate-related hazards in Africa and a £24 million research programme into climate adaptation in Africa.

My Lords, looking at the situation in Africa over the longer term, does the noble Baroness agree with the estimate made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that as many as 250 million people will be affected by increased water stress by 2020 and that the yields from rain-fed agriculture will be compromised by that? What are we doing to help to adapt and mitigate these changes, particularly through the Environmental Transformation Fund?

My Lords, we have to look at both mitigation and adaptation when considering the long-term impacts of climate change on Africa. We need to look at, for instance, how DfID’s Africa division is building capacity to support actions in key countries in Africa. We are looking at climate change research. We need to have the right research and the right information and knowledge, not only to talk to African Governments but to talk at community level about climate change and to sign up African communities in relation to the devastation that could be coming down the track. We are also looking at a £50 million allocation of resources to the Congo basin to counter the effects of deforestation. Those are some of the ways in which we are looking at this problem in the longer term, but large-scale, multilateral financing mechanisms are the way forward.

My Lords, what do Her Majesty’s Government say to the large and growing body of respectable scientists who believe that the planet is no longer warming but has started to cool down, as it has done for millions of years, and that human CO2 emissions really will not make much difference one way or the other?

Well, my Lords, that is a point of view, but it is not that of the majority of experts or of the public on the future of climate change. We believe that natural disasters in Africa will be exacerbated through either floods or drought due to climate change.

My Lords, the Minister mentioned the millennium development goals. Does she agree that overpopulation as well as climate change will be a huge factor in whether we reach them? Will she therefore ensure that reproductive health supplies and contraceptives are made available to those women in south-east Africa and all over the developing world who truly want to limit their family size, as there is proof that such women exist?

My Lords, one of the benefits of Mozambique’s membership of the Commonwealth is that it can expect assistance from the richer member countries, yet it has been devastated twice by floods and is not getting enough help. Cholera has been reported by ActionAid and UNICEF. Are we redoubling our efforts to help Mozambique?

My Lords, we are making contributions totalling £900,000 to Mozambique. We are also the largest donor to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, with £4.2 million. People in Mozambique have had a very difficult time with the flooding. We have done all that we can to co-ordinate with government and communities to ensure that the flooding and the overspill from the dam have not had the disastrous effect that they could have had, as the noble Earl will know.

My Lords, I hesitate to intervene on a subject dominated by alarmist hysteria on all sides, but the Minister told my noble friend that it was a matter of opinion whether there had been any warming this century. It is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of fact. If she cares to look at the temperature series produced by the Hadley Centre in this country and NASA in the United States, she will see that there has been no global warming this century at all.

My Lords, I think that I was referring to the noble Lord’s opinion, which I said was a minority opinion.