Future Climate for Africa: How is climate information being factored into long-term decision-making in Africa?

Published: 5th December 2014 10:19Last Updated: 15th July 2016 12:16

Photo credit by Alberto Loyo/Shutterstock.com

The impacts of climate change in Africa will be significant and long-term (see for example here for some headline messages for Africa). Long-lived infrastructure and development planning are likely to be particularly affected. Factoring climate change into their design and implementation is, therefore, vital to development outcomes. Yet we know very little about how long- term climate information is used in African decision-making. While seasonal climate information is increasingly embedded in development and humanitarian actions across Africa, our knowledge of the barriers to, and opportunities for, the uptake of long- term climate information is comparatively scant.

Lessons learnt from the FCFA Scoping Phase

After 12 months of literature reviews, workshops, bilateral meetings and reports, what lessons have we learned so far from the scoping phase? More importantly, what does it mean for efforts to improve the uptake of long-term climate information and engagement? In presenting the preliminary findings, we separate the general lessons learned into two key areas, a) insights into the opportunities and barriers to the communication, use and uptake of long-term climate information, and b) reflections on how to bring together multiple stakeholders to discuss the utility of long-term climate information.

There are some key recommendations shared; such as the fact that not every decision requires long-term climate information and simply providing decision-makers with climate projections for informing long-term planning decisions is ineffective and misleading. Further it is vital to spend time and investing resources to understand the local policy context and engage with local partners can help to tailor the more effective communication and use of climate information. Likewise strengthening the capacities of key boundary organisations may be an effective way of linking and addressing the needs of various stakeholders.

Ways forward

The FCFA scoping phase case studies highlight the messiness of the science-policy interface. While not all decisions require a long-term perspective, they also show that long-term climate information does have a lot to offer African decision- makers. Effective uptake of climate information is a key element of robust decision-making and can play a role in reducing the risk of maladaptation, particularly in the context of long-lived investments and planning. Identifying what types of decisions require longer term information, weighing up the capabilities of current science against decision makers’ needs, and understanding how uptake can be effectively incentivised remain key priorities. Addressing these will require new institutional mandates and different ways of working – both on the part of decision-makers and scientists. Above all, it is clear that effective uptake of climate information is contingent not only on the availability of relevent climate science, but on understanding and addressing the various political, social and economic factors that influence it.