Poverty and Extreme Weather PatternsExtreme weather patterns disproportionately affect developing countries, despite their contribution of less than 4% to global greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the intersection of poverty and these climatic events amplifies the challenges faced by these nations. The least developed countries account for 69% of climate-related disaster deaths. This convergence of poverty and extreme weather patterns demands action to mitigate its far-reaching impacts.

Impacts of Extreme Weather Patterns on Developing Countries

Developing countries face many adverse effects stemming from extreme weather patterns and events. The World Bank projects that more than 100 million people will be thrust into poverty over the next seven years due to the ramifications of these extreme weather events. Furthermore, by 2050, climate-related food and water insecurity are expected to displace more than 216 million individuals from their homes. Presently, more than 94 million people in developing nations are affected by climate shocks and extremes, leading to severe repercussions on agricultural production and biodiversity. Rising temperatures expose more than 1 billion individuals to infectious diseases like Zika and dengue.

The vulnerability and limited resources in developing countries exacerbate the effects of extreme weather patterns on these nations. Increased floods, droughts and unpredictable weather patterns make it challenging for its citizens to maintain decent livelihoods.

Mitigating Poverty and Extreme Weather

Communities employ Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) as a comprehensive approach that involves managing ecosystems to bolster resilience and reduce vulnerability to fluctuating weather patterns. EbA encompasses the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests, grasslands, wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs to diminish the impacts of variable climatic conditions. It is often referred to as green infrastructure, contrasting with gray infrastructure, which entails concrete-based solutions.

In South Africa, a country grappling with floods, landslides and heavy rainfall due to the La Niña weather phenomenon, EbA has mitigated some of the adverse weather impacts. The municipality of eThekwini, which encompasses the city of Durban, has implemented the Transformative Riverine Management Programme to manage urban flood risks. This initiative involves collaboration between the government and non-governmental organizations. For example, the Aller River pilot project, managed by the Kloof Conservancy, an NGO focused on ecosystem protection and environmental awareness, is a pilot for the broader Take Back Our Rivers (TBOR) project. The TBOR project aims to restore the health of the 18 major river systems across the eThekwini Municipality. The Kloof Conservancy aims to assess how trained citizens can manage and monitor river ecosystems, creating a sustainable and climate-resilient municipality.

Significant progress has been made through the Aller River pilot project, including clearing alien vegetation and waste from the river stretch. The project has leveraged funding and co-funding for alien vegetation removal, with conservancy members contributing volunteer hours effectively. Improved communication and collaboration with municipal departments have resulted in rectifying problematic sewerage maintenance holes and enhanced water quality in certain parts of the Aller River. Community members living near the river have experienced improved livelihoods due to reduced odor from sewer spillage. The employment of Eco-Champs has enhanced local capacity for river health maintenance, waste reduction, monitoring and community awareness. Successful stakeholder mobilization campaigns have engaged diverse community groups and raised awareness about the river’s significance. The partnership between civil organizations and the municipality has facilitated effective awareness campaigns and cross-departmental collaboration in river monitoring.

Projects like the Aller River pilot project help communities in developing countries mitigate the impacts of extreme weather patterns by promoting climate-resilient infrastructure and adaptation capabilities, thus reducing vulnerability to climate shocks. Addressing global poverty necessitates tackling its root causes while simultaneously addressing the adverse effects of harsh weather patterns. By addressing poverty and extreme weather patterns, vulnerable communities can participate in sustainable economic activities, promote conservation efforts and gain improved access to clean energy.

Looking Ahead

Companies, foundations, organizations and institutions embrace climate-conscious strategies to combat poverty. The Rockefeller Foundation, for example, launched the International 100 Resilient Cities Programme (100RC) in 2013. The Rockefeller Foundation selected Durban as one of the first 32 cities in this program. Durban’s participation in this program led to the development of its Resilience Strategy, which initiated the TBOR project. This program reached more than 20% of the world’s urban population, with the Rockefeller Foundation actively giving more than $160 million to build urban resilience worldwide. The 100RC Network concluded in 2019, although the Rockefeller Foundation continues its efforts through the work of its Chief Resilience Officers, who actively train to lead their cities’ resilience strategies.

Understanding the interconnection between poverty and extreme weather patterns is crucial for fostering sustainable development, empowering local communities, mitigating the impacts of extreme weather patterns and alleviating global poverty. The disproportionate effects of harsh weather fluctuations on developing nations and their limited capacity to respond necessitate targeted assistance that addresses poverty and environmental concerns.

– Clara Swart
Photo: Flickr

Emissions Standards in AfricaIn developing nations, owning a car can be a transformative financial opportunity for citizens. A 2020 article by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) tells the story of John Mwangi, a Kenyan resident who became an entrepreneur and trader after purchasing a used car to sell produce.

UNEP reports that around two out of every five used cars exported worldwide find their way to Africa. Many African countries do not have age limits on imported cars, according to a 2020 report by Global Citizen. Furthermore, emissions standards in Africa are often not on par with those in Europe, leading to poor health and environmental consequences through air pollution. 

The Bad: Unsafe Emissions

Vision of Humanity report from 2023 examines the causes and effects of used car exports to developing countries, especially Africa. The European Union (EU) alone sent more than 7.5 million vehicles abroad from 2015 to 2018, with many vehicles meeting emissions standards in Africa but falling short in Europe due to “poor fuel economy and higher emissions.” Vision of Humanity’s report goes on to explain that most of these vehicles “contain inefficient diesel engines, a major source of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx),” both of which reportedly share links with climate change and risk of respiratory diseases.

Lack of Emissions Standards in Developing Countries

According to a 2023 article by the World Economic Forum, about 10 years ago, European motor vehicles were previously required to emit a little over 130 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer of travel. However, in developing countries dominated by the used car market, cars now consume nearly 1.5 times that amount of fuel.

For additional perspective, the World Economic Forum’s article continues that four in five used vehicles exported to Africa fail to meet “basic emissions standards” like those in Europe. In this article, Margo Oge, formerly of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, claims that improved emissions standards in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world could cut vehicle emissions by up to 99%. 

The Good: Progress Toward Safer Emissions Standards in Africa

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) covered an instance of progress before the pandemic. In February 2020, environment and energy ministers from every nation in the Economic Community of West African States conferred to adopt elaborate new standards for ensuring that fuels emitted by area vehicles were cleaner than they had been.

As part of these new emissions standards in Africa, there are several significant changes. By 2030, the average fuel consumption of imported vehicles was reduced from 8 liters to 4.2 liters per 100 kilometers traveled. Additionally, sulfur fuel composition standards were lowered to 50 parts per million (ppm) in diesel and gasoline. This is a significant reduction from levels as high as 10,000 ppm in some of the region’s nations.

With nearly seven years remaining to meet fuel consumption goals, the environment looks forward to concrete evidence of progress in safer imported used cars. Improved emissions standards in Africa offer a pathway to a healthier environment, particularly in central and western Africa, without diminishing the life-changing impact that used cars can have on individuals like Mwangi.

– Noel Teter
Photo: Flickr