The defining challenge of the 21st century is to mitigate and adapt to climate change while sustaining a global population of seven billion. Climate change is no longer simply an environmental issue but also a population issue. The worldâ€™s population has doubled in the past 40 years and this poses many challenges, especially for climate change adaptation.
â€œSubstantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, the lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses.â€ (Guzman et al, 2009 ).
We, therefore, need to have greater understanding of how population size, structure and dynamics puts pressure on, and is influenced by, our changing climate.
Growth in numbers is the reason for the population problem but people are also part of the solution. There is overwhelming evidence that a bigger population will place greater pressures on food productivity and natural resources. Adding to this, climate change will have a multiplier effect and exacerbate environmental problems. Only a climate resilient population can reduce this multiplier effect, and better awareness of population growth, fertility, reproductive health, migration and urbanisation and its linkages with climate change are a key priority.
Policy-makers must integrate population into the countryâ€™s management plans, policies, strategies and programmes of action. Development paradigms have to evolve.
The new emerging development model is â€˜Climate Compatible Developmentâ€™ (CCD) meaning development that reduces threats and maximises opportunities posed by climate change. Developing countries, especially in Africa, also need to tap into the carbon market and use such opportunities to reduce poverty, mitigate and adapt to climate change.
It is in this light that Leadership for Environment and Development Southern and Eastern Africa (Lead-SEA) in collaboration with the Lead international office based in London, Lead Francophone Africa office based in Dakar, Senegal, Lead Anglophone West Africa based in Lagos, Nigeria and Lead Chad offices based in Ndjamena, Chad, is hosting a Pan African Session under the theme â€˜Population and Climate Change: Towards Climate Compatible Development for Africaâ€™ for its leadership development programme, the Lead Africa Fellowship Programme.
The Pan African Session is the last in a series of training sessions that began in January 2012 designed to equip young African men and women with skills and knowledge to address leadership and development challenges facing the African continent and the global community. The theme for the Pan African Session is â€˜Population and Climate Change: Towards Climate Compatible Development for Africaâ€™ which highlights the emerging issues affecting sustainable development. One hundred and sixty participants are expected to come from Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, the Gambia, Senegal, South Africa, Cote dâ€™Ivoire, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
The conference will include five sub-topics: Population Dynamics and Climate Change Adaptation, Climate Change Policy and Governance, Climate Change Communication and Advocacy, Financing and Investment for Climate Change and Climate Compatible Development.
It will be held at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe from 12 to 15 November 2012. Support has been received from several agencies, development partners, the private sector and Malawi Government. It is expected that through this conference, better understanding of the dynamics of population and climate change as well as appreciation of climate compatible development as a solution would be achieved.-The author is programme officer for LEAD Southern and Eastern Africa in Zomba