Q&A: Mali is extremely vulnerable and unable to combat climate change impacts

In the fifth of our interviews with representatives from the Least Developed Country Group, Malian forest and water engineer Bayo Mounkoro talks about the climate change challenges faced by Mali.

Article, 24 November 2015
Unheard voices: what do the Least Developed Countries want from COP21?
A series of interviews with leaders, experts and civil society representatives from the least developed countries ahead of COP21

Forest and water engineer Bayo Mounkoro talks about the climate change challenges faced by Mali (Photo: Diénéba Dème Diallo)Bayo Mounkoro (BM) is a Malian forest and water engineer and works as a climate-smart agriculture and natural resources manager for a USAID-funded Cereal Value Chains (CVC) programme in Mali. He has previously worked with the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (West and Central Africa). He talked to Malian journalist Diénéba Dème Diallo (DDD) about climate change, its impact on Mali and the upcoming climate change talks in Paris.   

DDD: What are the climate change challenges that Mali faces?

BM: Today, climate change represents a great challenge to the socioeconomic development in any country. However, developing countries such as Mali are singularly at risk due to the low level of their income as well as the high degree of economic vulnerability of the population.

Even though it is difficult to quantify the impacts of climate change, its impacts on the people and on the environment are indisputable. The total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted annually in Mali amounts to 1.905 millions tons while per capita emissions are estimated to be just 0.15tons. 

Climate change has an impact on the ecosystems that supply a lot of the services that poor people rely on for their wellbeing and their fundamental needs. For instance, climate change is degrading natural resources such as forests, soils and rivers. The most vivid example of this is the case of the dead forest of Farimenke in Mopti, central Mali, which was completely destroyed as a result of drought.

In Mali, these climate-related changes are already being felt and have led to a steady relocation of fishing, agricultural, and livestock, with activities moving southwards where the population density is much higher, increasing conflicts between pastoralists, fishermen, and farmers. 

The recent history of violent civil conflicts is hampering the development of Mali and threatening food security, livelihoods, and local economies. In the future, these developments will continue, with severe climate change effects especially in the north of the country where temperatures will further increase and rainfall will decrease

DDD: What is the cost for Mali?

BM: In terms of costs, it is estimated that climate changes costs the economy 21 per cent of Mali's GDP or 680 billion FCA. This means that for every 100 FCA (US$1 is 500 FCA) produced, 21 disappear in the form of environmental damage. On top of this, the cost of adaptation and mitigation measures is estimated to be 340 billion FCA or 10 per cent of the country's GDP.

Mali now ranks 161 out of 178 countries in the ND-GAIN index (a University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index project, which shows a country's vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges in combination with its readiness to improve resilience. On this index Mali ranks seventh on vulnerability and 128th on readiness; this means that it is extremely vulnerable yet unready to combat climate change effects.

DDD: If a loss and damage mechanism is included in the Paris Agreement, do you think it will be funded? What are your arguments?

BM: In order to reduce these impacts of climate change, Mali has ratified many international agreements including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Mali has committed to prepare and submit a national communication plan with information on greenhouse gas emissions in the country. Within the framework of the UNFCC, Mali has carried out a number of projects, including some 19 priority adaptation projects as part of NAPA, funded by UNDP. 

DDD: What are Mali's plans for action post 2020 according to its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) plan?

BM: Mali's INDC is to be presented at COP21 in Paris and is based on two frameworks: the integration of climate change into the country's planning process, for instance as stated in the strategic framework on growth and poverty reduction (CSCRP), the National action plan for environmental protection and the national programme on climate change.

The Bandiagara plateau in Central Mali has been hit by repeated droughts. Climate change is making the weather unpredictable, resulting in poor harvests and increased malnutrition (Photo: Irina Mosel/ODI, Creative Commons via Flickr)

In the field of limiting climate change, Mali has committed to reduce its greenhouse gases emissions according to an attenuation scenario compared with a basic scenario, called scenario for "business as usual", otherwise the scenario if nothing was undertaken against climate change.

In the INDC, Mali will seek to reduce its greenhouse gases of the attenuation scenario with regard to that of the basic scenario by 29 per cent for agriculture, 31 per cent for energy and 21 per cent for forests and land use changes. The overall cost of the attenuation scenario amounts to $34-68 billion.

In terms of adaptation, Mali's vision is to promote a green and climate smart economy as priority. Costs are estimated as $1,062 billlion for the 2015-2030 period with funding for forestry, climate smart agriculture, renewable energy, pastoral management and Integrated management of water resources (IWRM). 

Raising funds is a pre-requisite for the implementation of the INDC, so that the country can meet its objectives in terms of greenhouse gases emission reduction.

DDD: What are Mali's expectations at COP21?

BM: Even though it is hard to fully foresee the consequences and expectations of COP21 for any country, there still is a hope for positive outcomes. First, Mali like many African countries has already devised plans for a number of national actions in order to reach a substantial level of greenhouse gas reduction. Throughout the continent many initiatives taken so far show that during this COP21, Africa is going to arrive at this summit with a united vision and solutions.

Almost all African governments as well as developed countries want a practical agreement to be reached at Paris COP21, as a number of them are already faced with the harsh effects of climate changes.

Furthermore, Mali along with other countries understands that fighting global climate warming is not an impediment to its development but rather an opportunity. We should also keep in mind that national strategies to reduce global warming may be a fundraising strategy, because the COP21 is likely to plan funding mechanisms to help to attain the developing countries in reaching their goals as it is specified in the INDC of Mali.