Cameroon is a resource rich country, heavily dependent on revenues from oil, timber, and agricultural products  such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, maize, and cassava . Despite vast natural resources and a relatively well-educated workforce, Cameroon has not been able to transform its wealth into inclusive development . Though the country experienced consistent economic growth averaging 4.5% from 2010 to 2019, poverty levels have remained high in Cameroon , , with 35.6% of the population still living below the national poverty line in 2018. Development progress in Cameroon has been constrained by low rural productivity, a weak business environment for the formal and informal private sectors, growing fragility, and weak governance in the public and private sectors. These constraints have become more restrictive in the context of the deteriorating security situation and the COVID-19 pandemic and will be heightened by the growing challenges of climate change, urbanization, and demographic pressure .
Climate change is already a threat to Cameroon’s development . The agricultural sector, which is the primary source of employment and income for more than 70% of the population , is particularly vulnerable to climate change, due to its high sensitivity to the availability of water, erosion, and flooding . Currently, about two million people (9% of Cameroon’s population) live in drought affected areas, and about 8% of the country’s GDP is vulnerable. Tropical forests cover almost 40% of the country and provide an estimated eight million rural people with traditional staples including food, medicines, fuel, and construction material. But changes in temperature, rain and droughts are putting these people at greater risk of increased poverty. Furthermore, populations living in certain regions are more vulnerable to climate hazards, especially in the Far North where debilitating droughts have contributed to alarming rates of food insecurity and loss of livelihoods . By 2050, if urgent climate adaptation measures are not taken, the country’s economy could lose up to 10% of GDP, according to the World Bank .
Although Cameroon is one of the world’s lowest emitters of greenhouse gasses (GHG), Cameroon is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, due to its exposure, its sensitivity, and its low adaptive capacity . In fact, Cameroon ranked as 146 out of 182 countries on the 2020 ND-GAIN Index, which summarizes a country's vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges in combination with its readiness to improve resilience. Overall, Cameroon is the 59th most vulnerable country and the 178th most ready country, meaning it has both a great need for investment and innovations to improve readiness and a great urgency for action .
Key policies and governance approach
Cameroon has embarked on a pathway towards green growth through the ratification of the Paris Agreement and adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In accordance with the Paris Agreement, the Government of Cameroon updated its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in 2021 , through which it intends to reduce its GHG emissions by 35% by 2030, compared to the business-as-usual scenario, conditional on obtaining finance. This target is broken down into a 12% unconditional target (at a cost of US$ 25.7 million), and a 23% conditional target which is dependent on support from the international community in the form of funding, capacity building actions and technology transfer . To achieve the overall mitigation target, the government has identified 32 mitigation actions in four key sectors (forestry, agriculture, energy, and waste). The updated NDC also reflects Cameroon’s vision for adaptation, including the goal to turn climate-related challenges into development solutions in the country’s 5 agro-ecological zone by 2035. Proposed measures include 21 adaptation actions across 8 sectors and themes, at a cost of US$ 31.85 million .
Additionally, both Cameroon’s Vision 2035 and the National Development Strategy for 2020–2030 (Stratégie Nationale de Développement, SND 30), recognize the importance of sustainable development and the fight against climate change . The overall objectives pursued by the SND 30 are to (i) establish conditions favourable to economic growth and accumulation of national wealth and ensure that the structural changes indispensable for the industrialization of the country are achieved; (ii) improve on the living conditions of the population and their access to basic social services by ensuring a significant reduction in poverty and underemployment; (iii) strengthen climate change adaptation and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure environmental management that assures sustainable and inclusive economic growth and social development; and (iv) improve on governance to enhance policy performance towards achieving development goals. In order to achieve these objectives, the Government will rely on 4 main pillars, namely, 1). structural transformation of the national economy; 2). development of human capital and wellbeing; 3). promotion of employment and economic integration; and 4). governance, decentralization and strategic management of the State .
Successes and remaining challenges
Cameroon has embarked on a pathway towards green growth and is progressing in developing its climate policy, but still lacks a comprehensive regulatory framework to support its goals. While the SND 30 sets a dedicated objective to combat climate change with a proposed set of reforms to create an environment conducive to economic growth, improved governance and institutions, and decentralization, this has not led to the incorporation of climate change in the country’s core planning instruments. Cameroon does not yet have a law requiring public institutions to integrate climate change into their policy and planning instruments and budget process, and most sectors lack legislation supporting the country's adaptation and decarbonization goals .
Additionally, the government has not yet been effective in mobilizing domestic and external resources to meet the NDCs. A significant share of the country’s updated NDC funding is dependent on the mobilization of resources by development partners and the private sector. However, the implementation of the first NDC showed that very few measures were adequately funded, and the private sector has a very limited capacity to integrate climate change impacts into its business models. Cameroon has also applied to mobilize funding available under global funds (for example, REDD+, Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund). But limited technical capacity, staff, and resources have undermined the country’s ability to advance on accreditation processes .
Moving forward, climate actions should go hand in hand with development actions in Cameroon. A more favourable business environment and fiscal space would allow the authorities more options to finance climate actions (other than borrowing), and thereby limit GDP losses or even achieve slightly faster growth. A more favourable business environment would also make it more attractive for the private sector, domestic as well as foreign, to play a bigger role and cover part of the financing. Carrying out climate action investments in a more business-friendly environment is expected to reverse the trend of climate changed-induced poverty . By undertaking robust reforms to induce climate-action investments, Cameroon could reduce its poverty rate five-fold by 2050. In addition, robust investments of $58 billion in adaptation and mitigation measures over the next 10 years could bring an additional GDP growth of 1% in 2050 .
Initiatives and Development Plans
Several programs have been implemented within the framework of Cameroon’s vast national program for the construction of hydroelectric dams and thermal power stations, to improve the energy supply, in particular: the LOM dams PANGAR11, MEMVELE, MEKIN; the 75MW hydroelectric development in Warak on the BINI with electric transmission line (100% completed); the development of hydroelectricity on the Sanaga (completed at 100%); the electrification of 1000 localities by photovoltaic solar system; construction of thermal power stations. Other parallel projects are carried out at the level of the private sector with a view to exploring alternative forms of energy (solar, wind) to compensate for the coverage deficit .
Cameroon has also been allocated 29 billion CFA francs (€44 million) for the implementation of 2 sustainable development projects in the Centre, Littoral and Far North regions. This funding allocated by the European Union will ultimately improve the living conditions of populations affected by the effects of climate change. According to the Head of the EU Delegation in Cameroon, these 2 agreements will contribute to the implementation of the SDGs, with the creation of jobs in the field of agro-ecology as well as nature protection.
The first project “Cameroon: green, inclusive and sustainable cities”, which costs 15.7 billion CFA francs (about 24 million euros), targets the cities of Douala, Maroua and Yaoundé. In the Cameroonian capital, it will enable the development of sustainable mobility to reduce atmospheric pollution through the implementation of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). In Douala and Maroua, the initiative aims to develop green spaces and strengthen the waste management system in the municipalities.
The second project, “Cameroon: Green and Resilient North”, aims to strengthen the climate adaptation of agro-pastoral activities, particularly livestock, crafts and fishing, around the cities of Maroua, Garoua (in the North region) and Ngaoundéré (in Adamaoua). These northern areas are affected by drought, which affects the livelihoods of the population. At a total cost of 13 billion CFA francs (19.8 million euros), the project will eventually protect the national parks of the Faro-Benoué-Bouba Ndjida corridor .
- Climate actions should go hand in hand with a broader set of development reforms.
- These reforms should focus on reducing the cost of doing business and improving the quality and access to basic services in Cameroon. Increasing household income of wage earners and the self-employed, either in the agriculture or in the informal sector, will be important to achieve greater resilience. Wide-ranging actions would be critical and could include sounder fiscal policy and debt management, better infrastructure for reliable power, water, and telecommunications as well as better connectivity, and more inclusive financial services.
- Reducing fragility and improving governance will also be critical. Actions need to be taken to reduce the high market concentration and widespread state ownership limiting domestic competition. At the same time, the state should become more responsive to the needs of local populations. The ongoing decentralization process presents an opportunity to help address widening regional disparities.
- The potential of Cameroon’s labor force needs to be realized through better health care, nutrition, water and sanitation, basic education, and productive safety nets as well as by narrowing the skills mismatch and enhancing women’s empowerment. Greater transparency would facilitate all these actions.
- Include provisions in the decentralization law for role and responsibilities of climate action for local governments, including budget lines for climate action financing.
- Enact a national law/legislation on climate, outlining roles, responsibilities, and mandates of national institutions, and identifying clear mechanisms for coordination.
- Initiate climate-sensitive development planning: ensure medium- and long-term national/sector development strategies integrate climate considerations.
- Operationalization of the inter-ministerial committee to help to establish a whole-of-government response to climate change across policy development, implementation, and evaluation.
- Implementing the NDC cannot happen without full engagement of the private sector, requiring a change in the public–private partnership (PPP) framework.
- Developing Cameroonian capital markets is a pathway to access long-term funding for climate investments. Green bonds could provide the needed capital to meet the country’s climate commitments.
- In the near term, using concessional finance is a viable option to bridge the gap between public funding and private sector financing, especially in sectors where investors perceive greater risk or there is limited access to reasonably priced financing. Concessional financing can take many forms, such as grants, technical assistance to prepare policies for industry decarbonization, or first loss guarantee.
- Investments are needed in accelerating adaptation and resilience in urban assets, agriculture, livestock, roads, schools, and the health system. Preparations for adaptation—whether seawalls, climate-proofed roads, or drought-resistant crops—will need collective and coordinated action and involvement of the private sector willing to cover some of the costs to reap the benefits of adaptation.
- Urgent efforts are needed in decarbonizing, eliminating flare gas, and reversing deforestation. Forests are an opportunity that Cameroon should not miss to remove human-caused emissions from the atmosphere, and be rewarded for it, using innovative carbon pricing and market instruments.
- Promoting clean energy and low carbon growth could represent a shift in the development of the power sector. Renewable energy could diversify the electricity mix and improve the performance and resilience of the power system. At the same time, energy sector reforms including improvements in operational performance of electricity companies, adoption of payment discipline for electricity bills from the state entities and SOEs and implementation of cost-recovery tariffs, combined with incentives and investments for the elimination of routine gas flaring and venting are important priorities for a low carbon energy development plan.
- Systematic vulnerability assessments will help quantify potential physical and financial damages from climate change.
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