Introduction to Angola

Angola, the seventh largest country in Africa by land area and located on the southwestern coast of the continent, has a population of 34.5 million people1 , of which 33%2  is rural. The country’s climate zones vary by geography, with tropical savanna in the north and eastern regions to hot desert and semi-arid in the south and western regions, while the central area has a largely monsoon-influenced humid tropical and temperate oceanic climate.3 Angola has been experiencing increasingly severe extreme weather events such as flood, drought and epidemics. Being endowed with vast reserves of mineral resources, Angola is one of the top producers of diamonds in the world4 , and the largest oil producing country in Africa.5 Petroleum oil, natural gas, and diamonds are the top three export products of Angola contributing to over 97% of the country’s total exports. Despite the republic’s resource wealth, 31.3% of the population lives below the international poverty line of $2.15 a day, has a low life expectancy of 62 years6 , and a high infant mortality rate of 47 per 1000 live births.7 The widespread poverty, extractive industries, and armed conflict in Angola’s oil-rich exclave of Cabinda8 lay behind the country’s vulnerability to the climate crisis and are legacies of the Portuguese colonization of Angola which lasted 400 years and prioritized export-oriented and environmentally destructive industries, expanded forced labor9 , and established a major source of transatlantic slaves.10

Mapping Major Climate Events and Climate-Induced Displacement

Angola is highly vulnerable to climate events, ranking 23 out of 180 countries in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021.11 The major climate hazards experienced by the Southern African nation are flood, drought, and epidemic, which account for over 92% of the average annual hazard occurrence for 1980-2020.12 On top of the high infant mortality, low life expectancy, and widespread poverty crisis in Angola, the country has been experiencing a growing occurrence of natural disasters over the past four decades. Angola faced the fifth consecutive year of drought in 2022, which is the most devastating drought in 40 years and led to a severe humanitarian calamity in its southwestern provinces.13 In 2020 alone, drought affected a staggering 3.8 million people across the country. Between 2008 and 2021, 63 disaster events were reported in Angola, amongst which flood displaced over 480,000 people.14  Angola has been experiencing increasingly intense and severe flooding, and this is evident in the fact that the country endured only 2 separate years of flooding between 1980 and 2000, while the number escalated to 17 between 2001 and 2020.15

Mapping the Costs of the Climate Crisis

With an economy heavily dependent on oil, a volatile commodity with high fluctuations in prices, Angola’s GDP plummeted from $137.24 billion in 2014 to $49.84 billion in 2016.16 The nation is yet to recover from the economic downturn with current GDP levels standing at 67.4 billion, far below the 2014 levels.17  Compounding such challenges, climate-related disasters cost Angola $1.2 billion between 2005 and 2017.18 The unprecedented intensity and duration of drought in particular has caused over $749 million in estimated damages.19 Such droughts have substantially harmed the country’s agriculture sector, which employs 59%20  of the population and contributes 7.9% to its GDP21 with 88% of the farms being small to medium in size.22 As a result of dismal harvest due to drought and locust infestation, and coupled with surging food prices, 1.58 million people in South-Western Angola were estimated to experience high levels of acute food insecurity between October 2021 and March 2022.23 The current nationwide economic losses in agriculture due to droughts, estimated at up to $100 million per year, are projected to surpass $700 million per year by 2100.24  The convergence of economic and climate shocks, coupled with a high vulnerability to poverty, is expected to result in a significant escalation in poverty rates, food insecurity, and child malnutrition.25

Mapping Resilience and Mitigation Pathways

While Angola is heavily dependent on oil for export revenue and makes up 0.44% of the world’s population, the country is responsible for less than 0.05% of the global cumulative carbon dioxide emission.26 However, the country bears a significant burden from the devastating impacts of climate change, exhibiting in the form of more frequent and intense extreme weather events. In its Nationally Determined Contribution, Angola pledged to reduce 14% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 compared to the base year of 2015, and an additional 10% conditional on international support and funding.27 In Angola’s National Strategy on Climate Change (ENAC 2018-2030), the focus areas prioritized for adaptation are coastal zones, land use, forests, ecosystems and biodiversity, and water resources.28  Identified measures include implementation of water collection and storage systems in drought prone areas, improvement in monitoring and meteorological data collection, and mapping of human settlements at risk of flooding and erosion.29 The Ministry of Environment in Angola is actively engaged in ecosystem-based adaptation initiatives aimed at addressing pressing coastal adaptation requirements and addressing capacity limitations. One of their key projects focuses on the restoration and rehabilitation of wetlands to serve as natural flood defenses.30

Necessary Changes

Angola urgently requires a transition from its current reliance on oil and gas extraction as the mainstay of its economy towards a sustainable and diversified economy that harnesses renewable natural resources. In this nation with copious petroleum resources, only 46.9% of the population have access to electricity31 and about 85% are dependent on traditional biomass32 to meet their energy needs. This underscores the continuity of colonial-era power imbalances and inequitable distribution of wealth in the petroleum industry, which only benefits a small elite while marginalizing the majority of the population. Angola needs to divest away from these extractive and greenhouse gas emitting industries, and instead build climate-resilient, clean power supply to boost the country’s electrification rate and grow the adaptive capacity of at-risk communities. Angola’s smallholder farmers are susceptible to the impacts of climate change, particularly prolonged and intense droughts, and therefore, it is critical to build their climate and economic resilience by scaling up crop diversification, effective water resource management, climate-smart agriculture practices, and nature-based solutions. The escalating effects of climate change on Angola highlight the pressing need for a just transition that prioritizes the needs of communities on the front lines of this global emergency.