The term 'climate change' refers to the significant and lasting change in the global weather conditions over long time periods (i.e. 25 years and longer) and mainly resulting from human activities.
The Nile Basin is highly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming owing to a multiplicity of factors, and the basin communities have limited ability to cope with the negative impacts of climate variability.
Climate change is a serious threat, with potentially very adverse impacts on the socio-economic conditions in the Nile Basin, on its environment, and on the ongoing efforts to establish a mutually agreed upon mechanism to manage the shared Nile water resources.
Factors increasing the region's vulnerability to climate change
A number of factors render the Nile Basin particularly vulnerable and sensitive to impacts of global warming. Key factors include:
- High fragility of its natural systems: two-fifths of the basin consists of arid and semi-arid drylands
- Dominance of poor and rural people in the upstream countries, who tend to be heavily dependent on sectors such as agriculture, fishing, and forestry that are highly sensitive to climate variability, and possess limited possibilities for diversification into less climate-sensitive sectors
- A rapidly growing population that is putting unprecedented pressure on the natural resource base
- High exposure to natural disasters, especially floods and droughts
- High sensitivity of many of the Nile sub-basins to changes in annual precipitation
- A prominent agricultural sector in the downstream countries that is almost totally reliant on Nile-fed irrigation
- High dependency on hydropower for energy across the basin
Although the impacts of a global warming trend are not yet clear at regional and local level, the basin countries would do well to implement a number of 'no-regret' or proactive measures aimed at building resilience to current climate variability while enhancing adaptive capacity for future threats.
A sensible approach for now would be to prepare for more variable conditions than currently recorded.
Climate-change adaptation measures will be most effective when undertaken in coordination with other riparians. Examples of joint measures to enhance the collective adaptive capacity include coordinated reservoir operation, promoting agricultural trade amongst the countries and between the basin and other regions, interconnecting power and transport systems, developing joint mechanisms for resource solicitation for climate-change programmes, and conducting joint research.
NBI: Contributing to climate-resilient growth
All NBI activities, because they are aimed at improving water management under natural uncertainty, contribute to enhancing resilience to climate variability and change in the Nile Basin. The key NBI activities in this respect are the following:
- Bridging the knowledge gap - NBI has commissioned many studies at sub-basin and basin-wide levels to improve understanding of the water-resources and socio-economic situation, vulnerability to climate change, appropriate coping measures, and feasible development options.
- Strengthening basin monitoring and planning tools
- Supporting science-policy dialogue- The NBI has been organizing the two-yearly Nile Basin Development Forum
- Facilitating expansion of the region's water and power infrastructure
- Promoting watershed management