Photo credit: Timothy Shitagwa - Photo: 2018

Africa Gets Ready for Biodiversity and Climate Change Summits

By Justus Wanzala

NAIROBI (IDN) – African governments have been availing of two conferences at the UN Environment Headquarters in the Kenyan capital in September to gear up for the Biological Diversity Summit in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, and the Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland.

The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) from September 17 to 19 provided an opportunity to prepare for the 14th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD-COP14) from November 17 to 29, 2018 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

The First Africa Environment Partnership Platform (AEPP) from September 20 to 21 was an occasion to get ready for the Climate Change Conference (COP 24) from December 3 to 14 in Katowice, Poland.

‘Turning environmental policies into action through innovative solutions’ was the theme of AMCEN. African environment ministers urged the United Nations  Environment Assembly (UNEA) and United Nations Environment  Programme (UNEP) for greater support to African countries in addition to ensuring that they are involved in innovative partnerships.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) asked African governments to put human and environmental health at the centre of policy making in all sectors. He said environment is central to human health noting that annually some 12.6 million people die from hidden risks in the environment.

UNEP has warned that degradation of the ecosystems costs Africa US$ 68 billion annually, coupled with losses of up to 6.6 million tonnes of potential grain harvest, capable of meeting calorific needs of up to 31 million people. In addition, post-harvest losses are estimated at US$ 48 billion annually.

Public-private sector partnership was identified as a pathway for adoption of the innovative environment solutions. The ministers said the partnership will have to play a key role in embracing innovation and turning environmental policies into concrete actions to achieve the objectives of the African Union Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Richard Munang, UNEP’s Africa Climate Change Coordinator, said good leadership characterised by sound decisions to safeguard interests and decisive resilient actions to execute such decisions is what Africa requires.

He said innovative environmental solutions means a ‘business unusual’ approach as compared to ‘business as usual’ one to environmental actions. “To practically illustrate this logic, just imagine US$ 48 billion is an amount that exceeds the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of most countries of the continent, yet it is what the continent is losing annually in the form of postharvest losses largely because of a lack of value addition,” he explained.

According to Munang, innovative environmental solutions are necessary because Africa’s escalating socio-economic challenges affect all sectors. “From food and nutritional insecurity, to declining economic productivity and shrinking economies, ecological degradation; high youth unemployment; the search for solutions to these priority challenges have reached fever pitch. Environmental action therefore must be a provider of practical solutions incentivized through demand driven, market-based approaches that will guarantee longevity of outcomes,” he explained.

There are positive signs. Various innovations be they policy, financial or market, are yielding good results across the continent, said Munang.

He pointed to a waste-to-biofertilizer solution in Uganda, where through the UNDP and UN Environment switch Africa Green initiative, a bio-waste compost facility has recorded financial benefits, saving up to US$ 8,880 annually previously spent buying fertilizer in addition to the ecological and mitigation benefits of bio-fertiliser.

Moreover, he added, a solar energy to power value addition in Northern Kenya, targeting solar mini-grids to power processing enterprises of the aloe plant, an indigenous drought-resistant crop, has resulted in viable enterprises, recording both economic and  climate benefits.

Yet much needs be done. Munang called on African countries to leverage human capital to drive innovations. “Human capital, embodied in the people, and the diversity of skills, talents, energy, and enterprise represent the most important component of wealth globally. Driving the above innovations towards unlocking the environmental, social, economic and financial dividends of innovative environmental solutions calls for inter-disciplinary collaboration,” he advised.

First Africa Environment Partnership Platform

Speaking during the First Africa Environment Partnership Platform (AEPP) which followed AMCEN, delegates noted that as countries prepare to assemble in Katowice, Poland, for the Climate Change Conference (COP 24)  from December 3 to 14, 2018, implementation of the Paris agreement is a priority. The central aims of the agreement reached at the UN Climate change conference in Paris in 2015 is combating climate change through accelerating and intensifying actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.

The AEPP delegates said the Katowice conference grants states opportunity to deliver; but non-state actors should also play their role as envisaged in the Paris agreement adding that dialogue between them and governments is crucial.

At the same time, they called for proper mapping of Africa’s climate challenges to ensure adequate funding as per their magnitude.

Mohamed Nasr, Chair of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) said, various challenges cloud implementation of Paris Agreement Work Program (PAWP). These, he said, include the reluctance of partners to negotiate the post 2020 finance management with an attempt to redefine responsibilities related to who provides finance.

He said the assessment of different approaches to implementation of Paris agreement reveals varied positions. For developed countries, the agreement is about transparency of action. The more information countries produce on their potential sectors, the more actions can they take through domestic resources and financial flows of support including private sector investments.

“The challenge is that there is no guarantee for flows of finance instruments for climate change; funding is more in terms of loans and investments and less about grants,” he said.

“We witness low level of ambition impacted by geopolitical issues and competing priorities at national level,” he added.

Nasr said political challenges also abound with the U.S. administration’s position on climate change particularly on financing affecting the agreement’s implementation. He said the decision by Australia to roll back on their target and failure by European nations to move towards raising their ambitious mitigation targets; are also political barriers to implementation of the Paris agreement. 

Additional impediments that he outlined are differentiation among developing countries which despite all requiring support some are categorised as middle income while others are labelled as Least Developed Countries.

Also speaking during the AEPP, Estherine Fotabong, Director, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) said the partnership aim is to create opportunity for inclusive dialogue.

“We want to share best practices to move forward Africa’s agenda and build a coalition of partners for Africa’s environment stewardship through establishing a strong network at regional and continental level,” she said.

Delegates were concerned with the rise of environmental crimes with serious consequences such as indiscriminate logging of forests, illegal mining of the continents minerals, petroleum and gas resources, illicit trade in fauna and flora dumping of toxic and electronic waste, illegal fishing and destructive mining practices.

They were also perturbed by challenges faced by African countries in implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). They noted that the challenges are linked to weak political will, limited financial resources, weak coordination in synthesis and implementation, poor representation in multilateral negotiations and inadequate use of local scientific traditional knowledge in policy making.

They called for regional centred approaches, common position in negotiations, capacity building and financial implementation through private sector partnership as a way of addressing challenges facing the continent in addressing climate change issues. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 October 2018]

Photo credit: Timothy Shitagwa

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

Tags: Africa, UN Insider, SDG 12, SDG13, SDG 15

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