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Environment ministers hold talks over Africa’s position in global negotiations



THE high-level segment of the 15th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) ended in Cairo, at the weekend, with delegations from 54 African nations in attendance as well as over 300 participants from around the continent representing policy makers, experts, civil society, businesses and major groups. The meeting also had partner organizations, UN agencies and representatives from the donor community.

   President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, received an AMCEN ministerial delegation and United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner. Egypt presided over the 15th Session of the AMCEN and will lead the group for a period of two years, while UNEP acts as the Secretariat of the AMCEN.

  The meeting comes at a crucial moment as the coming months will determine how Africa’s development and climate change priorities are articulated and reflected in the context of global negotiations, including the UN Climate Change Conference, COP21 and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

   This is the first time the meeting was held in Cairo – the birth place of the AMCEN – in thirty years since the inception of the Conference in 1985. New AMCEN President, Dr. Khaled Fahmy, Minister of the Environment of Egypt, said, “The continent stands to determine its development priorities in the context of global negotiations. It is crucial for us to clearly define common priorities and the means to achieve our objectives at the regional and national levels.”

   New UNEP studies, launched at the event, show that climate adaptation costs for Africa could soar to reach US $50 billion annually by mid-century. The continent is looking at a combination of internal mechanisms supported by international cooperation to meet the cost and implement sound adaptation policies at the national and regional levels.

   At the same time, Africa could reap billions of dollars and lower its carbon footprint through the transition to Green Economy. Case studies from 10 African countries was presented, which the UN says could save over US $2.4 Billion annually, Cut CO2 emissions by 13 per cent, water consumption by 40 per cent and create 8 million new Jobs if it adopts such a transition across diverse sectors.

   UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said, “On the its 30th Anniversary, I extend my warmest congratulations to AMCEN and to Africa’s leadership for having ably steered environmental governance across the continent for the last three decades; inspiring action, pioneering reform and charting a durable path towards sustainability and better lives and livelihoods for all.”

   “But there is still work to be done. We need to create the policies and mechanisms that will integrate natural capital valuation and ecosystem approaches in all aspects of decision making across diverse sectors, if we are to harness the full potential of Africa’s rich natural endowments and to employ the competitive advantage offered as an engine for inclusive and equitable economic growth,” he added.

 The 15th Session of the AMCEN meeting provided a platform for African ministers of the environment to deliberate on how to harness Africa’s natural capital to help the region achieve sustainable development, create jobs for the increasing number of young people and contribute to the eradication of poverty.

  The meeting also offered an opportunity to deliberate on substantive follow up actions related to the first session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), which took place in June 2014 in Nairobi.

   Deliberations centered on priorities such as: the post 2015 development agenda and the proposed sustainable development goals; the illegal trade in wildlife and timber; and a roadmap that define what is at stake for Africa in preparation for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which will be held in Paris, later this year, and which aim at forging an ambitious international agreement on climate change.

  Meanwhile, the report produced in collaboration with Climate Analytics and the African Climate Finance Hub, says deep global emissions reductions are the best way to head off Africa’s crippling adaptation costs. It also finds that the continent’s domestic resources are insufficient to respond to projected impacts, but would be important to complement international funding for African countries—including meeting the Cancun climate finance commitments by 2020. 

   “The best insurance against the many potential negative impacts of climate change is ambitious global mitigation action in the long-run, combined with large-scale and rapidly increasing funding for adaptation. Investing in resilience and adaptation as an integral part of national development planning can develop resilience to future climate change impacts,” said Steiner. 

   Africa is the continent where a rapidly changing climate is expected to deviate earlier than across any other continent from “normal” changes, making adaptation a matter of urgency, the report says. 

  Warming projections under medium scenarios indicate that extensive areas of Africa will exceed 2°C by the last two decades of this century relative to the late 20th century mean annual temperature. Under a high warming pathway, temperatures could exceed 2°C by mid-century across much of Africa and reach between 3°C and 6°C by the end of the century. This would have a severe impact on agricultural production, food security, human health and water availability. 

  In a 4˚C world, projections for Africa suggest sea levels could rise faster than the global average and reach 80cm above current levels by 2100 along the Indian and Atlantic Ocean coastlines, with particularly high numbers of people at risk to flooding in the coastal cities of Mozambique, Tanzania, Cameroon, Egypt, Senegal and Morocco.


“This is not just a question of money; millions of people and their livelihoods are at stake,” said Binilith Mahenge, President of AMCEN and Tanzania’s Minister of State for Environment. “Africa’s population will be at an increasing risk of undernourishment due to increasing food demand and the detrimental effects of climate change on agriculture on the continent. Global warming of 2˚C would put over 50 per cent of the African continent’s population at risk of undernourishment. Yet, the IPCC showed that without additional mitigation we are heading to 4˚C of warming.” 

  “Rising to the challenge and addressing the systemic harm that climate change may cause in Africa, thus undermining the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, warrants leaving no stone unturned in exploring opportunities for supporting adaptation actions and measures in Africa,” he added. 

  The report explores the extent to which African nations can contribute to closing the adaptation gap—especially in the area of identifying the resources that will be needed. 

  The evidence suggests that African countries—such as Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa—are already committing some resources of their own to adaptation efforts. Country-case studies in the report suggest that by 2029/2030, under moderately optimistic growth scenarios, Ghana could for example – based on  hypothetical scenarios – commit US$233 million to adaptation financing, Ethiopia US$248 million, South Africa US$961 million and Togo US$18.2 million. However, international funding will be required to bridge the growing adaptation gap even if African nations commit to ways to increase domestic sources. Current levels of international finance, through bilateral and multilateral sources, are not sufficient. 

   “Because of the magnitude of the challenge, further examination of the potential and the feasibility of mobilizing untapped international, regional and domestic sources should be explored further,” said Mr. Steiner. 

   Scaling up international climate finance under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) may lead to sufficient funding for adaptation, but even in that case, implementation can only reach its full potential if complemented by comprehensive and effective national and regional policy planning, capacity-building and governance. 

   The promotion of an effective enabling framework for private sector participation in adaptation activities would also be a key contributor to closing the funding gap, the report finds. 

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