GLOBAL WARMING

Tackling environmental problems requires integrated approach

The climate crisis is closer home than we previously thought.

In Summary
  • The problem, however, is not lack of decisions and policy pronouncements but limited implementation.
  • While well-meaning decisions and resolutions are made at regional, international platforms, limited implementation is achieved due to inadequate government financing.

Last November, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment took place in Durban, South Africa. It brought together African governments, policymakers, development partners and civil society organisations to deliberate on pressing environmental challenges such as biodiversity loss, climate change and plastic pollution.

The meeting came at a time when people across the world are getting impatient with inaction by governments to address these challenges. A case in point are the Climate Strike demonstrations led by Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Recent global assessments have returned alarming results. The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report showed more than 1 million species are at risk of extinction, with ecosystems declining at alarming rates due to human activity, thus severely damaging natural support systems. The implication is reduction of nature’s ability to support production of food, clean water, energy, as well as poverty reduction, thus compromising the ability to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

For Africa, this means reduced capacity to achieve Agenda 2063 on 'The Africa we Want'. On the climate front, a recent UN report shows the way we are using land is worsening our climate preparedness and response. A case in point is the devastation of forests, such as the Mau complex in Kenya, whose ecosystem provides livelihoods to millions in Kenya and Tanzania.

Moreover, it is critical to the tourism sector in both countries by supporting key ecosystems such as Lake Nakuru, Maasai Mara and Serengeti National Park. Protecting these ecosystems is a prerogative, if they are to continue offering these priceless services.

Events such as last year’s Cyclone Idai are an indication that the climate crisis is closer home than we previously thought. At the conference, governments committed to take practical action and implement relevant policies backed by relevant regional global frameworks to ensure Africa attains Sustainable Development Goals as well as its Agenda 2063.

Current decisions by environment ministers are not binding and largely do not benefit from input from critical line ministries such as agriculture, energy, finance, infrastructure, among others. Actions and plans developed by these line ministries must take into consideration the impacts on the environment, biodiversity and Africa’s adaptation to climate change.

The problem, however, is not lack of decisions and policy pronouncements but limited implementation. AMCEN, a subcommittee of the African Union, has been in operation since 1985 and has made major strides in establishing policy frameworks to help address environmental degradation and climate change.

It rallied member states around common positions in global negotiations regarding climate change, desertification and biodiversity. For example, Africa played a key role in calling for strong and ambitious Paris Agreement to tackle climate change globally.

There is urgent need to strengthen regional bodies such as AMCEN to effectively provide tangible solutions to Africa’s environmental and development challenges. Current decisions by environment ministers are not binding and largely do not benefit from input from critical line ministries such as agriculture, energy, finance, infrastructure, among others. 

Actions and plans developed by these line ministries must take into consideration the impacts on the environment, biodiversity and Africa’s adaptation to climate change.

Financing is another major challenge. While well-meaning decisions and resolutions are made at regional, international platforms, limited implementation is achieved due to inadequate government financing. Governments must prioritise funding environmental commitments as not doing so could have serious impacts such as those that we are witnessing across the continent.

Coordination of action is another critical factor. In Kenya for instance, the Constitution stipulates that any convention that Kenya accedes to becomes law. There is therefore need for effective coordination at national level by African states to ensure implementation, tracking and reporting of these agreements and conventions.

Finally, taking into account that environmental issues facing the continent go beyond national borders, concerted efforts from all the stakeholders at national, regional and continental levels are needed to ensure that Africa faces these challenges to ensure environmental sustainability and to help the continent realise the Sustainable Development Goals as well as Agenda 2063.