By Bennett Oghifo
Ministers of Environment across the continent of Africa have agreed to support a comprehensive green recovery plan to boost economies and social systems aimed at building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a ministerial statement issued at the closing of the eighth special session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), representatives of the 54 African governments reaffirmed their commitment to enhance environmental resilience as well as to protect and sustainably use natural resources for the region’s development.
In a high-level Ministerial regional conference that was held virtually under the theme “Enhancing environmental action for effective post-COVID recovery in Africa”, participants further called to accelerate the protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems as part of an effort to sustainably build back African economies from the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.
Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa and President of AMCEN said: “whilst this pandemic is having a profound negative impact on sustainable development and our efforts to combat environmental degradation and eradicate poverty, it also presents opportunities to set our recovery on a path of transformative sustainable development.”
“The African Green Stimulus Programme seeks to address, in a sustainable manner, the devastating socio-economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to, more importantly, harness the opportunities which this approach brings for the Continent,” she added.
Ministers noted the importance of policies and programmes linking public health, pollution abatement, climate action, biodiversity conservation, ecosystems integrity, socio-economic equity, and prosperity for an effective recovery from COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.
While noting the impact COVID-19 pandemic has had on Africa’s socio-economic development, the ministers acknowledged it has particularly undermined efforts to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty.
Ministers recommended that an effective recovery strategy from COVID-19 pandemic is essential, and it can present opportunities to further mainstream environmental considerations across all facets of African economies, striving towards a more environmentally friendly, resilient, low-emissions and inclusive sustainable development.
“In overcoming the pandemic, we can also avert climate catastrophe and restore our planet. I congratulate Ministers on their deliberations this week on a green recovery programme for the continent. I call for international solidarity and for the domestic realignment of resources to fund the green recovery,” said Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.
Also, in the conference, environment ministers committed to working with the global community to secure a robust, ambitious and transformative post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that aims at reversing biodiversity loss by 2030.
While noting that Africa’s rich biodiversity is a valuable asset in mitigating climate change, ministers emphasised the need for further elaboration of adaptation planning and implementation under the Paris Agreement to address extreme weather and slow-onset events.
Ministers reiterated their continued support for multilateral cooperation at regional, continental and global levels, as well as their support to the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme to be held from 22 to 26 February 2021.