Environmentally friendly businesses are critical to Africa’s future, say Africa Green Economy Conference – Global Issues

Shaban Mvinji, local scout ranger, in Ukunda, Kenya. Standing in the restored mangrove forest of Mikoko Pamoja. Mikoko Pamoja is a community-led mangrove conservation and restoration project based in southern Kenya and the world’s first blue carbon project. It aims to create long-term incentives for the protection and restoration of mangroves through community participation and benefit.
  • Juliet Morrison (ur.Toronto)
  • Inter Press Service

Organized by: Green Growth Knowledge Partnership (GGKP), Capital CoalitionGreen Economy Coalition (HEC) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (World Wildlife Fund), the conference included virtual opening and closing plenary sessions and thematic face-to-face national talks across the continent. These sessions were held in South Africa, Uganda, Gabon and Mozambique.

Participants stressed that the conference comes at a unique moment in the face of several global economic shocks affecting Africa: climate change, biodiversity loss and geopolitical challenges.

“The inability of the current system’s current global cooperation mechanism to address these issues in an equitable and sustainable manner leads to the current calls for a global system overhaul,” moderator. Kevin Urama, Acting Chief Economist and Vice President, Economic and Knowledge Management, African Development Bank.

Most countries fail to take action on climate change necessary to achieve the 2015 Paris Agreement’s emission reduction targets. Climate finance will help developing countries reach the goals also lags behind.

Oliver Greenfield, leader of the Green Economy Coalition, has argued that limited environmental progress is the result of politicians’ constant emphasis on economic benefits above all else.

“We recognize that development is a priority and the environment is a compromise. This is basically what has been happening for 50 years. Avoiding a crisis is not the best investment model for most finance ministers, we know that,” he said.

Greenfield invited policy makers to consider investments that contribute to achieving the best results in many areas – environmental, social and economic.

Accounting for the environment along with the economy would be very beneficial for Africa, stressed Dr. Mao Amis, co-founder and executive director of the African Center for Green Economy.

He added that in most African countries natural capital accounts for 30-50 percent from their common wealth. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 70 percent of people depend on forests and woodlands for their livelihood.

“The importance of nature in economics is undeniable. We are so inextricably linked to nature that we cannot separate our relationship from nature, and the more we realize this, the more we can succeed in achieving the role of nature in the economy,” he said.

Touching nature – and making investments aimed at preserving nature – is seen as path to wealth creation politicians.

Ligia Noronha, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Head of UNEP’s New York office, sees green investment as an excellent risk-mitigation tool and a key investment strategy for the continent.

“It is absolutely obvious, but perhaps not well invested in it. Africa has vast reserves of natural capital in both minerals and biodiversity, and this could be a huge asset for Africa’s growth,” she said.

She added that natural capital can also create many green jobs for the people of Africa.

However, the involvement of many stakeholders is necessary if nature is to be at the center of national economic development.

Dr. Gaby Teren, Program Manager at the Endangered Wildlife Trust, stressed that greater skills and collaboration across sectors are needed to drive action towards environmental goals.

“Ultimately, without the participation of companies at all levels, there are not enough specialists who necessarily have the skills to use these tools. To really have a truly green economy, we need to have much better communication between the private sector, between environmentalists and between politicians,” she said.

The involvement of the financial sector, in particular, is critical.

According to a World Resources Institute presentation, access to finance and limited private sector involvement are two of the biggest challenges to implementing environmental solutions (NBS) in Africa.

Nature Solutions are nature-based initiatives that solve social problems while creating natural ecosystems and biodiversity. For example, mangrove conservation can protect homes from the impact of storms and provide nurseries for fish.

It explains that NBS can help meet critical infrastructure needs. Lizzy Marsters, Environmental Finance Manager, World Resources Institute. By 2035, NBS will be able to meet 12 percent of Africa’s $90 trillion infrastructure needs, she said.

Marsters believes NBS is key to incorporating resilience and sustainability into infrastructure investment.

“When we think about NBS, we think there is a huge opportunity here to reassess how we think about government budgets, how they are spent, and to increase private sector participation,” Marsters said.

Closing the conference, moderator Kevin Urama emphasized Africa’s inextricable connection with nature.

“Africa can and should take the lead in this… African culture has always been sensitive to nature,” he said.

He added that natural capital should be integrated into most development plans.

“Let’s work on natural capital, on how to invest in natural capital, how to value natural capital and take it into account in decision-making, in national development planning,” he said.

UN IPS bureau report


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