Step up fight against climate change and biodiversity loss

The global decline in biodiversity and ecosystem services poses a big development issue for Africa. [iStockphoto]

Africa is at a pivotal moment. There is growing consensus that Africans must take the lead in managing our relationship with nature. We must unite in setting a global agenda that invests in Africa and enact policies that benefit both the people and the natural resources they depend on.

However, the global decline in biodiversity and ecosystem services poses a big development issue for Africa. Africa offers the world a unique path where development happens in harmony with wildlife and their habitats. The continent holds 25 per cent of global biodiversity and almost a third of the global fresh water.

In addition, clean air, clean water, food security and global climatic regulation relies on Africa's wildlands and the species that keep them healthy.

As a global community, we must find a path that leapfrogs Africa's prosperity to avoid the destruction of wildlands and the extermination of species similar to what has followed the development of North America, Europe and more recently, in Asia.

Effective action needs to understand the linkages between biodiversity loss, climate change, economic development and the need for an integrated and holistic approach to conservation.

This will be Africa's only chance to reverse biodiversity loss and mitigate global warming. My interactions with African leaders and policymakers in the last few months have given me a glimmer of hope. African leaders are deliberately working to create a self-reliant and sustainable continent that will provide solutions for the common global challenges.

One such platform is the Africa Protected Areas Congress that was held in Kigali in July this year.

This congress brought together the first-ever gathering of 53 African countries to discuss the value of Africa's 8,600 protected and conserved areas-collectively equal to the size of Europe.

The outcome of the historic gathering is 'The Kigali Call to Action' which calls for greater public and private investment in conservation, recognising and strengthening the rights of indigenous people and local communities.

The quality of current life in Africa is worrisome. The IMF's latest inflation report shows inflation has reached more than 12 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. Staple food prices have surged to an all-time high while unemployment is on the rise.

Coming off the back of the Covid-19 crisis, Africa will struggle to finance economic recovery while addressing the above-mentioned underlying development challenges and the mounting impact of climate change.

There are finance cuts across all three upcoming global conventions; The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC's CoP27), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and biodiversity financing at the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Where will the money to put in all these buckets come from? At this year's United Nations General Assembly, Gabon's president shared the collective call from Africans for the world to allocate 1 per cent of the global GDP towards closing the annual biodiversity finance gap of $900 billion.

Contrary to what many people think, about $133 billion is invested globally in nature every year, often by national governments. However, the amount is not enough to counter the mounting pressure over competing land and resource uses and bridging the $800 billion annual biodiversity financial gap.

That means we must pay close attention to how our national governments and regions show up at global conventions that address these issues.

At the UN General Assembly, Africa showed up with one voice pushing for a permanent seat at the Security Council. However small the step may look, it will provide an opportunity for greater representation on security, economics, and international cooperation issues, all which are interlinked to the current crisis.

The coming decade is for action. The young voices are adamant and tired of the same old song. They will not stand by and watch leaders make irreversible mistakes.

I am calling upon leaders to move beyond the usual declarations and collaborate on coordinating mitigation efforts that enhance the conservation and protection of natural habitat while keeping people at the centre of these solutions.

Mr Sebunya is the CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation