Opening speech by UN Botswana Resident Coordinator, Anders Pedersen at the 5th special session of the African ministerial conference on the environment (AMCEN) in GaboroneOct 17, 2013
Let me start by thanking and congratulating Botswana for once again hosting a critically important meeting on sustainable development, environment and climate change. It takes place at a time when the world is working on the most critical issues that define and shape the course of development over the coming decades. The post-2015 development process, the implementation of the Rio+20 outcomes and the climate change negotiations, are especially important for Africa as it endeavours to progress to higher levels of sustainable development that accompany poverty eradication and equitable distribution of income.
I would like to recognize the role that the African Ministerial Conference for Environment (AMCEN) is playing in bringing these issues home and in promoting and facilitating implementation. The value that we put in this conference is therefore in recognition of its efforts to address in particular four broad issues:
· Sustainable development – and the benefits it can bring to addressing social, economic and environmental imperatives as we endeavour to tackle poverty and exclusion.
· Climate change – and its multi-faceted impacts on human lives and economies and the opportunities the climate agenda brings for transition towards a low carbon climate resilient development pathway.
· Natural capital – and the role it plays in enhancing poverty eradication, livelihoods and economic growth alike, an
· Institutional frameworks for implementation of these priorities.
We need to think outside the famous box as we seek workable, actionable and integrated solutions.
Firstly, on Sustainable Development, the linkages between the social, environmental and economic needs of Africa cannot be addressed in isolation. The challenges that the continent faces, including multidimensional poverty and growing inequalities, the degradation of natural resources, unavoidable consequences of climate change and an uncertain global economic environment require a different development approach and different measures of progress. Sustainable development offers a way forward. As described in the Outcome Document of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), “poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base for economic and social development are the overarching objectives and essential requirements for sustainable development“. Sustainable human development reinforces this approach by emphasizing that the capabilities and wellbeing of people, and their relationship with the environment that sustains them, are what matters. Sustainable human development therefore, focuses on “the expansion of people’s freedoms to live long, healthy and creative lives; to advance other goals they have reason to value; and to engage actively in shaping development equitably and sustainably on a shared planet.” In my view, it is imperative that AMCEN demonstrates how Africa will move towards more sustainable development pathways.
Secondly, on climate change, the scientific basis is well established, and the linkages between climate change and development are clear. Africa, while making the least contribution climate change, is among the regions most affected by its impacts, and the development gains made over the past decades may be reversed if appropriate actions are not taken urgently. A global climate change deal that addresses Africa-specific issues is of paramount importance in order to safeguard the interests of the continent and to strengthen its capacity to adapt to the current and projected impacts of climate change and at the same time to take advantage of the opportunities that the climate agenda presents especially in terms of sustainable energy and natural resource management. African countries’ diverse needs and perspectives should be clearly reflected in these regional and global dialogues on climate change and these should be articulated through national climate change policies, strategies, programmes and actions plans as well as funding mechanisms that are necessary for implementation.
Thirdly, as far as natural capital is concerned, the role it plays in advancing economic development and in supporting the livelihoods of the majority of the African population cannot be overemphasized. The sustainable utilization of the continent’s natural capital for social and economic transformation is vital, and should be at the heart of development planning. It is in this regard that the value of natural capital will be appreciated by all stakeholders, including the planning and budgeting authorities at national levels as well local authorities and communities that use and manage it for local economic development and livelihood support.
I see the value of this conference in terms of its advancement of Africa’s needs as well its contribution to shaping the ongoing global development processes and frameworks such as the Rio+20, the post-2015 development process and the UNFCCC Climate Change negotiations among others.
Let me briefly highlight some of the key issues related to these global development processes in as far as Africa is concerned.
The Rio+20 Outcome speaks directly to some of the key priorities of Africa as reflected in the national development frameworks that several African countries have put in place. Africa is at the critical juncture of its development trajectory. And it has a choice. Africa can depart from a “business as usual” development path that generates unsustainable environmental and social externalities. Africa can design a new development path that can achieve gains in the level of human development with limited growth in per capita ecological footprint and increase in social equity. In this regard, we note AMCEN’s efforts to support the effective implementation of the Rio+20 outcomes in Africa including through the Regional Flagship Programmes. Obviously, these programmes will need to be developed and implemented in an integrated manner and inform core development processes of the continent and promote the transition towards an equitable, low carbon and climate resilient development pathway. These Flagship Programmes and other African initiatives, such as the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa and the African Mining Vision, demonstrate African leadership in taking forward the outcomes of Rio+20.
Climate change negotiations
The world is currently negotiating a deal for addressing climate change, in light of the post-Kyoto era. The integration of the African perspective in these negotiations will lead to an agreement that does not put humanity on a course that is uncertain and potentially irreversible, and most importantly an agreement that will enable Africa to develop in a sustainable manner. Africa’s major economic sectors are vulnerable to climate sensitivity and are projected to be severely impacted by climate variability and change. A conservative estimate of climate adaptation costs for Sub-Saharan Africa amounts to US$17 billion a year. If climate change actions are not urgently undertaken, the costs for Africa’s adaptation to floods, droughts, shifting disease patterns, sea level rise and temperature increase would be significantly higher. The imperative of addressing climate change also brings an opportunity for Africa to leapfrog current energy systems towards a low carbon and sustainable energy pathway, given its comparative advantage of starting from a low base of Greenhouse Gas emissions, and its rich renewable energy resources. Africa’s urgent needs and unique development challenges need to be placed at the center of the negotiations of the upcoming UN Climate Conference. In this regard, AMCEN’s excellent efforts are critical in developing coordinated African voices to adequately inform the global negotiations on climate change.
Early action supported by adequate financial resources is critical.
The post-2015 process
The post-2015 development era will build on the progress that has so far been achieved towards the Millennium Development Goals. Africa has made notable progress in this regard, and has a huge stake in the post-2015 Agenda. Its input in defining the post-MDG framework is therefore paramount. The opportunities provided by the post-2015 consultation process should be utilised effectively through national, regional and global channels to ensure that the interests and priorities of Africa are clearly reflected. The messages coming out of this process, including the report of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 Agenda which focuses on the need to “eradicate poverty and transform economises through sustainable development”, highlight issues such as inclusion and sustainable development goals. With less than 1,000 days left until the end of the MDG era and the subsequent onset of a new development framework, we should align our approaches to both addressing the outstanding MDG targets before the end of 2015, and preparing for the new framework.
As noted earlier, there are several African-led initiatives that address the issues being discussed at the global level, which we should use as a starting point for moving into the post -2015 era. These initiatives demonstrate what we already know in the areas of climate change, natural capital and sustainable development.
A key is to put in place effective institutional mechanisms for implementation at global, national and sub-national levels. In this regard, the up grading of the UNEP Governing Council to the United Nations Environment Assembly is a positive development that will elevate the environment to the same level as the other dimensions of sustainable development.
Equally important, it is imperative that UN agencies provide coordinated support to countries as they address these issues. This will avoid duplication of effort, and will lead to more efficient use of scarce resources.
Let me conclude by saying that the success of our programmes and plans does not depend on actions from the environment sector alone, where most of us come from. It is easy to speak to ourselves and forget that these issues go beyond environment. In fact, the greatest benefits from the environment and natural resources accrue to other sectors of the economy and society. As we leave this place, we need to communicate the messages from our deliberations to core development actors, ministries of planning and finance, energy, agriculture, infrastructure and so on, as well as private, and civil society partners This will not only lead to harmonised action at country level, but will also promote the flow of resources across sectors in a way that balances all the dimensions of sustainable development.
Success will also depend on our collective efforts in scaling up our individual actions in order to make a notable difference in our countries and most importantly, in the lives of the poor and vulnerable.
The business of this conference is not an easy task. We carry on our shoulders the burden of defining solutions that address the needs of the continent. I wish you all successful deliberations over the next two days. I thank you for your attention.