African environmental ministers convened in Durban, South Africa, to press for accelerated continental environmental action. The ministers are taking part in the 17th Ordinary Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) which opened on 14th November at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban.
AMCEN is a forum where African ministers of the environment discuss environmental matters as they relate to the African continent. The forum was established in 1985 when African ministers met in Egypt and adopted the Cairo Programme for African co-operation. The AMCEN conference is convened every second year.
The theme for this year's conference is 'Taking action for Environment Sustainability and Prosperity in Africa'. The conference is focused on building a green economy in Africa, advancing the circular economy, developing the blue economy, and dealing with/mitigating loss of biodiversity, land degradation, desertification, drought, and climate change.
The climate crisis is perhaps the most pressing issue that the world currently faces. Though it has had little to do in causing the crisis, Africa will face the most devastating consequences of climate change and global warming. Over the past 100 years, temperatures across Africa have increased by an average of 0.5 – 2 degrees. A seemingly small change, the impact of this shift has been devastating. There have been extensive droughts around the continent, markedly in Eastern and Southern Africa, and changing weather patterns have led to reduced crop yields leading to food insecurity.
Currently, more than 11 million people are experiencing crisis/emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC Phases 3 and 4) in Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Eswatini and Lesotho. According to UN food agencies, this number will rise to 45 million across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in the next six months.
But it doesn't end there. Cities in Africa are sinking due to climate change. Mozambique has been hit by two devastating cyclones in the same year. Even the world's longest river is affected: 250 million people rely on the Nile for water that may not exist in 2080. In addition, 100 million people worldwide are at risk of being pushed into poverty by climate change by 2030 – particularly across Sub-Saharan Africa. By 2050, this number stands at 720 million.
AMCEN will discuss the need for practical actions and solutions. These include the implementation of policies and relevant regional and global frameworks to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
The outgoing president of AMCEN, Lee White, said, “As environment ministers, we must shoulder the responsibility for mobilizing the global community to act on climate change, food insecurity, poverty and environmental pollution. Our theme is a call to member states to scale up actions to implement AMCEN’s decisions and address the environmental challenges that most of our countries continue to encounter. There is, therefore, still a lot of hard work ahead of us as we make efforts to implement the sustainable development goals and the Paris agreement, among other global frameworks.”