, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 30 – More than thirty African Ministers for Environment on Friday adopted the Nairobi Declaration at the just-ended Special session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), highlighting the major challenges of climate change.
The Declaration provides African countries with a platform to make a strong case for support at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, slated for December this year.
Buyelwa Sonjica, President of AMCEN and Minister for Water and Environmental Affairs in South Africa, said that Africa needed to find ways of managing the effects of climate change.
“It is clear to me that as a continent Africa has needs that managing climate change and the environment have to speak to. I am heartened by the progress made by the negotiators and the political will shown by the presence of the ministers,” she said.
“Africa looks at all aspects seriously with adaptation taking a special place. I am excited to be part of this very auspicious group. AMCEN being a specialised technical committee of the African Union shows the seriousness with which Africa looks at this issue,” she added.
The African Ministers for Environment have agreed to mainstream climate change adaptation measures into national and regional development plans, policies and strategies.
In doing so, they will aim to ensure adequate adaptation to climate change in the areas of water resources, agriculture, health, infrastructure, biodiversity and ecosystems, forest, urban management, tourism, food and energy security and management of costal and marine resources.
The Declaration urges all parties and particularly the international community – that increased support to Africa should be based on the priorities for the continent, which include adaptation, capacity-building, financing and technology development and transfer.
The priority of African countries is to implement climate change programmes in a way that helps achieve sustainable development, particularly in terms of alleviating poverty and attaining the Millennium Development Goals, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable such as women and children who are bearing the brunt of the impact today.
At the same time, Kenya’s Environment Minister John Michuki said that the government’s plan to plant 6.4 billion trees would mitigate the impact of climate change in the country. He observed that the initiative will increase Kenya’s forest cover to the recommended 10 percent by the year 2030.
“This programme will be in line with the country’s development goals and priorities outlined in vision 2030,” he said, adding that the country’s carbon absorbing capacity will also be increased.
“The seedlings will be planted as part of the national afforestation programme for the conservation of degraded areas and restoration of water catchment areas like the Mau forest complex,” Mr Michuki said.
Africa’s major economic sectors are vulnerable to current climate sensitivity, with huge economic impacts, and this vulnerability is exacerbated by existing developmental challenges such as endemic poverty, complex governance and institutional dimensions.
These in turn have contributed to Africa’s weak adaptive capacity, increasing the continent’s vulnerability to projected climate change.
Adaptation therefore emerges as the most immediate priority.
Since the Kyoto Protocol was drawn up, there has been some progress in acknowledging the need to support adaptation in developing countries.
As existing financial mechanisms have proven inadequate, African countries have not yet been able to gain full access to these resources.
The Declaration highlights the need for a coherent financial architecture for climate change, with equitable governance and simplified access procedures.