Africa's environment ministers pledge support for green COVID-19 recovery

NAIROBI, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- African environment ministers have pledged to rally behind efforts to accelerate a green and inclusive economic recovery to boost economies and social systems in the continent amid COVID-19 related shocks.

This photo taken on September 26, 2016 at the George airport, South Africa, shows solar panels. (Photo: AFP)

The ministers said in a joint statement issued in Nairobi on Friday evening at the end of a virtual summit that promoting the health of ecosystems lies at the heart of efforts to hasten pandemic recovery in the world's second-largest continent.

"Whilst this pandemic is having a profound negative impact on sustainable development and our efforts to combat environmental degradation and eradicate poverty, it also presents opportunities to set our recovery on a path of transformative sustainable development," said Barbara Creecy, South African Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.

"The African Green Stimulus Programme seeks to address, in a sustainable manner, the devastating socio-economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to, more importantly, harness the opportunities which this approach brings for the Continent," she added.

The environment ministers and experts attended the eighth special session of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) that focused on harnessing vital ecosystems to promote COVID-19 recovery in the continent.

Meeting virtually under the theme "Enhancing environmental action for effective post-COVID-19 recovery in Africa, the ministers urged protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems as part of an effort to sustainably build back African economies after devastations wrought by the pandemic.

The ministers underscored the role of policies and programs linking public health, pollution abatement, climate action, biodiversity conservation, ecosystems integrity, socio-economic equity, and prosperity for an effective recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

They acknowledged that COVID-19 has undermined efforts to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty in the continent.

According to the ministers, an effective recovery strategy from the COVID-19 pandemic offers a chance to mainstream environmental considerations across all facets of African economies, in order to realize a resilient, low-emissions and inclusive sustainable development.

The ministers committed to work with the international community to secure a robust, ambitious and transformative post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that aims at reversing biodiversity loss by 2030.

While noting that Africa's rich biodiversity is a valuable asset in mitigating climate change, the ministers emphasized the need for further elaboration of adaptation planning and implementation under the Paris Agreement to address extreme weather and slow onset events.

They pledged continued support for multilateral cooperation at regional, continental and global levels, as well as their support to the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme to be held from Feb. 22-26 next year.

"In overcoming the pandemic, we can also avert climate catastrophe and restore our planet. I congratulate ministers on their deliberations this week on a green recovery program for the continent. I call for international solidarity and for the domestic realignment of resources to fund the green recovery," said Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director.