The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) joined the rest of the world in celebrating the World Environment Day 2020. This important day is celebrated on June 5, every year. This day is set aside by United Nations for the purpose of raising awareness on environmental issues. The theme of this year’s celebrations revolves around biodiversity under the slogan: “It is time for Nature”.
Our platforms across the continent marked the world environment day through a variety of activities, with the common thing being webinars covering regions, videos making calls on the world to join in the work to treat nature better, as well as activations in social media for the same purpose. From Madagascar, to Ethiopia, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Gabon, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Tunisia and Ghana, the calls targeted all, from youth, to women, men, those living with disabilities, children, to act as individuals, and also to push relevant authorities to do their part in conservation. The videos were uploaded in the PACJA’s Youtube and shared widely.
In Kenya, the Kenya Platform on Climate Governance (KPCG), started the celebrations in May through a webinar on “Sustaining environmental conservation during and post Covid-19”. The Platform has also been mobilising the communities living around Mt Kenya ecosystem in planting more than 100,000 bamboo seedlings. The celebrations on June 5 culminated in a high-level webinar on biodiversity health and livelihood. It was co-hosted with other partners including WWF, Council of Governors and the UN Environment Programme. The platform also conducted activities at the county level to mark this important day. They included planting of trees and cleaning up the Indian Ocean beaches in Lamu. Several staff at the PACJA secretariat in Nairobi, starting from the Executive Director Mithika Mwenda, the Head of Programmes Salina Sanou, thematic lead on Resilient People, Society and Economies, as well as Project officer Collins Oduor and members of the KPCG (through MPIDO) Elijah Toirai and Abdul Baabad (Takataka Foundation in Lamu) participated in debates and interviews on national and regional radio stations to discuss several aspects of climate change, climate justice and biodiversity. To sum it up, a game to interest the youth on matters of conservation and climate change was launched, while a word-smith and youths recorded another video in the Kibra slums, one of Africa’s biggest informal settlements, with a message to the youth to help preserve what nature gives for free.
Our platforms in the southern part of the continent, including Botswana and South Africa hosted a high level webinar themed: “Reducing Biodiversity Loss and Finding Solutions in Nature for Climate Change”. They Bohtswana team further shared sanitary towels, protective gear to prevent transmission of Covid-19 among locals as well as food stuff to the needy.
PACJA-Nigeria (CSDevNet) also hosted a high level webinar on biological life and coastal communities. PACJA Morocco took part in this webinar. PACJA Gabon and Ivory Coast platforms marked the day through a webinar, while Burkina Faso and Togo planted trees to mark the day, while PACJA’s platform in Tunisia focused on conservation of medicinal plants as part of celebrations to mark the World Environment Day. This they did by convening a physical meeting with representatives of several civil society organisations and other local actors from Bizerte to discuss the Northern African country’s strategy on preservation and enhancement of medicinal plants in the region.
Biodiversity is an asset to our planet. All parts of an ecosystem – animals, plants, microbes, and humans – are interconnected. In order for the planet to thrive, we need to not only find ways to meet increasing demands for better lives, but to do so in ways that also protect healthy ecosystems and the many organisms that inhabit them. We are living in times when biodiversity is severely threatened. We have seen many cases of organisms becoming extinct while the population of others is declining sharply.
Lately there has been a worrying trend of human beings interfering with forests and animal habitats. This has culminated in human-wildlife conflicts. Unfortunately, conflict between people and wildlife today ranks amongst the main threats to conservation in Africa - alongside habitat destruction. As a result, there exist many human-wildlife conflict hotspots in the continent. Such conflicts are mainly attributed to increased human population and loss of animal habitats. Uncontrolled human activities, especially crop farming, charcoal burning, timber harvesting for commercial purposes, and human settlement have denied nature its rightful peace. In some areas, there is even competition between human beings and animals for the few existing water points.
The worst and latest trend that is a threat to wildlife habitats has been infrastructural developments implemented in total disregard of sensitivity of these fragile and yet critical ecosystems.
PACJA has been at the forefront in advocating policies that are responsive to the global needs for conservation of biodiversity. This year, we were looking forward to the 15th Conference of Parties for the convention on biodiversity aim to agree on the 2020-2030 Strategic Plan for the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), including 2030 targets for maintaining biodiversity and a longer-term vision for nature. These negotiations are important since the contemporary world is unprecedentedly losing biodiversity, carbon stocks, and ecosystem services. A failure to conserve habitats and halt species’ extinction would have knock-on effects on objectives of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), since significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions result from the destruction and degradation of forests, peatlands, wetlands and other high carbon ecosystems. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected many conferences, including UNFCCC’s COP 26. The Covid-19 pandemic was unprecedented but it has disrupted the entire globe, whereupon in such phenomena, social structures and institutions are put into test. Unlike other calamities like climate-induced droughts, flooding, hurricanes and typhoons that are usually localised and come and go fast, the rapid manner in which Covid-19 has engulfed the entire world has left humanity in a state of shock, socially, economically and politically, and will lead to emergence of new cultural practices, power relations and resource distribution.
The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the already delicate situation in the African continent, which faces a myriad other challenges, including climate-induced droughts, floods, landslides, desert locusts invasions and water scarcity; and deepening poverty.
Africa faces a high potential for increased emissions, as its forests are under continuous threat from deforestation and degradation. This is because Africa is home to the largest proportion of forest-dependent subsistence households in the world. Consequently, the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Africa are mainly subsistence livelihood-related national and local scale drivers. This situation is likely to be worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has exerted a lot of pressure to the economies world over and more so in Africa. Many people have lost jobs and their livelihoods. The rural poor communities in Africa are barely struggling to survive. There is a likelihood that the forests in Africa will experience increased pressure from communities seeking survival in the midst of this Covid -19 crisis, thereby watering down the gains so far made in conservation.
PACJA being a network with more than 1,000 CSOs distributed in 48 countries across Africa has curved its niche in the climate change space. We believe the World Environment Day is a critical time when the world should reflect on the planetary health. We believe that there are linkages and interdependencies between biodiversity and climate change in the preparation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. This is informed by reports and assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services without prejudice to the process for developing the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and respecting the mandates of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UNFCCC.
In the end, and in order to promote biodiversity economy, PACJA called for an ambitious post-2020 framework, underpinned by transformative change to curb biodiversity decline, with strategic goals that address all three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity with smart targets that address the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, predictable financing and transparent reporting and monitoring.