The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has launched the 'Building Forward for an African Green Recovery' report, which highlights the continent’s bold post-Covid-19 pandemic recovery strategy.
The report seeks to bolster the continent’s quest for the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the attainment of the Paris Agreement’s climate change targets and the achievement of the prosperity objectives articulated in Africa’s Agenda 2063.
The 'Building Forward for an African Green Recovery' strategy will also contribute significantly towards achieving and enhancing sustainable trade within the African Continental Free Trade Area over the next decade.
The report notes that the African region faces its first recession in 25 years, with output losses owing to Covid-19 estimated to be $99-billion.
This is compounded by climate impacts which are projected to result in losses of between 3% and 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) a year by 2030 under a business-as-usual scenario.
In some cases, the ECA says, this will be as much as -15% of GDP.
With credible data available on the impact of climate change, the ECA Building Forward for an African Green Recovery makes a case for Africa to make informed assessments and take knowledgeable decisions.
The report calls for the uptake of nature-based solutions at regional, national and continental levels to inspire policies that preserve the global commons.
The ECA has been at the forefront of supporting transitions in African countries towards sustainable development pathways illustrated on Green or Blue Economy pillars, which endorse climate-smart agricultural approaches, sustainable fisheries, ecotourism and adoption of cleaner energy sources including solar, tidal, wind and geothermal sources.
“For us to build back better we need a lot of energy. The conversation in Africa is about substituting expensive bad fossil fuels with something that is cleaner and cheaper,” says United Nations under-secretary general and ECA executive secretary Vera Songwe.
“We have to replace fuel-based energies with green and sustainable ones,” she adds.
The ECA report seeks to galvanise support for Africa’s Green and Blue Economy strategies and mobilise resources to bolster the continent’s climate adaptation and mitigation measures.
It summarises the continental outlook of how collaborative partnerships bringing together development partners, multilateral agencies, the private sector, and international and nongovernmental organisations can boost Africa’s green and blue livelihoods recovery programme.
Songwe notes that, with the impact of Covid-19 and its associated economic contractions coupled with the debilitating impact of the climate crisis, Africa’s focus on recovery was even more essential.
According to the ECA, there is an urgent need to roll out financial aid packages, make investments in sustainable infrastructure and structure fiscal stimuli to cushion the expected transition into the green and blue economy.
Opportunities for green and blue bonds using appropriate credit enhancements should also be considered alongside the opportunity for debt restructuring using debt for climate or debt for nature swaps, the ECA suggests.
The “circular economy” concept has been defined as one which is restorative, as it heavily relies on renewable energies and eradicates waste and toxic chemicals. In the same vein, the green economy is described as one that improves well-being, promotes social equity, reduces ecological risks and is capable of transforming the global economy towards a low-carbon development uptake.
“The launch of the report and case studies has come at an opportune moment as the African Union will work together with the ECA and other partners in fulfilling the objective of an African post-pandemic green recovery,” says African Union trade commissioner Albert Muchanga.
He adds that Africa has immense renewable energy potential to boost its economic growth through adoption of cleaner energy pathways which are a boost to adaptation and climate mitigation.
UK regional Ambassador for Africa of the Climate Conference Nicholas Kay says global political will is building up as has been seen with the return of the US to the Paris Agreement, commitment of China to net-zero emissions and raised ambitions by the UK, among other developed nations, to pursue a Green Industrial Revolution.
All these are a boost for Africa to adopt greener economic pathways for attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Julia Bird from the Oxford University, who collaborated with the ECA in producing the report, remarks that Africa is endowed with some of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots, and one of the most important natural carbon sinks, such as the peatlands of the Congo basin which can lock in up to 30-billion tons of carbon.
“This sequestered carbon is equivalent to three years’ worth of the world’s emissions. Carbon off-sets provide an opportunity for Africa to tap into the value of its natural assets by factoring in carbon sequestration values.
“Uptake of reliable green energy will support Africa’s economic transformation and clean transition,” she notes.
In conclusion, Songwe underscores the need for a paradigm shift from resource-heavy and inefficient models of production and consumption that incentivise overexploitation, to models that are centred on sustainable use of resources and bring value throughout the production and consumption cycle as part of a circular green economy.