Nature-based solutions could accelerate development, social equity – ECA

28th May 2024 By: Sabrina Jardim - Creamer Media Online Writer

Nature-based solutions present a unique way for Africa to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063, while contributing to the conservation of the continent's rich biodiversity, promoting ecological connectivity and enhancing climate resilience, said Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) deputy executive secretary Antonio Pedro at the African Natural Capital Alliance (ANCA) Annual Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 28.

“With careful design of its development pathway, Africa can harness the value of its natural resources through responsible management practices that recognise planetary boundaries and balance economic growth with environmental conservation and social equity, beyond growth domestic product metrics,” he commented.

Referencing a study by the ECA and consulting firm Dalberg, Pedro said Africa could mobilise $82-billion a year if the price of carbon reached $120/t of carbon dioxide. However, he noted that there was a need to eliminate market fragmentation and invest in building high-integrity carbon credit markets.

Pedro stressed that Africa’s vast resources should drive inclusive growth, structural transformation, prosperity and the wellbeing of its people and nations.

“The vast coastline of Africa provides an opportunity for the development of the blue economy, which could generate $576-billion a year and create 127-million jobs by 2063 through research, innovation and ecosystem management,” he said.

The theme of the ANCA Annual Summit was ‘Harnessing Nature for Africa's Sustainable Transformation: Building Resilience in Africa’s Financial Landscape.’

Africa Foundation for Sustainable Development (AFSD) CEO Mark Napier said the continent should strategise on carbon markets to identify more ambitious opportunities in the next five years and prioritise conservation efforts to protect 50% of Africa’s mammal species by 2030.

“Countries should focus on building awareness and capacity on nature-related risks and opportunities through work on disclosures, communicate the importance of nature for Africa’s sustainable development vision,” said Napier, adding that it is important for countries to review the relationship between nature and Africa’s financial markets.

“There is need to have an instrument that can strengthen financial markets, create economic opportunities and protect the environment.”

Emphasising the need for investing in regenerative agriculture and sustainable infrastructure, United Nations Environment Programme deputy executive director Elizabeth Mrema highlighted the crucial role of indigenous people and local communities in nature stewardship, and stressed the need for collective action to protect Africa’s natural capital for future generations.

“We should deepen collaboration and scale up efforts such as regenerative agriculture, nature-based solutions and sustainable infrastructure,” she said.

She also noted the need to strengthen policies that incentivise green finance and penalise environmental degradation.

Meanwhile, African Development Bank regional principal officer Olufunso Somorin said African countries should redefine value and challenge agencies that drive the economy, particularly on nature.

He noted the mismatch between capital and long-term investments and the need to expand the investor base beyond traditional stakeholders to unlock trillions of dollars in capital for nature-related investments.

To address this, he said countries should develop policy frameworks to incentivise nature-friendly investments, and build new markets that value knowledge exchange and long-term relationships.

He also emphasised the need to have partnerships, incentives and knowledge to drive transformation on the continent.

FSD-Africa and the ECA jointly established the ANCA in 2022, with the aim of driving multi-stakeholder initiatives that integrate the value of natural capital into economic planning and decisions and deliver nature-based solutions for Africa.

“Economic development presents an important frontier for Africa to harvest its natural capital, presenting an economic paradigm that emphasizes the sustainable use of biological resources to produce goods, services, information and energy,” said Pedro.

Last year, FSD-Africa and ECA jointly launched the Framework for a National Nature Strategy at COP28 to assist countries in the sustainable usage of natural resources, scaling up financing for their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans and ensuring compliance with international regulations and national commitments.

“Through the framework, we aim to help African countries capture national and regional growth opportunities while better understanding their nature-related risks and opportunities,” said Pedro.