The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN)
Willemien Viljoen, tralac Researcher, discusses the recent African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN)
The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) provides a permanent forum for African Environment Ministers to discuss matters relevant to the environment of the African continent, with membership comprising 53 African countries, including Angola, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia. The 14th regular session of AMCEN was held in Arusha, Tanzania from 7 to 14 September 2012 under the theme of ‘Africa’s post Rio+20 Strategy for Sustainable Development.’
The objectives of the session were to provide a platform for African Environment Ministers to discuss the key outcomes and issues of importance to Africa in the Rio+20 outcome ‘The Future We Want’, and to provide African countries with an opportunity to strategize on a common approach for the eighteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will take place from 26 November to 7 December 2012 in Doha, Qatar.
In his opening address the Vice President of Tanzania, Dr. Mohamed Gharib Bilal called for renewed commitments by AMCEN member countries to address land degradation, climate change, deforestation, low agricultural productivity and poverty. Vice President Bilal also highlighted the importance of moving to a green economy in order to reduce poverty and reach the Millennium Development Goals.
In her address, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC stressed Africa’s vulnerability to the adverse impact of climate change and adaptation as the most urgent and relevant for African countries. According to the Executive Secretary African countries must design and implement National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) according to each individual country’s technical and financial need and ability. Africa has significant renewable energy potential, but the share of renewables in total energy output in most African countries has been minimal. African countries have the opportunity to ‘leapfrog’ energy infrastructure by moving from heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels to the use of domestically available renewable energy sources, including solar, hydro and geothermal power to provide energy, build infrastructure and develop and supply services to reduce poverty and reach Millennium Development Goals (full statement available here).
During the conference the Ministers considered a draft work programme for 2013-2014 which is divided into the following four areas (complete draft work programme available here):
Regional priority programmes: The work programme includes the establishment of key regional programmes to support African countries to implement the outcome of the Rio+20 conference, including An African Green Economy Partnership; a programme on sustainable development (APSED) and a programme for African-Brazil-China cooperation for sustainable development (ABC-CASD).
Environmental conventions: The focus is on building a common approach for COP 18; implementing initiatives under the Convention to Combat Desertification; ratification and accession to the Maputo and Bamako Conventions; and developing a common negotiation position under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Capacity-building, focused on building political support and policy guidance; promoting environmental education and technology-supported learning and building capacity to implement the Rio+20 outcome and regional conventions.
Resource mobilisation and partnership, including expanding strategic partnerships and obtaining the necessary funding for the implementation of priority programmes.
According to UNEP the Environment Ministers adopted the set of regional flagship programmes and decisions to drive sustainable development on the African continent. Apart from the flagship programmes other decisions adopted by the conference include the effective integration of the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development into local, national and regional development policies and strategies; a reaffirmation to develop a common approach and position on sustainable development and the initiation of an African Green Economy Partnership (full press release available here).