By Daniel Otunge
As the worlds’ attention turns to the implementation of the Glasgow Agreement reached under the just concluded COP 26, one body established in 2019 by the Africa Union(AU)’s African Scientific Research Innovation Council (ASRIC) comes into sharp focus.
The question in the mind of participants at the on-going 4th ASRIC Congress in Nairobi (22-25 November 2021) is how can the African Environmental Society (AES) rise to the occasion by spearheading the fight against climate emergency in Africa not to mention the implementation of COP26 promises made by Africa.
Dr. Mohammed Kyari, a senior scientist in charge of the AES says ‘the society has its work clearly cut out and it is a daunting task’. ASRIC, he says, is working closely with the AU to rally member states to join that society so that they can achieve a coordinated approach to tackling the climate emergency on the continent.
Needless to say, Africa is among the most affected regions by the impacts of climate change. There are rising temperatures, rising see levels, cyclical droughts, failed or inadequate rains, low agricultural productivity, locust invasion, emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases, name it. Some of the resultant challenges include water pollution, desertification, soil degradation, air pollution, deforestation among others.
The long and short is that Africa is highly vulnerable to the changing climate. Scientists are clear that the environmental challenges experienced in Africa are caused by anthropogenic sources on the natural environment which also has a major impact on human lives. The theory of anthropogenic climate change is that humans are causing most of the current changes in climate by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.
The consequences of climate change are increasingly affecting the ecosystems and biodiversity on the continent as elaborated in the book titled Climate Change Impact in Africa; Challenges and Opportunities within the Realms of Science and Technology & Innovation authored by the Africa Union Scientific Technical Research Committee on STISA-2024.
For starter, STISA 2024 stands for Science, technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa which rightly places STIs at the centre of the continent’s socio-economic development and growth. It is a 10-year plan towards implementation of the Union’s ambitious long-term STI strategy called AU Agenda 2063 aimed at responding to challenges in key sectors like water, environment, health, agriculture, mining, food security, energy, industrialization and infrastructure.
Thus, AES was formed to facilitate the implementation of the policies and strategies that address Africa’s vulnerability to environmental challenges, such as climate change.
As things stand now, says Dr. Kyari, the African Union Scientific, Technical and Research Commission (AU-STRC) is collaborating with various AU state parties to implement the mandates of the society. AU-STRC’s collaboration with states parties is bearing fruits if the Nigerian case study is anything to go by.
But what is the African Environmental Society? AES styles itself as the continental ombudsman and shepherd of the environment. It is scientific society which aims to build a robust network of experts and agencies on environment, providing sound and independent information on the environment.
Since its inception in 2019, the AES is involved in developing, adopting, implementing and evaluating environmental policies in Africa to be in accordance with the overall framework of the AU Agenda 2063.
It aims to develop an environment information observatory network in partnership with AU Member States, working closely together with national focal points, such as ministries of environment and natural resources and statutory institutions like the Kenya National Environment Authority (NEMA) established by Section (7) of the Environment Management and Coordination Act of Kenya of 1999(revised 2015).
The society’s main goal is to support sustainable development in Africa, by helping to achieve significant and measurable improvement in Africa’s responses to environment challenges and climate emergency. The AES does these through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policymaking agents and the public, Dr. Kyari told Science Africa journal on the sidelines of 4th ASTRIC Congress underway in Nairobi.
The society is angling to be the regional one-stop shop and source credible environmental information and knowledge, playing a leading role in supporting long-term transition to a sustainable utilization of Africa’s environmental resources in line with the provisions of and principles outlined in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and UN sustainable development goals, not to mention the 2015 Paris Agreement and other continental environmental governance instruments.
Its key target areas of intervention are sustainable use of land systems; climate change prevention, adaptation and mitigation; integrated management of water and marine resources; ecosystem-based and community-based management of biodiversity for sustainable and equitable use.
The AES has twin interrelated mandates. They are to help the states parties to make informed decisions about improving the environment, integrating environmental considerations into economic policies, and to coordinate the African environment information and observation network, reiterates Kyari.
He confirms that the membership of the society is also open to credible and relevant non-state actors that can add value to the work of the society. These may include environmental rights groups, agencies and foundations that share the concerns of the African Community Such non-state actors are given observer statuses by the society.
Performance of the society is set for review during the 4th ASTRIC congress. So far, its outputs include reports and outlooks, among other instruments that focuses on current trends and pressures, economic and social driving forces, policy effectiveness, and identification.
Our next report on this subject will focus on the performance of the society.