Africa, EU partnership crucial in climate change

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020 00:00 |
European Union. Photo/Courtesy

Jutta Urpilainen  

In the past few months, the world as we know it has changed in ways we could not have imagined a year ago.

However, even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the path to a sustainable future was under threat.

At the same time, we started to build a new partnership between Africa and Europe.

A partnership that turns some of the great challenges facing us, such as climate emergency and digital divide, into solutions for a better future.

Twin continents embracing together the twin transition. Building on shared interests and values, our new approach puts forward win-win opportunities for both.

In March, the European Commission put forward a proposal ‘Towards a comprehensive strategy with Africa’.

Building on the priorities agreed in Abidjan in 2017 and successful work of Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, the joint communication marks the beginning of a new chapter for a more comprehensive partnership between our continents.

Together, we face problems related to the climate emergency, biodiversity loss and pollution.

We have to reconcile planet and economy, and the European Union took a critical step forward with the launch of the European Green Deal.

From how we produce to how we consume, the Green Deal is an ambitious growth strategy, which aims to take on the massive climate and environmental challenges facing us.

Our success will hinge on working hand-in-hand with partner countries around the world through international partnerships, including trade agreements and green initiatives. For this, we need allies and partnerships. 

A crucial partnership is with our closest neighbour, twin continent and natural partner: Africa.

The EU and Africa need to opt for a low-carbon, resource efficient and climate-resilient future to deliver Sustainable Development Goals.

We can achieve that by having a solid international partnership with ambitious objectives.

This means proposing integrated responses that tackle climate change and environmental degradation, and consider the economic and social dimensions. 

There is work to be done. GDP exposure in African nations vulnerable to extreme climate patterns is projected to grow from $895 billion in 2018 to about $1.4 trillion in 2023, nearly half of the continent’s GDP (based on pre-Covid estimates). The cost of inaction is greater than action. And we need to act together.

I am proud of our Team Europe response in Africa. We have supported measures such as G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative; organised a global pledging conference for vaccines raising $18.9 billion; and have collectively, with member states, allocated $8.3 billion in support.

But our work is not done, we must learn important lessons from this pandemic. First, we must not wait around for crises to hit, secondly we must learn to think in the long-term, and be proactive and reactive.

Our focus should be on making rapid progress on areas with great potential for both our continents: sustainable energy and food systems, protecting biodiversity through restoring ecosystems, fighting wildlife trafficking, and sustainable forest, land and protected area management.

For example, with our project, Beyond livelihoods at Lake Naivasha, Kenya, we show how the fight to save biodiversity and reverse changing climate can help restore communities in difficult situations.

One thing for sure is that the green transition will need massive investments. Public funds alone will not be enough.

This is why we are de-risking investment to pave the road for more private sector engagement in Africa and to support the green transition for all. 

The pandemic is arguably the biggest test the world has faced since the Second World War. 

We find ourselves at a crossroads with the unique opportunity to start afresh and spearhead a recovery that does not repeat the mistakes of the past.

There has never been a better moment for Africa and Europe to join forces. Together we can lead a smart transformation, and make our world a more resilient, safe place for our children and generations to come. — The writer is the European Commissioner for International Partnerships

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