Plans in place but implementation limited, resulting in continued deforestation, loss of biodiversity and land degradation.
Africa: African countries have committed to integrate sustainability into development planning since the 1992 Rio Conference and continue to recognise the opportunities from transitioning to a green economy. They have ratified the three Rio Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC), components of which have also been adopted in AU conventions In a 2011 consensus statement on Rio+20, African countries committed to enhance efforts to improve national environment governance and strengthen partnerships with non-traditional actors and the private sector.
Development partners: Partners have ratified these multilateral agreements and have committed to support African efforts to achieve sustainable development based on concrete actions for the implementation of Agenda 21. They agreed to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 (MDG7), and have committed to promote sustainable forest management and tackle illegal activities such as logging and illicit trade in wildlife. The forthcoming Rio+20 Summit will generate commitments on: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.
What has been done to deliver on these commitments?
Africa: African governments have developed and commenced national strategies incorporating economic, social, environmental and institutional dimensions of sustainable development. While some initiatives have moved to action, implementation is generally weak and effectiveness has been limited. Inadequate institutional capacity, poor data and weak priority setting are key constraints, compounded by limited political voice and budgetary resources of Environment Ministries.
What results have been achieved?
Weak or ineffective environment policies and poor implementation have rendered environmental performance a serious concern in Africa. All but one African country fell in the bottom half of the 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which ranks 163 countries over 25 performance indicators assessing performance against established environmental policy goals. In terms of trends, nine African countries are among moderate to strong performers while 11 are among the declining to worst performers.
Bio-diversity information remains patchy. Africa has the highest risk of extinction of medicinal plants (over 50%) with concomitant risks for health and livelihoods. Species diversity is also declining: the Afrotropical Living Planet Index, which monitors changes in the population of vertebrate species across most of the continent, declined by 18% between 1970 and 2007.
Although Africa continues to experience deforestation, forest losses have slowed between 1990 and 2010, particularly in North Africa. Africa’s total area of planted forests grew from 11.6 to 15.3 million hectares between 1990 and 2010, with the largest area in North Africa. About 14% of the total forest area in Africa is designated for biodiversity conservation and is growing at 0.7% per annum. However, there has been an overall decline in primary forest area - area showing no visible indications of human activity - with a drop by 6% over the last five years. As a result, Africa has the lowest share of primary forest of all continents.
UNCCD: Two-thirds of Africa is classified as deserts or dry lands, concentrated in the Sahelian region, the Horn of Africa and the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa. Soil erosion from overgrazing, unsustainable agricultural practices and illegal timber logging, aggravated by climate change, play a major role in overall land degradation, which affects almost two-thirds of the African population.
While some initiatives have moved to action, implementation is generally weak and effectiveness has been limited. Inadequate institutional capacity, poor data and weak priority setting are key constraints, often compounded by limited political voice and budgetary resources of Environment Ministries. Funding, including innovative financial solutions, merits more attention. As the result of weak or ineffective implementation, all but one African country fell in the bottom half of the 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which ranks 163 countries over 25 performance indicators that assess performance against established environmental policy goals.
What are the future priority actions?