African Union Celebrates Environment Day Focusing on Climate Change Resilience, Biodiversity Conservation and Traditional Knowledge
3 March 2010: The African Union Commission (AUC) commemorated Africa Environment Day under the theme “African Resilience to Climate Change: Biodiversity Conservation and Enhancing Traditional Knowledge,” in celebrations hosted by the Government of Tanzania.
The purpose of the celebration was to raise awareness on sustainable environmental management among decision makers at national, regional and continental levels, highlighting climate change as the main factor leading to land degradation and desertification, hunger, deprivation, poverty and underdevelopment in Africa. In this regard, the Africa Environment Day organizers noted that African leaders showed their will to build a better continent by addressing climate change at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009.
In a statement to mark the Day, Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), stressed that the negative impacts of climate change on biodiversity have significant economic, ecological and human costs, and disproportionately affect traditional communities. He underscored that the ramifications of biodiversity loss will be particularly severe in Africa, where agriculture and agricultural biodiversity account for 20 to 60% of national GDP and most production takes place in dry and sub-humid lands that are vulnerable to desertification under changing climatic conditions. He urged leaders to continue emphasizing the importance of traditional knowledge, and to monitor the impacts of climate change on biodiversity in partnership with indigenous and local communities.
Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), highlighted that "desertification, land degradation and drought remain Africa's foremost environmental challenges, but these challenges are now magnified by the mediating effects of climate change." He said an effective resilience strategy must focus on protecting all forms of biological diversity, in particular soil biodiversity, and must build on Africa's traditional knowledge. He also invited governments, institutions and peoples of Africa to partner with the UNCCD Secretariat in its campaign during the United Nations Decade on Deserts and Desertification (2010-2020).
Also in a message to mark the Day, Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), expressed WMO's commitment to support Africa's efforts in building resilience to climate change and protecting biodiversity. He provided an update on the Global Framework for Climate Services, underlining that it would contribute to meeting vital challenges that Africa is facing in the areas of disaster prevention, food security and water management.
Africa Environment Day was designated in 2002 by the then Organization of the African Unity Council of Ministers, based on the recognition of the numerous environmental challenges confronting the African continent, which over the years have been further aggravated by loss of biological diversity, climate change and desertification. [AU Media Advisory] [AU Press Release] [CBD Executive Secretary's Statement] [UNCCD Executive Secretary's Statement] [WMO Executive Secretary's Statement]