President Lungu’s Recognition of Climate Change Crisis Laudable But We Must Also Tackle Bio-Diversity Loss Head On
During a meeting last week with the Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, President Lungu noted that the effects of climate change need urgent attention. Changing rainfalls and irregular weather patterns have become a frequent occurrence in Zambia, which has had distressing effects on food security and livelihoods.
His comments came just days after many African delegates met in Addis Ababa for the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Regional Consultation on the Post-2020 Framework to discuss the future of nature on the continent and the impact that rapid bio-diversity loss is going to have on food, water and income sources if more action is not taken.
Just as Baroness Scotland told State House that the Commonwealth is open to joining hands with countries in finding a permanent solution to the effects of climate change, so too should the Commonwealth and African continent join hands to halt bio-diversity loss, as the two are inextricably linked.
In Africa by 2050 we are set to lose 50% of all bird and mammal populations and see a 20-30% decline in the productivity of Africa’s lakes. In addition, an estimated 500,000 square kilometres of African land has been degraded by overexploitation of natural resources, erosion, salinsation and pollution.
This rapid loss of biodiversity and our extreme vulnerability to the impacts of climate change will have severe consequences for economically marginalised populations, unless we act now.
Many African leaders continue to fail to realise that across Africa bio-diversity is linked directly with climate change. The impact of its decline will be just as dramatic on the livelihoods, health, and food and water sources of our citizens.
Bio-diversity loss will directly impact a number of key economic sectors in Zambia; most notably agriculture and tourism. Indeed, many noted during the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Regional Consultation on the Post-2020 Framework in Addis Ababa that in order to combat climate change and biodiversity loss we need to look closely at expanding our protected areas.
As one Senior Scientist at CABI recently noted ‘Protected Areas remain the only place where threatened flora and fauna are protected from their adverse effects of accidental or deliberate release of invasive alien species, which has serious implications on other flora and fauna.’
More than just preserving species, protected areas can also offer a sustainable source of income and employment for many Zambians.
Zambia has already taken admirable steps towards this, Bangweulu in Zambia is a unique, community owned protected wetland, home to 50,000 people who retain the right to sustainably harvest its natural resources and who depend entirely on the richness the park provides. Fish stocks have significantly improved, poaching has been reduced, bird populations are up, and Bangweulu Wetlands is the largest employer in the region. If other African governments follow these examples and take bold action to protect nature, there is a real chance of achieving a new international agreement to halt biodiversity loss, reverse climate change and improving out resilience to changing weather patterns.
There are a number of recommendations for how much land and sea we should be looking to protect globally, and the Campaign for Nature’s call for 30% by 2030 has been garnering significant support on the African continent, Zambia now has an opportunity to show real leadership by joining the campaign.
Just as President Lungu has recognised the need to tackle climate change head on, he should extend this bold leadership to bio-diversity loss and with the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources encourage expanding protected areas both here in Zambia and across the continent.
Salomie Kisenge is a leading African environmental campaigner.