Key note address by Mr. Carlos Lopes at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2014


Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2014

Tackling the Energy, Water, and Food Security challenges in Africa


Key note address  by Mr. Carlos Lopes, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ECA


7 February, 2014

Delhi, India

7 February, 2014Delhi, India



Honorable Ministers

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to be here in India and would like to start by thanking The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) under the leadership of my dear friend Dr. Pachauri for convening this summit.  We have a unique opportunity and space before us; I believe all us gathered here share the same ambition of unlocking solutions to the complex nexus between energy, water, and food security for the benefit of the world’s present and future generations.

There are two inter-related issues that I would like to focus on when looking at the nexus between the theme of our Summit and Africa.

Let me first mention that we need to collectively persuade the skeptics of climate change, on just how vulnerable we are to it. We should do this by navigating scientific findings and hard facts that make its impact unequivocal. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states the last three decades have been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade, since 1850. Scientists further predict that the current pace of warming is 10 times faster than any other over the last 65 million years.

Warming across Africa is predicted at an equally alarming rate. Yet the paradox is that of all the regions of the world, Africa is believed to be the one causing the least harm to the climate. Its CO2 emissions per capita are less than 1 ton per annum and it accounts for just 2.4 % of world emissions. However, climate damage as a percentage of GDP is higher in Africa than elsewhere in the world.

The second issue is about leveraging the opportunities that arise for Africa’s transformation agenda if we properly address climate change.

With an average GDP growth projected to climb to 6% this year, and with continuous good prosperity, Africa is likely to outstrip Asia’s growth records by 2050. It is already the fastest-growing continent, despite an ailing global economy and it is imperative for Arica to capitalize on growth for real transformation. The only way to do it is through industrialization. To illustrate the pace, it took Great Britain 155 years to double its GDP during the industrial revolution and Africa has achieved the same in the last twelve. The key for Africa is the type of industrialization path it chooses so that it can be part of the sustainable development solution without having to forfeit its right to industrialize.

This is particularly significant when considering that Africa’s population is projected to double in the next 40 years representing about half of the globe’s total population growth. By 2050, Africa’s youth alone will constitute over a quarter of the world’s labour force. With a rising middle class and rapid urbanization taking place at a rate that is more than twice the world’s urban growth rate of 3.7 % a year – invariably demand for food, energy and water will rise.   This could either trigger a competition for resources or present a rare and historical opportunity for a rapid green industrialization offering incredible investment opportunities and real dividends.

Green industrialization can tackle the continents energy, water and food security challenge, if we do it right. As I had proposed at the Third Annual Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa held last year, allow me to share a six point strategy for Africa going forward.

First Africa has the potential to leap to a new clean techno-economic paradigm. For instance, the European Commission's Institute for Energy suggests that just 0.3 % of the sunlight that shines on the Sahara and Middle East deserts could supply all of Europe's energy needs.  As Africa is not locked in any technology preferences, it can follow a green and clean energy pathway and leapfrog old carbon-intensive models and pursue a low carbon development pathway. The growing awareness of environmental degradation and climate change is giving rise to new Research & Design priorities like clean energy technologies that could be scaled-up rapidly. The continent is well positioned to absorb, adapt and build on the vast quantities of scientific and technical knowledge already available. Many African countries, such as Cape Verde, Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco, or Uganda are already investing in innovative renewable and clean energy sectors and offsetting traditional energy sources dependent on fossil fuels, biomass and forest resources. 

Second, greater investment in climate science, services and the production of high quality data is imperative for Africa. This is to facilitate the development of early warning systems and initiate much needed research on climate impact, vulnerability and adaptation; and for creating a knowledge economy.  Many global, African and national institutions are already making progress in transforming climate data, information systems and science. In fact, one of the fundamental and priority undertakings of the ClimDev-Africa programme, is to make climate information widely available to inform policy decisions, and development planning.

Third, we have to improve our institutional and policy capacity. There must be investment in mechanisms for a concerted engagement of all key players.  From climate and social scientists, to development economists, policy makers, entrepreneurs, to users of climate information, and so on. Not only would this help coordinate efforts, it would also contribute to the design of innovative multi-sectoral strategies, mainstream climate change into national development plans, and usher in a new form of deliberative democracy. To prepare for climate risks in urban infrastructure and development countries could build climate-proof urban infrastructure and development, and put transport systems on a low-carbon path, like Côte d’Ivoire, Algeria, South Africa and others are doing.

Fourth, investing in expanded south-south partnerships, that’s why we are here in India, can help risk management. By systematically sharing experiences and lessons learned, disaster-prone countries facing similar challenges can arrive at better climate change solutions. For example, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Small Island States share similar challenges. They can step up efforts to address these challenges and establish south-south cooperation to focus on their unique challenge and incubate several options that will insulate them from current vulnerabilities and develop future opportunities.  It is essential for Africa to go beyond the sum total of individual countries capacities.

Fifth, let us leverage Africa’s agriculture. With a growing population and an ever-increasing demand for food, investments in agriculture are critical. Investing in production technologies, innovation, water use efficiency and sustainable land management are essential. The bulk of agricultural export across the continent is still predominantly in the form of primary products, with very limited value addition. Leveraging the capacity of the private sector to scale-up investment in agro processing would create jobs and diversify export commodities. Unlocking the sector’s strong multiplier effect in the economy would further contribute to increased incomes and poverty reduction.

Sixth, let us use tourism for Africa’s advantage and the world’s biodiversity wealth. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, Africa is one of the fastest-growing tourism destinations.  There is already growing recognition of the urgent need for the tourism industry, national governments and international organizations to develop and implement strategies to face the changing climate conditions. Scaling-up investments in ecotourism could mitigate tourism’s environmental impact like The Gambia, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Seychelles and South Africa examples are demonstrating. 

Ladies and Gentleman,

Climate change was responsible for bad and good in the past. Most of it happened without humans having a clue why it was so. Now we know. To avoid the bad and aim for the good Africa can take the lead and not be a spectator.

I thank you