Brazzaville, 4 March 2021 (ECA) – The President of the Republic of Congo – Denis Sassou Nguesso, in his capacity as Chair of the Congo Basin Climate Commission (CBCC) and the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) – Vera Songwe, met on Wednesday in Brazzaville to discuss Africa’s position ahead of Cop26.
The President asked ECA’s Executive Secretary to work with him to build a common African position on pertinent issues pertaining to the continent in the lead-up to the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, slated for Glasgow in the United Kingdom in November 2021.
The meeting took place on the margins of the 7th African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD) organised by ECA, hosted by the Congo and jointly opened by the Congolese President, the UN Deputy Secretary-General – Amina Mohammed and the President of ECOSOC – Munir Akram.
“The Congo Basin holds the world’s second largest rainforest, with its trees soaking well over 1 billion tonnes of carbon every year, while its peatlands hold over 30 billion tonnes of carbon for our universe,” said Ms Vera Songwe, who maintained that these were critical assets which made the region’s contribution to mitigating climate change priceless and which must be systematically guarded and supported.
President Sassou Nguesso said Africa, especially through the dense forest countries of the Congo Basin, was already making the required efforts to preserve these ecosystems for the ecological health of the entire planet.
He recalled that the Congo Basin Climate Commission (CBCC), which he chairs, was launched during COP22 in November 2016 in Marrakech, Morocco to coordinate such efforts.
The 17-member country Commission launched the Congo Basin Blue Fund in March 2017, to mobilise resources to finance its programmes in the areas of the blue economy (economic activities related to ocean and inland water resources, and transport by water routes etc) and the green economy (sectors related to forest management, clean energy, ecotourism, etc), with the ultimate goal of alleviating poverty.
“So far, we have elaborated 24 sectoral programmes comprising a total of 254 bankable projects, costed at 6 billion dollars for our Blue Fund initiative so this is the time for our partners to support us in this effort at beating the effects of climate change and reversing its progress altogether,” President Sassou Nguesso added.
One of the ways in which Congo Basin countries could leverage their forest resources, which are indispensable for the struggle against climate change, for sustainable development, is by running systematic audits of such endowments through natural capital accounting (NCA).
UNDP, ECA and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in partnership with other development partners, were leading projects in this regard with a pilot going on in Gabon, noted Ms Songwe. The country is already benefiting from the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), a ground-breaking US$150 million scheme by Norway to pay for Gabon’s efforts at soaking up greenhouse gases via its forests, based on periodical evidence.
“We need more of these mutually beneficial programmes across Africa to ensure a consequential and just transitions to sustainable, green and climate-friendly development,” she argued.
It should be noted that the High-Level Commission on Carbon Pricing recommended a price of US$40-80 per tonne of carbon stored, through sinks such as forests, by 2020 and US$50 – 100 by 2030 to support the goals of the Paris Agreement which came into force in November 2016.
“It goes without saying that the Congo Basin is the second lung of the world and progress on climate action cannot be made without putting the Basin at the fore,” President Sassou Nguesso said, adding that other rich countries should join Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom in such support mechanisms.
“This is why Africa must create the conditions to speak with one voice on climate action and your efforts as the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa would be instrumental,” he added.
Ms Songwe reassured the Congolese Head of State that ECA would spare no effort to embolden an African common position ahead of COP26 in Glasgow as it continues to support the African Group of Negotiators on climate change (AGN), the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) and the Committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).
ECA’s Executives Secretary also commended President Sassou Nguesso on championing the Africa Communication and Information Platform for Health and Economic Action (ACIP), a continental tool that harnesses real-time anonymized data on COVID-19 to inform decision making at national and regional levels.
The mobile and web platform, developed by ECA and other partners, was made operational in November 2020. It immediately went live in the Congo.
It would ultimately reach 600 million mobile telephony subscribers in Africa, providing two-way conversations and data sharing between governments and their citizens on issues and solutions around challenging health situations such as COVID-19.
Ms Songwe said the platform would also serve the African continent in generating big data on other challenges such as climate change.
Congo’s resolve to develop science, technology and innovation (STI), also encouraged ECA to work with the Government to set up the African Artificial Intelligence Research Centre (CARIA, in French) at the Denis Sassou Nguesso University in Kintele, just outside of Brazzaville.
Ms Songwe joined the Congolese Minister of Higher Education, Jean Richard Bruno Itoua, to launch the Centre. She proceeded to sign a partnership agreement on setting up the Centre as well as on rolling out trials of 5G mobile network operations in the Congo in the coming months.
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