African governments need to speed up the implementation of environmental reforms if the continent is to match global efforts to combat climate change, according to a senior United Nations official.
Key to meeting the sustainable development goals adopted by the UN in 2015 is African leaders’ ability to foster partnerships, locally, nationally and regionally, Joyce Msuya, the deputy executive of the UN Environment Program, said in an interview at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment in Durban on South Africa’s east coast.
“As an African, I’m deeply aware of the existential crisis facing the continent, there’s no time to waste,” Msuya said. A significant challenge is the widely divergent capacities of individual countries to implement change, she said. “Making these changes are often very difficult and the fact is that a one-size-fits-all solution is not appropriate.”
A “particularly challenging dynamic” is the role of coal in the continent’s energy mix. “In an ideal world, we’d have renewable energy powering everything,” Msuya said. “But we’re not a perfect world, yet, and clearly there’s a long road ahead.”
Msuya called for greater collaboration from “Africa’s global partners” to help make the switch to renewable energy. “The continent is blessed with resources, abundant minerals underground, including coal, and also enough sun to generate clean energy,” she said. “Sadly, the equilibrium between the value of extracting a resource, and the consequences thereof, aren’t in balance, something we’re striving to.”
Indigenous knowledge may offer solutions to seemingly intractable problems, Msuya said. “I grew up at the foot of Kilimanjaro, and my grandparents looked after the land because the income derived from it paid for my father’s schooling and, in time, my education.”
Msuya put her trust in the continent’s youth to lead the environmental revolution. “My engagement with young people, here at AMCEN and elsewhere, is evidence enough, to me at least, of a collective search for solutions by young Africans,” she said. “I haven’t felt this hopeful about the future for a long time.”
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