African nations meet on ‘critical’ nature conservation

Delegates from across Africa launched on Monday the first continent-wide gathering about the role of protected areas in ensuring the future of our planet in Rwanda.

The IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) was being held just a few months before the COP15 summit in December, when global leaders were aiming to adopt a much-delayed pact to shield nature from the damage wrought by human activity.

“Protected areas are critical for the survival of the planet,” International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Director, General Bruno Oberle, said on the opening day of the talks in the capital, Kigali.

“And the more we manage them for the benefit of people and nature, the more we will build a future where everyone — human and animal — thrives,” he said on Twitter.

Organisers said APAC will aim to shape the role of protected and conserved areas in safeguarding Africa’s wildlife, delivering vital ecosystem services, and promoting sustainable development while conserving the continent’s cultural heritage and traditions.

“It is high time that African policymakers put in place strong measures and strategies to ensure that the devastation of our rich biodiversity is stopped,” Rwandan Prime Minister, Edouard Ngirente, said.

Last month, the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) 196 members held negotiations on the global biodiversity framework in Nairobi, but made only limited progress in ironing out differences.

At the heart of the COP15 draft treaty was a provision to designate 30 percent of Earth’s land area and oceans as protected zones by 2030.

More than 90 world leaders have signed a pledge over the past two years to reverse nature loss by then, saying the interconnected threats of biodiversity loss and climate change were a “planetary emergency”.

According to the most recent Protected Planet report by the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, only 17 percent of land habitats and around seven percent of marine areas were protected by 2020.

One million species were threatened with extinction, according to UN experts, and global warming was on track to make large swathes of the planet unlivable.

UN biodiversity experts warned this month that rampant exploitation of nature was a threat to the well-being of billions of people across the world who relied on wild species for food, energy and income. –

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