Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1236, (5 - 11 March 2015)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1236, (5 - 11 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Africa eyes the green economy

As Egypt assumes the rotating presidency of Africa’s environment ministers, the continent has much work to do, reports Mahmoud Bakr

Al-Ahram Weekly

Ecology, the green economy, climate change and other concerns of sustainable life on this planet were the topics discussed at a four-day meeting of African environment ministers in Cairo last week.

The 15th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) opened in Cairo on 2 March with 54 African ministers attending.

Its slogan, “Managing Africa’s Natural Capital for Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication,” set the stage for experts, academics and civil society groups to look into the continent’s ecological issues with a view to preserving its natural heritage for future generations while developing its economy in sustainable ways.

AMCEN was created in 1985 during a meeting of African ministers in Cairo. Egypt has recently taken over the presidency of the biannual conference from Tanzania.

Environment Minister Khaled Fahmi said that experts met in Cairo on 28 February had examined a groundbreaking paper on the green economy authored by Egypt in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

African officials and civil society groups had held extensive discussions on environmental challenges in Africa and the means of preserving the continent’s natural heritage, he said.

One of the aims of the conference was to seek better financing and implementation for key environmental projects supervised by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

African experts also coordinated a unified African position on global warming ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference slated for Paris in 2015.

Biological diversity and laws to curb the illegal wildlife trade were among the topics African officials addressed during the Cairo meeting.

Fahmi said that participants at the conference reviewed Africa’s strategy on the implementation of the Rio+20 Conference, which urged social equity, the green economy and sustainable development.

As current president of AMCEN, Egypt is coordinating research and recommendations in Africa and communicating with other international forums with a view to promoting best environmental practices. Egypt is also trying to boost regional development programmes, with a special focus on clean energy and sustainability.

Fahmi stressed the importance of cooperation among African nations in developing new and renewable resources. Speaking to experts attending the event, the minister noted that the Egyptian government is encouraging private investment in energy. Egypt is hoping to increase renewable energy production to one fifth of its total needs, he said.

A better environment is good for the economy, the minister stated. He spoke of plans to produce bio-energy from agricultural waste, noting that the government will launch projects of this type at the upcoming economic summit in Sharm El-Sheikh.

A recent report by UNEP notes that Egypt can make annual savings of up to $1.3 billion in agriculture and $1.1 billion in water consumption if it implements green economy projects. According to the same report, Egypt is also capable of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 13 per cent and water consumption by 40 per cent.

A research paper on the green economy suggests that the per capita share of water in Egypt will drop by 30 per cent or more in the next ten years.

Egypt is producing 36 per cent more solid waste today than it did 15 years ago, and it is depleting its natural resources at the rate of 3.7 per cent annually, the paper said.

A green economy study prepared by Egypt and UNEP, covering water, agriculture, energy and refuse, was discussed during the conference.

Egypt, Fahmi said, can reduce its nonagricultural consumption of water by anywhere between 10 and 20 per cent by following better environmental practices. In agriculture, changing irrigation methods could reduce water use by up to 40 per cent, he added.

Egypt can also save 20 per cent or more of the energy it uses in industry, he said, noting that the introduction of economy light bulbs can bring down electricity consumption by 30 per cent.

Egypt is recycling 2.5 per cent of its municipal refuse at present and is using 9 per cent of that refuse for organic fertilisers, Fahmi said. He added that garbage is not only an eyesore, but that it also emits methane, a greenhouse gas.

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