Earth Hour is the world’s largest grassroots environmental movement, mobilizing millions of people around the world to demonstrate their concern for nature. Every year in March since 2007, Earth Hour has inspired people to speak out about the climate and environmental issues in their communities.
In Africa, Earth Hour is a platform for people to raise their voices and make nature a priority. We must speak up against the decline of nature as the latest research and science indicates an unacceptably high rate of species extinction and the subsequent ecological collapse that will spell disaster for both humanity and the planet.
Deforestation, overfishing, illicit trafficking, extensive agricultural practices, unsustainable infrastructure, rapid urbanization, mining, plastics, and a slew of other factors are accelerating, undermining and degrading nature. For example, Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries is fraught with food insecurity, with the USAID estimating that over a third of households lack adequate food at any given time of the year. In addition, Madagascar is highly exposed to climate hazards. Over the past 35 years, more than fifty natural disasters have struck the Big Island, and cyclones, drought, floods and locust invasions have affected the lives of more than half the population. These natural disasters have brought in their wake food shortages and epidemics including malaria.
Agricultural productivity growth in Africa has been reduced by 34% since 1961 due to climate change, more than any other region. To put a halt to it, quick action is essential. More than ever before, we are experiencing a tremendous shift in awareness of the intertwined biodiversity, climate, and health issues that we face.
When biodiversity is destroyed, water supplies are jeopardized and food insecurity rises. When fishing areas, forests and grasslands are polluted or overexploited, livelihoods are put at risk. These damaging practices threaten nature’s ability to continue providing us with food and economic opportunities.
A healthy ecosystem is more equipped to endure climate change. We must do all possible to safeguard the health and resilience of natural systems so that they can continue to provide us with the food and economic benefits that the entire continent depends on. The Seychelles, off the coast of East Africa, depends heavily on its natural resources for tourism. Over 29,000 jobs (63.7% of total jobs) come from the tourism sector, which contributes an estimated $999.9 million to the islands’s GDP.
Nature has always been important to Africans and African people’s growth and well-being. It is the engine for socio-economic development since it provides food, health, water and a variety of other services. In fact, natural resources such as agricultural land, forests, water resources, ecosystems, and ecosystem services are critical to most African economies.
Many countries in Africa are ready to decarbonize their economies, to preserve their delicate ecosystems and to restore their damaged habitats. Science clearly shows that we need to act urgently to better protect nature, both as a safety net for livelihoods and as one of our strongest allies against future pandemics.
There is reason to be optimistic because later this year, world leaders will meet for the second part of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 to decide on a new global action plan for nature, making 2022 a once-in-a-decade opportunity to create a biodiversity framework that will halt and reverse nature loss for future generations. Further, Africa demonstrated collective leadership in supporting the call for a new global treaty on plastics at the just-ended UNEA 5.2 , signifying a massive leap in the right direction.
However, the most recent negotiations on the biodiversity framework have yet to produce the desired outcomes. Despite pledges to protect nature made by numerous world leaders in various meetings, nations are collectively failing to implement the Global Biodiversity Framework. They risk missing out on a once-in-a-decade chance to secure an ambitious and revolutionary accord capable of reversing biodiversity loss.
The current draft only requires that the “increase in the extinction rate to species is halted or reversed, and the extinction risk is reduced by at least 10 percent”. Instead, countries should push for urgent action to prevent the extinction of threatened species immediately and for the population abundance of species to be recovered by 2030. A strong review and ratchet mechanism is also lacking to ensure governments regularly review progress and increase action to hit targets.
Leaders will face a credibility problem if they do not move now to bridge the gap between nature-positive commitments and the unambitious and constrained draft Global Biodiversity Framework agreement. They risk breaching their nature pledges.
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Governments must act promptly and together to protect nature and all life on the planet, including our own, as well as to address the major drivers of environmental destruction, which are our unsustainable economic practices.
What we need now is a science-based document with quantifiable goals and targets, embracing a unifying and clear global goal for nature, comparable to the one we have for climate change.
We need a strong agreement that can bring the world together with the objective of reversing nature loss by 2030 and creating a future that is nature-positive. We must act now for nature and people, much more needs to be done – and done now – for pledges to match actions.
Alice Ruhweza is a WWF Africa Region Director.
For more information, please contact:
Head of communications, Africa (interim)
Whatsapp: +41 79 384 04 42
WWF-Africa Earth Hour Coordinator
Whatsapp: +27 082 756 5405