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Ghana Becomes First African Nation to Join Ambitious Partnership to End Plastic Pollution

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The Government of Ghana formally joined the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) today, becoming the first African nation to combine forces with this ambitious new initiative dedicated to eradicating plastic waste and pollution worldwide.

Ghana is the second country to partner with GPAP, a public-private platform dedicated to fostering action to combat the plastic pollution crisis. In Ghana, it will work closely with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) to develop a national roadmap for sustainably managing and reducing the country’s plastic waste challenge, while continuing to boost its economic growth.

The Ghana National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP) was announced by His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, at a gathering of more than 250 policy-makers, business leaders, sustainable development advisers, waste management experts, entrepreneurs and youth representatives – all of whom have carried out successful work in different sectors to combat the country’s plastic waste and pollution.

“With this partnership, Ghana is taking a historic step forward in our environmental stewardship, our sustainable growth, and our vision for the future,” said the president. “Our nation is flourishing with an extraordinary wealth of expertise, knowledge, innovations, social enterprise, and willpower to take on this issue. Throughout every sector and level, from local government to waste management pioneers and young student leaders, Ghanaians are actively contributing to the fight against plastic pollution. We are pleased to partner with the Global Plastic Action Partnership to bring together existing efforts, scale up these highly successful initiatives, and fast-track our progress towards a collective goal – to achieve zero leakage of plastic waste into our oceans and waterways.”

The Ghana NPAP will support the country’s public, private and civil society sectors in transitioning to a circular plastics economy, which directly addresses the root cause of plastic pollution by fundamentally reshaping the way plastics are produced, used and re-used. A parallel engagement is currently under way in Indonesia, the first GPAP country partner.

“We are deeply honoured that the Government of Ghana, under the leadership of President Akufo-Addo, has chosen to partner with GPAP in a collective effort to drive forward the country’s plastic action agenda,” said Kristin Hughes, Director of the Global Plastic Action Partnership and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “As one of Africa’s leading political and economic forces, Ghana has the potential to not only dramatically reduce its own plastic pollution, but also to spark off a wave of unprecedented plastic action across the African continent. We are confident that the findings and achievements from this highly meaningful partnership will serve as a model of success for the rest of the world.”

The Ghana NPAP will also be supported by the Global Environment Facility, which sits on the Governing Council of GPAP and co-chairs the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, a public-private collaboration mechanism dedicated to driving the global circular economy transition.

“The growing menace of plastic pollution is being felt all around the world,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility. “I want to commend Ghana for its leadership in being the first African nation to join the Global Plastic Action Partnership. Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, and its support for a circular plastics economy is an important signal to others across the continent.”

As part of broader strategic efforts to accelerate the reduction of plastic waste and pollution in Ghana, the NPAP will work in close alignment with two key initiatives. The first, a National Plastic Management Policy, championed by MESTI, will transform the management of plastics throughout the value chain, injecting sustainability and reusability into every step of the plastic life cycle.

“By putting standards and policies in place to guide the transition towards a circular plastics economy, we will achieve myriad positive outcomes for Ghana,” said Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Ghana’s Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation. “We will see the creation of new jobs in the sustainable waste management sector; the protection of women, children and other vulnerable communities from the damaging effects of mismanaged plastic waste; and accelerated progress towards many of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

At the same time, the Ghana multi-stakeholder ‘Waste’ Recovery Platform, facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will accelerate these efforts by creating a one-stop shop solution platform (both in-person and digital) for stakeholders to exchange data, solutions, and technological innovations on waste recovery.

“We are delighted to join forces with the Government of Ghana and the Ghana NPAP to amplify our collective impact,” said Silke Hollander, Resident Representative a.i. of UNDP Ghana. “The ‘Waste’ Recovery Platform is very much owned and driven by traditional and non-traditional stakeholders in the waste management sector and beyond in Ghana. By leveraging the incredible entrepreneurial initiatives underway and creating a space where people can connect, exchange knowledge and share good practices, as well as co-design and partner to find solutions, we are confident that the Platform will help Ghana move towards the circular economy and reduce plastic pollution in the near future.”

“The scope and depth of this partnership in Ghana truly represents a new and remarkable way to tackle the world’s most pressing issues,” added Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “It’s clear that no single institution or sector can take on the plastic pollution crisis alone. In Ghana and across the world, GPAP is bringing together government, business and civil society organizations – and it’s also working closely with local entrepreneurs, women and young people to ensure that their voices and initiatives are heard. This is how we can achieve an equitable and sustainable future.”

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Western Indian Ocean region has declared 550,000 square kilometers as protected

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The Western Indian Ocean region has declared 143* marine and coastal areas as protected – an area covering 553,163 square kilometers, representing 7 percent of the total Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for the region – according to a new publication by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)-Nairobi Convention and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association.

The Marine Protected Areas Outlook, released today, indicates that almost half of the total area – an estimated 63 percent of the overall square kilometers – was brought under protection in the seven years since the 2015 adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 14.5, which committed countries to conserving at least 10 percent of their marine and coastal areas by 2020.

This Outlook examines the current and future status of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Comoros, Kenya, France (in its Western Indian Ocean territories), Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania, emphasizing the increased commitment of countries to strengthen marine protection. In 2019 alone, Seychelles brought 30 percent of its Exclusive Economic Zone under protection, safeguarding the habitats of 2,600 species, while South Africa declared 20 new MPAs – enabling both countries to exceed the 10 percent target. Comoros has developed new MPA-specific legislation, while over three hundred Locally Managed Marine Areas – i.e., areas in which coastal communities shoulder the mantle of conservation – have been declared across the region.

The publication further documents the dozens of proposed MPAs currently under consideration by countries, which would cover an additional 50,000 square kilometers or more. Nevertheless, with only 7 percent of the region’s total EEZ under protection, greater momentum and investments will be required by countries to reach the more ambitious target of 30 percent protection by 2030, as proposed under the Global Biodiversity Framework.  

Although the ocean provides us with resources essential for survival, including food, employment, and even oxygen, the world is damaging and depleting it faster than ever. Soon, the region may no longer be able to count on the many jobs, health, and economic benefits – valued at 20.8 billion USD – that the Western Indian Ocean provides. Marine protected areas offer one of the best options to reverse these trends. 

“A well-managed MPA can bring significant economic, social, and environmental benefits to a country,” said Yamkela Mngxe, Acting Director of Integrated Projects and International Coordination in South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. “They can increase food security by preventing the overexploitation of fish stocks; create and protect jobs in the tourism and fisheries sectors; build resilience to climate change; and protect species and habitats.”

Though countries in the region have made significant strides in protecting its marine and coastal areas, the Outlook outlines best practices, challenges, and several opportunities to build on thisprogressto ensure the entire region meets future Global Biodiversity Framework targets on marine protected areas. The Outlook’s assessment of the management effectiveness of MPAs indicates that MPA frameworks and institutions do not always function effectively. Nor is relevant legislation consistently implemented, due to financial or personnel capacity gaps; weak enforcement on MPA boundaries; and management decisions that are not guided by science.

Key recommendations from the Outlook therefore include:

  1. The need for dedicated budgets for MPA management;
  2. Adopting proactive law enforcement and compliance strategies to ensure MPA regulations and guidelines are being respected which could be informed by the best practices in fishery reserves like Mauritius, which have helped to restore fish stocks and protect biodiversity;
  3. Incorporating research and monitoring programmes on biodiversity and ecosystems into decision-making in MPAs;
  4. Strengthening community engagement in marine protection by implementing lessons learned by the MIHARI Network, which brings together more than 200 Locally Managed Marine Areas in Madagascar.

“The MPA Outlook comes at a time when the region has embarked on large-scale socio-economic developments that are equally exerting pressure on MPAs,” said Hon. Flavien Joubert,Minister of Agriculture, Climate Change, and Environment of the Seychelles. “The Outlook thus provides some answers and innovative approaches to minimize the scale of negative impacts on MPAs.”

The MPA Outlook concludes that by seizing the opportunities it presents, countries in the region can capitalize on this progress to safeguard the Western Indian Ocean’s immense natural beauty and resources for generations to come – and sustain momentum towards achievement of the post 2020 biodiversity framework targets.

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Deadly flooding, heatwaves in Europe, highlight urgency of climate action

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Floods have affected cities across Europe, including Zurich in Switzerland. Unsplash/Claudio Schwarz

Heavy rainfall that has triggered deadly and catastrophic flooding in several western European countries, is just the latest indicator that all nations need to do more to hold back climate change-induced disasters, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday.

The agency said that countries including Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands had received up to two months’ rain in two days from 14 to 15 July, on ground that was “already near saturation”.

Photos taken at the scene of some of the worst water surges and landslides show huge, gaping holes where earth and buildings had stood until mid-week, after media reports pointed to well over 100 confirmed fatalities in Germany and Belgium on Friday morning, with an unknown number still missing across vast areas.

“We’ve seen images of houses being…swept away, it’s really, really devastating”, said WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis adding that that the disaster had overwhelmed some of the prevention measures put in place by the affected developed countries.

In a statement issued by his Spokesperson, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said he was saddened by the loss of life and destruction of property. “He extends his condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims and to the Governments and people of the affected countries.”

The UN chief said the UN stood ready to contribute to ongoing rescue and assistance efforts, if necessary.

“Europe on the whole is prepared, but you know, when you get extreme events, such as what we’ve seen – two months’ worth of rainfall in two days – it’s very, very difficult to cope,” added Ms. Nullis, before describing scenes of “utter devastation” in Germany’s southwestern Rhineland-Palatinate state, which is bordered by France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Highlighting typical preparedness measures, the WMO official noted In Switzerland’s national meteorological service, MeteoSwiss, had a smartphone application which regularly issued alerts about critical high-water levels.

The highest flood warning is in place at popular tourist and camping locations including lakes Biel, Thun and the Vierwaldstattersee, with alerts also in place for Lake Brienz, the Rhine near Basel, and Lake Zurich.

Dry and hot up north

In contrast to the wet conditions, parts of Scandinavia continue to endure scorching temperatures, while smoke plumes from Siberia have affected air quality across the international dateline in Alaska. Unprecedented heat in western north America has also triggered devastating wildfires in recent weeks.

Among the Scandinavian countries enduring a lasting heatwave, the southern Finnish town of Kouvola Anjala, has seen 27 consecutive days with temperatures above 25C. “This is Finland, you know, it’s not Spain, it’s not north Africa,”, Ms. Nullis emphasised to journalists in Geneva.

“Certainly, when you see the images we’ve seen in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands this week it’s shocking, but under climate change scenarios, we are going to see more extreme events in particular extreme heat,” the WMO official added.

Troubled waters

Concerns persist about rising sea temperatures in high northern latitudes, too, Ms. Nullis said, describing the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea at a “record” high, “up to 26.6C on 14 July”, making it the warmest recorded water temperature since records began some 20 years ago.

Echoing a call by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to all countries to do more to avoid a climate catastrophe linked to rising emissions and temperatures, Ms. Nullis urged action, ahead of this year’s UN climate conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow, in November.

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South Africa Invests in Biodiversity to Promote Rural Development and Conservation

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South Africa is stepping up investment for its wildlife and biodiversity sectors thanks to a grant of $8.9 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The Catalyzing Financing and Capacity for the Biodiversity Economy Around Protected Areas Project aims to enhance South Africa’s stewardship of its rich biodiversity and expand the benefits of protected areas for local communities. It will also help address high unemployment and limited livelihoods options in and around protected areas as well as inequality in rural economies.

The project supports South Africa’s efforts to foster the unrealized potential of its wildlife and biodiversity sectors as drivers for economic growth, including through expanding conservation areas and mitigating threats to protected areas and conservation objectives.

It puts into action South Africa’s biodiversity economy node concept, which identifies certain areas within the country as containing both high-value biodiversity and opportunities for economic development. The project will target activities in three biodiversity economy nodes: (i) the Greater Addo to Amathole node in the Eastern Cape Province, (ii) the Greater Kruger-Limpopo node in Limpopo Province, and (iii) the Greater-iSimangaliso node in KwaZulu-Natal Province.

“The biodiversity economy is central to South Africa’s tourism industry and building the resilience of communities to climate change. Empowering communities to invest in the biodiversity economy will create jobs, promote biodiversity stewardship and stimulate rural development in a climate-smart way,” said Marie Françoise Marie Nelly, World Bank Country Director for South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, and Namibia.

Project activities include providing training, mentorship, and capital to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); expanding the area of land under protected status through South Africa’s land stewardship  program; and facilitating knowledge exchange to support expansion of the biodiversity economy across the country based on lessons learned from the three nodes.

The project is aligned with South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030 and its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2015-2025, both of which identify the wildlife economy as an important sector for job creation and economic growth. It also supports South Africa’s climate change objectives and Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement. The project’s focus on inclusive job creation and economic growth through the development of MSMEs, integrated value chains, and entrepreneurship is also fully aligned with a draft World Bank Group Country Partnership Framework for South Africa.

About the Global Environment Facility

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established 30 years ago on the eve of the Rio Earth Summit to tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Since then, it has provided more than $21.5 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $117 billion in co-financing for more than 5,000 projects and programs. The GEF is the largest multilateral trust fund focused on enabling developing countries to invest in nature and supports the implementation of major international environmental conventions including on biodiversity, climate change, chemicals, and desertification. It brings together 184 member governments in addition to civil society, international organization, and private sector partners. Through its Small Grants Programme, the GEF has provided support to more than 25,000 civil society and community initiatives in 135 countries.

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