NASA images of the Congo River basin.
This year’s UN climate summit, the Conference of the Parties (COP27), will be hosted by Egypt and many are heralding the meeting as ‘Africa’s COP’. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has committed to using his role as host to advocate for Africa and other developing nations, but others are sceptical that anything beyond talk will come out of yet another COP or that anything will change for Africa’s outlook.
For Feker Tadesse, East Africa Regional Manager for Partnerships for Forests, a UK-funded project that catalyses investments into forests globally, overlooking the potential and opportunity to address climate change in Africa would be a mistake. “Africa is home to the greatest nature restoration opportunity globally,” she says. “There are 700 million hectares of degraded land across the continent that could be restored.”
The Congo Basin is the second largest carbon sink in the world (following the Amazon Rainforest), removing greenhouse gas emissions from our atmosphere and storing them naturally. But despite its critical ecosystems, Africa continues to bear the brunt of the worst effects of the climate crisis.
“Africa is also the continent that is most dependent on the land, yet most vulnerable to climate change,” Tadesse adds. Africa only contributes about 3% to global greenhouse gas emissions but suffers disproportionately from its effects, as climate change compounds issues like food insecurity, extreme heat, and droughts. Many countries lack the resources, both financially and technically, to adapt to these changes on their own.
Last year, at COP26, some of the major stakeholders in the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative put out a challenge to raise US$2 billion in investments into the Initiative by COP27. AFR100 is a country-led effort to restore 100 million hectares of land in Africa by 2030.
The African Development Bank, Government of Germany, Global Environment Facility, Bezos Earth Fund, the Global EverGreening Alliance, and Green Climate Fund responded, announcing their plan to significantly invest in land restoration by 2026 and have called on their peers to join them in mobilising the US$2 billion in investable capital.
Tadesse and the team at Partnerships for Forests have been working closely with AFR100 for years, providing technical assistance to the Initiative on its journey to 100 million hectares. “We’ve seen significant traction towards this goal since COP26 but is US$2 billion enough? I don’t think so,” Tadesse says. “It’s a significant number, but the need is so much more. Though it’s been gratifying to see restoration become a critical part of the agenda and conversation.”
Now that some funding is flowing to projects doing restoration work through the initiative, there will soon be case studies of successfully implemented projects with businesses that could attract additional investments. “Buy in from governments is and will continue to be critical, and that’s something we’re working on with AFR100,” says Tadesse. “We’ve helped to set up eight forest and landscape national platforms in relevant ministries across East Africa and we’d like to see that continue, especially with other countries setting up these platforms and restoration activities on their own.”
And while getting national governments to buy in and support restoration projects is a critical first step, the next will be mobilising private sector investments to projects on the ground. “There truly is an increased interest in restoration in Africa. It’s not just talk, it’s now being backed by financing and that’s really exciting.”
The hope, she adds, is that initiatives like AFR100 are scaled and replicated so that it becomes clear that there is financing out there for restoration activities and that those activities can be both sustainable and profitable businesses. “There is a huge opportunity at COP27 to highlight the importance of restoration work in Africa and to ensure and secure private sector investments and country-level commitments to that work.”
Whether it’s mobilising funding, setting up match campaigns as the Bezos Earth Fund did for AFR100, or supporting the coordination in countries to establish landscape restoration activities as P4F does, it’s clear that while the spotlight is on – and in – Africa for COP27, there’s no better time to promote the continent’s importance in the fight against climate change.
For more like this, read 'There's a Reality in the Middle': My Trip to the Amazon Rainforest' or contact email@example.com.