WWF welcomes wildlife announcement in China-Africa plan
This announcement, along with wide-ranging developmental ambitions, are contained in the final Declaration and Action Plan flowing from the 6th Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) that concluded in Johannesburg last week.
During the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping told African leaders that China would put 60 billion USD into development projects and cancel debts under a three-year plan.
There is concern, however, that some of the most pressing environmental issues facing the African continent have not been integrated into the plan which also outlines a major push for infrastructural development, from more intensive agriculture through to rapid industrialisation on the continent.
Dr Li Lin, WWF’s China for a Global Shift Initiative leader, said: “We salute president Xi’s insight that China-Africa cooperation is by no means at the expense of the African ecological environment and long-term interests. We would like to see full implementation of president Xi’s commitment into China-Africa cooperation, especially in sectors such as industry, sustainable finance, renewable energy and infrastructure.
“We would also like to see financial institutions playing a critical role in leveraging resource and energy efficient investments and ensuring energy access. And we would like to see China-African cooperation exploring a new development path where we can all realise our development goals whilst living within the ecological limits of our planet.”
Said Fredrick Kumah, WWF Regional Director for Africa: “The fact that there is a sub-section devoted to environmental concerns in the Action Plan is a welcome indication that environmental awareness is beginning to find its way onto the China-Africa agenda. However there are some vital issues at play. Given the unparralleled infrastructural growth slated for the continent through the FOCAC engagement, we had hoped to see a more integrated approach to sustainable development and a greater commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), rather than a footnote.
“Africa, with its unique biodiversity, is at a crossroads. We can choose a path that takes us further down the road of environmental degradation or we can invoke the sustainable land-use planning and financial safeguards that will not only protect this continent’s treasures but also benefit its people in the long term. Food, energy and water are the three key driver pressures for Africa. The sustainable development and use of these big three will be critical to people and nature. Chinese investments must ensure sustainability in this regard.”
In the Action Plan, the two sides have agreed that China will help to build capacity to protect the continent’s abundant biodiversity, including the fight the illegal wildlife trade, in particular with regard to ivory and rhino horn. The plan commits China and Africa to better manage border facilities; search, seize and destroy poached resources together; as well as to share in intelligence gathering to “undermine the responsible syndicates, acknowledging their linkages to international organised crime”.
There are promises to set up a China-Africa Environmental Cooperation Centre and both sides have agreed to work together to improve management of water resources and to rehabilitate disused mines. Importantly, in relation to promises made at the climate conference COP21 in Paris, the plan also incorporates undertakings to deepen cooperation on climate change and the transfer of knowledge around new, game-changing technologies to help to alleviate sub-Saharan Africa’s energy poverty.