2021 One Climate Summit: Focus on Pandemic and Africa’s Great Green Wall

Written by | Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

“2021 must be the year to reconcile humanity with nature,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday (11 January at the One Planet Summit, the first major environment summit of the year. About 30 world leaders and heads of international organizations, including Guterres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng, met via videoconference aiming to make 2021 “a milestone for the mobilization for nature”. “We have been poisoning air, land and water and filling oceans with plastic, and now nature is striking back. Temperatures are reaching record highs, biodiversity is collapsing, deserts are spreading, fires, floods and hurricanes are more frequent and extreme, and we are extremely fragile,” said Guterres.
To achieve these objectives, the one-day event was a chance for the world leaders to organize political action and financing for biodiversity projects around the world and also to restart international environment talks stalled by the coronavirus pandemic. The One Planet Summit, which was organized by France in cooperation with the United Nations and the World Bank, also saw pledges to protect the planet and funds for Africa’s Great Green Wall, with major funders announcing some $14.3 billion to accelerate its development. Ahead of the summit, the UN called the pandemic “a dramatic reminder of the importance of nature for our daily lives and economies,” and idea that was also picked up by Guterres who called biodiversity “our life insurance” and said the pandemic recovery was the world’s “chance to change course.”
Ahead of the event, held annually since 2017, major funders, including the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development announced about $14.3 billion to accelerate the development of the Great Green Wall project in Africa’s semiarid Sahel region – an area particularly devastated by the effects of climate change – over the next five years. The massive reforestation plan aims to push back against the southward expansion of the Sahara Desert with a band of trees, grasslands and other planted earth 8,000 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide stretching across the continent. “The Great Green Wall is part of Africa’s environmental defense system, a shield against an onslaught of desertification and degradation,” said Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank. The French president noted at the event that progress on the project had been slow because of a lack of political and financial commitment from the global community. “I had set myself the goal of raising at least one-third of the funds required for this ambitious project by 2030,” said Macron. “I’m happy to announce that we have reached – and surpassed – this goal.”

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