Closing remarks by H.E. Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa at the 17th ordinary session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).

Olive Convention Centre, Durban, Kwazulu-Natal Province, South Africa, 15 November 2019

H.E Mr Lee White, Minister of Forests, Sea and Environment, in charge of Climate Plan of Gabon and outgoing President of AMCEN;
Representatives of the new Bureau of AMCEN:
Ms Joyce Msuya, United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UNEP;
Mr. Harsen Nyambe, representing Ms. Josefa Leonel Correa Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission
Heads of UN-institutions and other intergovernmental organisations;
Heads of delegations and country experts;
Representatives of civil society organisations;
Members of the media;
Distinguished Delegates;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

This has been a busy and productive week! I trust that you are as pleased as I am with the outcomes of this meeting. Let us all play our part in actively implementing the decisions of the AMCEN 17th Ordinary Session in order to advance sound environmental management of our rich natural resources for the benefit of nature and our people.

We have deliberated at length on the key issues related to the theme “Taking Action for Environmental Sustainability and Prosperity in Africa” and the real work of implementation starts now. As the President of AMCEN, I pledge to work with all of you in implementing the deciisons taken in this Conference.

I am also grateful that development partners are in our midst to support us in pursuing our African aspirations.

Excellencies, Esteemed delegates,

During this session we agreed on our common African negotiating positions and key messages for the Madrid Climate Change Conference. By presenting a strong united front at COP25 we will be positioned to secure outcomes that are favorable to African and other developing countries, including recognition of our special circumstances and vulnerabilities, and obtaining the finance and technology we require to contribute our best effort to achieving the global goals in the Paris Agreement. We have also held informative discussions on how to fully implement our Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement and on the importance of addressing the challenge of short—lived climate pollutants.

The discussion platform on biodiversity covered a wide range of topics and Africa's positions in relevant multilateral processes, such as the critically important negotiations at the Convention on Biological Diversity on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. There was a frank and honest assessment that we have thus far failed to present common positions at CITES, and a decision has been taken to establish an Africa Group of Negotiators on Biological diversity. The development of the post 2020 global biodiversity framework provides Africa with a new opportunity to shape the global plan for biodiversity to be meaningful and responsive to the continents development needs for the future we want.

The post 2020 framework needs to ensure an equal balance between all three objectives of the convention. Most importantly it needs to incorporate the means of implementation as an integral component of the plan. This week we have given our negotiators the mandate to speak with one voice and articulate the priorities we adopted in Sharm el Sheik and reiterated this week. The biodiversity economy, underpinned by strong natural capital accounting principles, provides us with a competitive advantage to grow our economies at scale. The biodiversity economy will require us to make strategic investments in research and development as well as access to advanced technologies. This can be achieved by strengthening collaboration amongst African states and unlocking our vast indigenous and local knowledge.

There is no doubt that Africa’s oceans have the potential to contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of our region.  We must ensure that the sustainable development principles are central to the development of a Blue Economy Strategy for Africa. 

The Blue Economy meetings saw intense discussions as we are all passionate about the responsibilities and opportunities associated with Africa's considerable oceans resources. We have tasked our Secretariat to prepare, in collaboration with the AU Commission and Member States, a paper on a possible African Blue Economy Strategy to guide our discussion at the 18th AMCEN session.

With regards to the circular economy, we agreed on the need for a comprehensive approach that addresses the full lifecycles of products, and is contextualised to the needs and resource profile of African countries. This requires an integrated approach which involves all stakeholders.

I would like to commend all of you for the commitment you have shown on the adoption of circular economy in Africa, and we will continue with the circular economy policy dialogue that we started at this session. The progress and taking forward of the Africa Alliance on Circular Economy were also key in our deliberations, and thank you for all your commitments and contributions to this changing from linear to a circular approach in the manner in which we do business.  

At this session, we further agreed to support the theme of Nature-Based Solutions in the context of Sustainable Development for the 5th Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly.

Excellencies, Esteemed delegates,

Earlier yesterday, we heard from civil society and received a memorandum from environmental justice organisations. We value their voices and will keep their issues raised on our agenda. This is more so because the environmental challenges exacerbated by Climate Change are increasing, thus making it more pressing for the Continent to respond in a coordinated and effective manner.

As we close this meeting, let us all ask ourselves as individuals and as governments “How can we better contribute to the protection and conservation of the environment and natural resources?”

It is apparent that what we have done over the years to ensure that the environment is well managed and provides opportunities to harness our natural resources for the benefit of our people have not been sufficient.

We therefore need to ramp up our efforts to implement the decisions for the benefit of our Continent. As we deliberated on the contribution that the Circular Economy, Blue Economy and biodiversity can make, this is an ideal opportunity to involve our youth and women in a more meaningful way in these, whilst guarding against environmental degradation.

Honourable Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,

We should foster attitudinal change towards the environment and our families should be the starting point. I am comforted by the interest shown by our youth in the environment, as the future is in their hands, and we must not underestimate the critical role and contribution of women in our sector.  As the President of AMCEN, I hope to leave a legacy for Africa that we will be proud of.

Esteemed delegates, ladies and gentlemen, let me take this opportunity to thank you once again for your active participation in the Conference and I hope you enjoyed your stay in Durban and wish you safe travels back home.

I thank you.