WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014 shows how African-led solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems can help protect the natural environment. These solutions are urgently required as wildlife populations show dramatic declines, according to the report. The good news is that there are many initaitives in Africa already providing solutions to address issues of biodiversity loss, climate change and to create sustainable livelihoods. Africa may be one of the most vulnerable continents to the effects of climate change, but it also has a great opportunity to create a sustainable development pathway that is resource-efficient, climate-smart, low-carbon and green by scaling and replicating successful sustainable innovations and initiatives.
Africas declining biodiversity – the need for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity
In its tenth edition, the Report tracks over 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2010 through the Living Planet Index, and also measures humanity’s Ecological Footprint – a measure of humanity’s demands on nature. Biodiversity loss and an increasingly unsustainable ecological footprint threaten natural systems and human well-being.
“Biodiversity is a crucial part of the systems that sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to this planet, our only home. We urgently need bold global action in all sectors of society to build a more sustainable future,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini.
Biodiversity declines in Africa highlight the intense pressure felt by tropical species. For the thousands of species tracked by the report, the tropics showed a 56 per cent loss across populations compared to 36 per cent in temperate zones. The biggest recorded global threats to biodiversity are habitat loss and degradation, fishing and hunting, and climate change.
“The unique nature and natural resources of Africa are under more pressure than ever before. Life-sustaining ecosystems are rapidly degrading, thus compromising the future security, health and well-being of millions of African people, with the poor heavily and disproportionately bearing the brunt of these losses,” said Fred Kumah, Director of Africa at WWF International. “WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014 shines a light on this situation – and crucially points the way toward sustainable and inclusive development, so we can build a brighter tomorrow.”
Africa’s growing footprint & African solutions to create a sustainable development pathway
Globally, humanity’s demand on the planet is more than 50 per cent larger than what nature can renew, meaning it would take 1.5 Earths to produce the resources necessary to support our current Ecological Footprint. Human population growth is the primary factor driving footprint rises in Africa. The continent’s population has surged in recent decades, but its per capita footprint has remained essentially unchanged.
With world population expected to exceed 9.5 billion by 2050, understanding the implications on food, water and energy security is essential. In research cited by the report, half of all future population growth is expected to occur in just eight countries, six of those countries are in Africa.
“Despite the many challenges posed by the fast-changing socioeconomic and political arenas across the continent, Africa is well placed to develop more resource-efficient pathways. By greening investment and trade, using more efficient and cost-effective technologies, promoting social and environmental standards in the private and public sectors, and tapping our incredible wealth of young people and innovation, we can turn the tide,” said Kumah.
This year’s Living Planet Index features updated methodology that more accurately tracks global biodiversity and provides a clearer picture of the health of our natural environment. With the findings revealing that the state of the world’s species is worsening, the report serves as a platform for dialogue, decision-making and action for governments, businesses and civil society at a critical time for the planet. The report includes WWF’s “One Planet Perspective” with strategies to preserve, produce and consume more wisely. It also includes examples of how communities in Africa are already making better choices to reduce Ecological Footprint and reverse biodiversity loss.
“Nature is both a lifeline for survival and a springboard to prosperity. Importantly, we are all in this together. We all need food, fresh water and clean air – wherever in the world we live. At a time when so many people still live in poverty, it is essential to work together to create solutions that work for everyone,” said Lambertini.
In South Africa, the report shows how Cape Town is working to reduce energy use by installing household solar water heaters and retrofitting streetlights with energy efficient technology. In another example, the report profiles how South Africa’s government is working with industry to protect the country’s last remaining wetland. In the border areas of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, the report shows how conservation efforts and protected areas have helped increase mountain gorilla population by almost 30 per cent. This increase was possible while also contributing to employment and development through tourism In other parts of Africa, stronger efforts are required to safeguard populations of elephants and rhinos. The Living Planet Report 2014 underscores that strong management and law enforcement are critical in protected areas in order to effectively shelter threatened species. Globally, species populations in land-based protected areas suffered less than half the decline of those in unprotected areas.
“WWF has the opportunity now to engage with the public and private sectors as well as civil society across the continent to promote green growth and sustainable development – for Africa, in Africa and with Africa. This year’s Living Planet Report provides the imperative and highlights the urgency. Together we can bring about change for the better, to create a planet where people and nature thrive,” said Kumah.
Finding innovative solutions to problems facing the natural environment is not easy, but African countries are already proving that it can be done. WWF’s “One Planet Perspective” shows how every corner of the globe can contribute to maintaining a footprint that doesn’t outpace Earth’s ability to renew. By following WWF’s programme for one planet living, society can begin reversing the trends indicated in the Living Planet Report 2014.