Greenpeace Opens African Office

Focussing on climate change, deforestation and overfishing

Feature story - November 12, 2008
Greenpeace Africa opened its first office in Johannesburg today, announcing a long-term commitment to building a strong presence in Africa dedicated to tackling the most urgent environmental problems facing the continent - climate change, deforestation and overfishing.

Although Africa contributes very little to climate change, the region is suffering from its effects. Unpredictable rainfall patterns are causing lower crop yields, soaring food prices and dwindling resources. While developed countries debate what climate change could mean for their future, it is already threatening the survival of the world's most vulnerable people.

A second office will be opened on 24 November in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo and a third in Dakar, Senegal, early next year. These areas are central to tackling climate change, deforestation and overfishing.

"While the environmental threats facing Africans are urgent and critical, Africa is in a position to leapfrog dirty development and become a leader in helping to avert catastrophic climate change and protect the natural environment. We are here to help make that happen," said Amadou Kanoute, Executive Director of Greenpeace Africa.

The launch comes just weeks ahead of the United Nations climate change talks in Poznan, Poland (1-13 Dec) where agreements will be made to set the world on a path to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prevent human induced climate change.

While Africa contributes very little to global warming, the region will be one of the hardest hit by its effects. Over 180 million people in sub-Saharan Africa could die as a result of climate change by the end of the century. Unpredictable rainfall, lower crop yields and dwindling resources are causing mass migration, increased tension and conflict.

"South Africa needs to take a strong stand at the UN climate talks for a deal that includes substantial funding from the industrialised world for developing countries to adapt to and mitigate the devastating effects of climate change. The South African government should also support Central African countries by backing moves to create a funding mechanism that makes protecting tropical forests and the climate more economical than logging," continued Kanoute.

Tropical forest destruction accounts for about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change: South Africa, the 14th highest carbon emitter in the world, must commit to measurable actions to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, including ending its dependence on coal, without resorting to expansions in nuclear power. The country, as with Africa as a whole, is in a position to harness abundant renewable energy sources - solar, wind and biomass - and take a lead in an African energy revolution. An energy revolution that would not only help reduce climate changes but would bring electricity to rural areas, which is crucial for rural development, provide jobs and economic growth.

Protecting the rainforest: Industrial logging threatens the Congo Basin rainforest and the 40 million people who depend on it for their livelihoods. It plays a vital role in regulating the global climate and is the fourth largest forest carbon reservoir in the world.  Yet if logging is allowed to continue at the projected rate, the DRC risks losing 40 percent of its forest within 40 years. Greenpeace is calling for the adoption of an international financing mechanism, Forests for Climate, that makes the Congo Basin rainforest and others like it, more economically valuable intact than as timber.

Defending the oceans: Off the coast of West Africa marine life is being carried away by foreign trawlers: devastating local communities and depriving them of critical nutrition; causing poverty and food insecurity to increase. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing must stop. Greenpeace will work for sustainable fishing and fish processing operations, managed and financed by Africans, as well as increased monitoring and control. The area needs a network of well enforced marine reserves.  

"Tackling environmental problems in Africa is vital to ensuring a future for its children and the world as a whole. While it is most likely to be one of the hardest and quickest hit by the effects of climate change, some of which can already be seen, Africa is also a major part of the solution. Through harnessing its renewable energy potential and protecing its tropical forests Africa can lead the way in environmental development," said Gerd Leipold, Executive Director, Greenpeace International.

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