The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement has presented an opportunity for African countries to pursue climate policies, a senior United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) official has said.
“As we strive to harness the potential of the AfCFTA, it is essential that we do so in a manner that safeguards our natural ecosystem, promotes renewable energy and mitigates the impact of climate change,” a UNECA statement issued Monday quoted Melaku Desta, coordinator of the UNECA’s Africa Trade Policy Center (ATPC), as saying. According to the statement, Desta made the remarks on behalf of Claver Gatete, executive secretary of the UNECA, at a side event held during the ongoing COP28 climate change conference in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.
Desta, citing a recent UNECA study on the importance of the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement and parallel adoption of climate policies, said the effective implementation of the continental free trade pact can be aligned with green principles, renewable practices and low carbon strategies.
He noted a growing need to consider the impact on the environment as the continent moves toward greater economic integration and take proactive measures to mitigate any negative consequences.
“Africa is being negatively impacted by climate change despite contributing a small amount to greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
According to data from the UNECA, the African continent presently accounts for approximately 7 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions from carbon dioxide and other gasses.
Desta said greenhouse gas emissions in Africa are forecasted to grow faster over the next decades than in other parts of the world, although starting from a relatively low level currently.
The recent UNECA study indicated that greenhouse gas emissions in Africa could rise to nearly 12 percent by 2045 based on current trends. It noted that if large emitting countries implement policies to transition to clean energy, Africa’s economic costs to export goods to those countries could increase.
“The AfCFTA creates opportunities for the continent to industrialize and transform through increased trade and as stressed at the session, the AfCFTA stands as a beacon of hope for fostering intra-African trade, economic integration and shared prosperity,” Desta said.
Desta, however, expressed concerns that the AfCFTA could add pressure to climate change through increased manufacturing and transportation use, among others, which in turn necessitates climate-friendly engagements.
UNECA projections show that intra-African trade could be 35 percent higher in 2045 with the AfCFTA agreement in place, as compared to without AfCFTA.