Environmental activists around Africa are calling on governments to ensure a balance between tackling climate change while meeting the needs of biodiversity conservation and restoration. 

The activists, who spoke during World Environment Day celebrations on Sunday, underscored the importance of urgent action even as Africa continues to suffer from climate change. 

Edward Loosli, chairman of the Wildlife Foundation, a non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting wildlife dispersal areas in Kenya, said the nexus between climate change, nature, biodiversity and development is intricate. 

“We all need a healthy environment but this depends on a healthy planet; saving trees saves biodiversity,” he said. “Today, pastoralists are finding it hard to find pasture and water for their livestock because of the twin challenge of climate change and biodiversity degradation.”

There is need to strike a delicate balance between use and replenishing; nature and food systems, restoration of ecological balances, transforming consumption, production, infrastructure, investment and land use for just climate action, he said.

Charles Mwangi, the acting executive director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, said the climate crisis is increasing and deepening vulnerabilities around fragile ecosystems and communities, with a resulting cocktail of epochal environmental and development challenges. 

“As the climate catastrophe gathers pace, Africa, a hotspot for climate change, is and will continue to be one of the hardest-hit regions,” he said.

Mwangi said this year’s World Environment Day seeks to emphasize and re-energize transformative actions to reset the balance between people and the natural world, and deliver a better future for all. 

He said a plan is needed to accommodate global ambitions to create a “net zero” world and reaching the goal of limiting global warming to 2C and below.

Ravi Pillay, the member of the executive council for environmental affairs in the provincial government of KwaZuklu-Natal in South Africa, said the deadly floods that killed more than 450 people in the province are an evidence of the devastating impacts of climate change.

He said the immediate need is to create awareness among the communities who were affected by the torrential rains and floods on the need to tackle climate change.  

Meseret Zemedkun, the head of the United Nations Environment Office in South Africa, said the UN is committed to support the South African government to reduce vulnerability and reverse climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. 

Across Africa, activists marked World Environment Day through various activities including cleaning up suburbs, planting trees, holding peaceful roadshows, walks and street marches.

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