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Media release on the launch of the Southern Africa Environment Outlook

Media release on the Launch of the
Southern Africa Environment Outlook

by the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
on Thursday, 12 November, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
SADC Meeting of Ministers of Environment and Natural Resources


New report provides integrated analysis of southern African environment
The impacts of climate change are already being felt

The Southern Africa Environment Outlook is an ambitious new report that provides an integrated analysis of southern Africa’s environment.

The report highlights key emerging environmental issues, reviews the impact of climate change in southern Africa on people and the environment, and presents a set of future scenarios for the region.

According to the book, climate change impacts are already evident and include changes in water availability, food insecurity, sea-level rise and the melting of ice cover and snow.

The book says that climate change, including global warming, is well underway, with average temperatures in the region having risen by 0.5oC over the last century, and the 1990s deemed the warmest and driest ever.

With nine of SADC’s 15 Member States having a total of more than 15,000 km of coastline, the region would also be affected by sea level rise, estimated to reach 15-95 cm by 2100. While much of the sea level rise will be due to the melting of ice cover in Greenland, mountain glaciers around the world also continue to melt.

SADC’s beacon in this regard is Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania. The total area covered by snow on Mount Kilimanjaro decreased by six-fold from 12 square kilometres in 1900 to two square kilometres in 2000.

With increasing atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and resultant climate change, summer rainfall is expected to decrease over subtropical regions of southern Africa, while increasing over tropical regions. A decrease in the winter rainfall region of the southern Cape is also probable.

The anticipated five percent decrease in rainfall due to climate change will affect people and all forms of wildlife, including plants and animals.

The Southern Africa Environment Outlook projects crop yields to drop by as much as 10-20 percent in some parts of southern Africa as the region becomes more arid, and predicts the spread of the malaria-carrying Anopheles female mosquito to parts of Namibia and South Africa where it has not been found before.

Increasingly violent cyclones are forecast to hit the island and coastal states, especially in the Mozambique Channel.

The report cautions that it is not possible to predict with any degree of certainty the exact timing, magnitude and nature of expected climate changes under the effects of global warming.

The array of adaptive responses ranges from purely technological such as sea defences to managerial such as modified farm practices, to policy including regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Southern Africa Environment Outlook, produced by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and partners, will be launched in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, on 12 November, at a meeting of SADC Ministers of Environment and Natural Resources.

The topical issue of climate change as tackled in the Outlook is not only timely and relevant but also strategic in guiding debate and policies on this global phenomenon.

Evidence of climate change is starkly visible in the disappearance of glaciers on mountains near the equator in East Africa. Glaciers are found on three mountains - the Rwenzori mountains on the DRC-Uganda border, Mount Kenya in Kenya, and Mt Kilimanjaro in the United Republic of Tanzania.

Retreat of these glaciers began around the 1880s as a result of a decrease in precipitation and an increase in solar radiation from reduced cloudiness. Later, in the 20th century, increased temperature became an additional driver, although its relative importance is still debated.

Close to 50 percent of the glaciers on the Rwenzori mountains, Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro have disappeared, while larger glaciers, particularly on Kilimanjaro, have been fragmented.

The Global Environment Outlook (GEO 4), released two years ago by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), acknowledges that climate change has reached a tipping point with widespread impacts on both people and the environment.

According to GEO 4, climate change, including global warming, is well underway with average world temperatures having risen by 0.74oC over the last century. This trend shows that 11 of the warmest years in the last 125 years have occurred since 1990.

The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change projects an increase in the average global temperature of 1.8 - 4oC by the end of this century.

The Southern Africa Environment Outlook also highlights the state and trends of key environmental resources, including land, freshwater, marine and coastal resources, forests and woodlands, and wildlife.

The report takes a 10-year retrospective and forward-looking analysis of issues, and also covers cross-sectoral elements relating to human settlements, energy and atmospheric dynamics.

The traditional approach of environmental reporting in the region focused on national boundaries, sectors or natural resources. However, in this Southern Africa Environment Outlook, the issues are presented in an integrated manner, using the Drivers Pressure State Impact Response (DPSIR) framework. Drivers and pressures are defined as the root causes of environmental change, and they can be natural or human-induced. The integrated assessment and reporting approach, through the DPSIR framework, answers four questions that are key to effective decision-making. The questions are:

  • What is happening to the environment?
  • Why is it happening?
  • What can we do, and what are we doing about it?
  • What will happen if we do not act now?

A vision of future scenarios for the state of the environment in southern Africa, based on our actions and choices, concludes the Outlook, and this is intended to generate awareness of the possibilities as well as to contribute to our policy debates.

In his foreword to the book, the SADC Executive Secretary, Tomaz Augusto Salomão, notes, "SADC recognises that natural resources are critical to regional development and poverty eradication and hence enshrined ‘sustainable utilisation of natural resources and effective protection of the environment’ in the revised SADC Treaty.

"In line with the Treaty, the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) calls for regular environmental assessment, monitoring and reporting for purposes of analysing regional trends.

"The importance of environmental sustainability in the SADC region is also reflected in the many regional and international agreements to which Member States are signatory. Furthermore, the critical nature of natural resources to economic, social and political integration was also recognised at the Rio Earth Summit of 1992.”

The preparation of the report was based on a wide consultative and participatory process, during which consensus around regional perspectives and priorities were built.

Experts from specialised organisations and from national institutions mandated to carry out state of environment reporting were involved in providing inputs, as well as in the review of the manuscript. This ensured regional balance and scientific credibility. Contributors, reviewers and the technical editor are all SADC nationals.

The Environment Outlook was constructed around a firm data and indicator development process. Regional projects on geographical information systems and indicator development for state of environment assessment and reporting were supportive to the process.

The Southern Africa Environment Outlook is a SADC report produced in partnership with the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) Musokotwane Environment Resource Centre for Southern Africa (IMERCSA), IUCN-The World Conservation Union, the Department of Environment and Tourism in South Africa, and the UNEP Division of Early Warning and Assessment in collaboration with the Africa Environment Information Network.

SARDC IMERCSA is the regional collaborating centre for UNEP on state of environment reporting in southern Africa, and also contributes to the Africa Environment Outlook and the Global Environment Outlook (GEO).

Cooperating partners who supported the Southern Africa Environment Outlook through SADC, UNEP or DEAT include the Governments of Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands and Norway, Belgian Technical Cooperation, the UNEP Environment Fund and the UN Development Fund.

The first comprehensive State of the Environment in Southern Africa was published by SADC and partners in 1994, followed by thematic updates on Water and on Biodiversity of Forests and Woodlands.

The first report on a single ecosystem, State of the Environment Zambezi Basin, was published in 2000, while the partners presented a major report on water and environment, Defining and Mainstreaming Environmental Sustainability in Water Resources Management in Southern Africa, during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.

Several other environmental thematic books, media guides, factsheets, policy briefs, posters and databases for indicators, bibliographic records and expertise have been published in between these major publications. And now, we have a new, regional environmental assessment fully accessible to all stakeholders in our regional community -- the Southern Africa Environment Outlook.

The Southern Africa Environment Outlook is available in book form and is also accessible electronically through the Virtual Library for Southern Africa www.sardc.net Knowledge for Development.

The Virtual Library for Southern Africa is an innovation of the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which provides free internet access to regional data and information, including a range of other knowledge materials on the environment and water resources in the SADC region, in searchable format, linked to the SADC website at www.sadc.int

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