Today’s Solutions: January 31, 2023

The African Great Green Wall is a titanic ambition to restore an 8,000 square kilometer expanse across the continent, from Djibouti in the East to Senegal in the West. In the face of increasing desertification from climate change, the initiative aims to restore 100 million hectares (386,000 square miles) of degraded land by 2030, absorbing 250 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and creating 10 million jobs in the process. 15 years in, however, the project continues to struggle. 

Independent researchers have developed metrics and analyses they believe can get the regreening effort going again. 

A green wonder of the world stalled

The Great Green Wall partners 21 African nations whose leaders pledged to regrow forests and restore land across the width of Africa for the benefit of their people and the planet as a whole. It is one of the most ambitious plans to fight climate change, but it has run into some snags. 

Two years ago, the United Nations assessed that the project was between four and 20 percent completed. It currently remains stalled at that point. 

One problem is funding. The Great Green Wall’s participating governments and its international donors need to raise approximately $30 billion (US) to reach their 100-million-hectare goal but have only raised $19 billion. Much of the international funding has passed through the individual governments instead of the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall, based in Nouakchott, Mauritania, which is part of a bigger problem. 

The project suffers from a lack of unification. At a 2021 biodiversity summit, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged $14 billion to the Great Green Wall over five years, but the particulars of how this money would get to the different nations involved, and the project as a whole, are still unclear. Donors have been giving directly to the involved governments, and UN-appointed experts suggest addressing this with more predictable funding, better transparency, and organizational oversight. 

Getting back on track 

The UN has offered several recommendations in its latest report on land degradation. One identifies the problem of using fast-growing plants and trees for regreening, which will only sequester a fraction of the planned amount of carbon dioxide. They also recommend that if all funding does not pass through the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall, then it should be placed in an international trust. They also provided detailed metrics for how the partner nations can proceed with the project and especially takes into account those populations most vulnerable to desertification in these nations.  

Later this month, the international community will meet in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire armed with these recommendations to plan how to proceed and get the Great Green Wall back on track. 

Source Study: NatureHow to make Africa’s ‘Great Green Wall’ a success (nature.com)

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