‘Let’s rewrite the narrative on Africa and climate change’ says Dr Fatima Denton in 2014 Barbara Ward lecture

A low-carbon led transformation in Africa is needed that moves away from an extractive way of doing business and sees climate change as a business opportunity argued Dr Fatima Denton, director of the special initiatives division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), in the 2014 Barbara Ward Lecture in London last night (20th November 2014).

I spoke to her afterwards in a rather noisy reception at the British Library’s conference centre, focussing particularly on her views on agriculture – listen here:

[Photo: Matt Wright/IIED]

Dr Denton, a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, called upon African countries to start using climate-change mitigation as a pathway for development. She talked of different chapters that needed to be rewritten in this new narrative for Africa’s 54 countries:

  • Governance – with new national and sub-national institutions needed along with new forms of business
  • Leadership – looking ahead and being ambitious, eg Ethiopia’s plan to decarbonise by 2022
  • Energy and agriculture, with sustainable approaches and food systems being central
  • Investing in people – particularly women and young people
  • Building scientific and technological capacities

In some closing remarks, IIED board chair Rebeca Grynspan, strongly agreed with the need to change the narrative, to stop seeing women as vulnerable but as part of the solution, to talk of triple wins, not trade-offs, and to level the playing field on incentives and look at subsidies. She also pointed to the importance of values this driving the agenda.

Here, she drew on her experience as Costa Rican, not as an economist – economists would never have suggested three key things they did in Costa Rica, she said – where they declared education to be universal and free for boys and girls in 1870, abolished the army in 1948 and protected 25% of their territory in 1970. Those changes were driven by values and thinking long term.

The Barbara Ward lecture is named after the founder of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). You can hear Dr Denton’s lecture in full here.

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About geofftansey

I curate the Food Systems Academy, a free, on-line, open education resource to transform our food systems. I am also a member of the Food Ethics Council and chaired the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, which reported in 2015.
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