Cape Verde ‘on the front lines’ of climate crisis, says Guterres ahead of Ocean Summit

The answer dates back to 2015, when the National Government released a detailed strategic plan on how green economy will be a central part of the island nation’s future, as well as a host of investments that have been made since then.

But tonight, as he watched nearly a dozen boats participating in the Race at Sea docked in Mindelo, their 10-story high masts cutting across the sky above São Vicente, Mr. Guterres witnessed one of the easiest things to do. most seen. This bet has paid off.

The secretary-general called the green economy a “fundamental opportunity to promote sustainable development in the archipelago” and said the UN looked forward to working with its government and people to “make this ambition a reality”. real”.

The Prime Minister of Cape Verde, José Ulisses Correia e Silva, says his country wants to be “more known and more relevant” on the international stage, and Oceans is the area where it wants its voice heard. listen.

“It makes sense to position yourself in this particular area and do it accordingly. It makes sense for this message to come from here,” he said.

For the past five years, as part of this effort, the nation has celebrated its annual ‘Ocean Week’ and next Monday Cape Verde will partner with Ocean Race to host a conference summit with speakers from all over the world. world, including the Secretary-General.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres participated in a series of discussions with José Ulisses Correia e Silva, Prime Minister of Cape Verde.

An existential threat

Cape Verde’s commitment may not be enough. As Mr. Guterres warned, the country is “on the front lines of an existential crisis” – climate change.

“Sea-level rise and loss of biodiversity and ecosystems pose existential threats to the archipelago,” he explains. “I am deeply disappointed that world leaders have not given the necessary action and investment to this life-or-death emergency.”

Some of these consequences can be felt at the port that hosted the Race, one of the finest in all of Africa’s west coast, the reason it attracted merchants and pirates centuries ago. and is now welcoming the biggest sailing round the world challenge.

Over the last few years, Cape Verdean fishermen have noted a decline in their catch of black mackerel, one of the most popular fish species among locals. In 2022, the packaging industry reported a decrease in tuna catches and an absence of black mackerel, the raw material for the industry.

According to the preliminary results of a United Nations-led assessment to be presented and discussed with key national stakeholders earlier this year, by 2100, the biomass of pelagic fish – species that live in the buoyant waters of an ocean or lake, neither near the bottom nor near the shore – such as albacora, a species of tuna, is expected to drop by up to 45%. In the neighboring Senegalo-Mauritanian basin, the reduction would be even greater.

Changes like these could have a profound impact on the archipelago’s economy. In 2018, the fishing industry provided jobs for 6,283 people and was the basis for the diets of 588.00 people. These products also account for nearly 80 percent of the country’s exports.

“Climate change is a clear threat to the future of fisheries, as well as all biodiversity,” the Secretary-General said that evening, as he joined the Speaker Series. promoted by the Prime Minister, at the Cape Verdean National Center for Arts, Crafts and Design.

“The reality is there is a very clear link between the fishing industry and climate protection. Experience shows that when you protect a certain area, it has a multiplier effect in other areas and everyone benefits,” added the Secretary-General.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres with José Ulisses Correia e Silva, Prime Minister of Cape Verde, visited the Ocean Race area.

Fight back

Two men sit leaning against an extension of the National Center, its facade covered with circular lids from oil barrels painted in primary colors.

The installation is a statement of the country’s commitment to sustainability, but also a nod to its larger expat community of over one million; These boxes are often used by immigrants to send gifts to their families.

“The climate challenge is getting more and more severe, more often, but we always face difficulties and always find ways to overcome them,” the Prime Minister said.

According to Correia e Silva, the loss of species could affect Cape Verde in a different way.

The archipelago is considered one of the top 10 marine biodiversity hotspots in the world, and over the decades 24 species of whales and dolphins have been recorded in these waters – almost 30% of all whale species. – has attracted many visitors to visit. making tourism become the strength of the country’s economy.

Particularly in 2022, after a few years dominated by COVID-19 After the pandemic, the islands welcomed nearly 700,000 tourists, bringing the industry’s contribution to about 25% of GDP.

Secretary General António Guterres holds a joint press conference in Cape Verde with Prime Minister José Ulisses Correia e Silva

Climate justice for Cape Verde

Cape Verde has begun to resist these changes.

The secretary-general said the country “has demonstrated climate leadership in word and action” and has highlighted “efforts to translate debt into climate projects, including a green economy.”

Up to 20% of Cape Verde’s energy production now comes from renewable sources – one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa – and the goal is to increase renewable energy use by up to 50% by 2030. .

The prime minister said his country needs to “reconcile the needs of the economy, the environment, the community” because the country needs “these resources to create wealth for the country”.

Mr. Correia e Silva shared an example of how to do this. In the community of São Pedro, on the island of São Vicente, in recent years a portion of the population has switched from fishing to providing services that allow tourists to safely swim with turtles.

He went on to highlight a series of initiatives to combat plastic pollution and promote the circular economy. He also reiterated that the country has passed a “restrictive” new law on fishing management and is working to expand the protected area from 6 to 30%.

“We want to go further, but we need the resources to do that,” he said.

“We need justice for those – like Cape Verde – who have done little to cause this crisis, but who are paying a heavy price,” agreed the Secretary-General.

When the conversation was over, a few blocks away, at the port, the crews of the Ocean Race were resting. In just a few days, they begin the second leg of the competition, which will take them out of Cape Verde, across the Equator, down the coast of South America and to Cape Town at the southernmost tip of South Africa.

Hours earlier, sailors had met Mr. Guterres, who had shared how his son, just a few years ago, had gone on a sailing trip across the Atlantic with three friends.

This story prompted one of the captains, Kevin Schofield, to ask him, “Have you ever done something like that?”

“Maybe someday,” he quipped. “When I retire.”


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