Cameroon, like many developing countries, is faced with a dilemma: it needs to transform its economy rapidly in line with its ambitions of becoming an emerging nation by the target date of 2035; yet it must do so now in a low carbon emission regime in order to fulfil its global responsibility. The detailed plan it has presented to COP21 shows that this balancing act is possible, and necessary, but the country cannot do it alone; it will need considerable international cooperation and financial support. Dounia Mohamed reports.
Cameroon is more determined than ever to work towards transforming its economy and become a member of the emerging nations’ club by 2035. The ultimate objective is not only to raise the living standards of its citizens but also to prevent the vicious downward cycle of poverty and underdevelopment which includes social instability and other security threats.
The country has drawn up a 20-year, economic transformation strategy which it believes will deliver the desired overall objective by 2035.
The road map consists of: a green revolution which will focus on raising the productivity of land and labour; industrialisation which will aim to double the contribution of the manufacturing and other secondary sectors from 19% to 38% of GDP; consolidation of the democratic process; fostering a spirit of national unity and sense of belonging
The end result of implementing this strategy will be a substantial reduction in poverty, the creation of new and sustainable jobs, particularly in industry and services, diversified output including exports, less dependence on oil and gas revenues and an expansion of trade within and outside the region.
An added imperative will be to achieve the target by the due date through ecologically and environmentally sustainable methods and respecting the human and natural diversity of the country.
Currently, Cameroon produces very low levels of greenhouse gases and is a negligible contributor to global emissions. But how does one achieve these ambitious development goals in a green way, given that Cameroon is feeling the impact of climate change and paying the price of addressing it?
The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) – these are the individual commitments submitted by the Parties, or member countries, to COP21 – prepared by the Cameroonian government included a pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32%, a third of the current level in relative terms.
The plan aims to reduce the carbon footprint of Cameroon’s development process without affecting growth, and rests on five pillars: agriculture (which remains the main driver of economic growth), forestry, energy and waste management, construction and transport.
The success of this plan will depend on aggregation of material and human resources by the international community to help the nation in its efforts to protect the climate without jeopardising its battle to overcome under-development.
Agriculture: Centrepiece of a green and clean policy
Under the initial transformational plan, which was also based on the assumption that the agricultural sector would experience rapid growth, Cameroon would have seen its greenhouse gas emissions triple by 2035 – compared to the reference year of 2010.
So how will the new “low-carbon” development strategy, and its 32% target, be achieved?
It will be actioned by limiting deforestation and land degradation. This will be done through better planning and a more effective utilisation of rural areas in order to develop agricultural activity in a much more productive way.
This will require substantial improvements in governance of the sector which, among other adjustments, will require a devolution of power to local communities.
Upgrading basic infrastructure, such as roads, will improve logistics and the transportation of agricultural livestock and fishery products – reducing wastage.
The centrepiece of Cameroon’s economic transformation strategy remains the Green Revolution. This calls for an environmentally-friendly intensification of agricultural, livestock and fish production. The cost of the programme (2014-2020) is estimated at around $25bn. It will be implemented around a number of key areas. For example, it will entail the promotion of high-yield, short-cycle species enabling fast crop rotation; and the use of enhanced, high-yield seed varieties that are resistant to adverse environmental conditions (excluding GMOs and hybrids).
Better “resource management” will also lead to productivity gains. We are seeing it in the promotion of best practices in increasing agricultural output whilst making the optimal use of environmental resources. Again, there are numerous practices that can be adopted, such as the production of energy using agricultural waste; the use of agricultural waste to produce food supplements for animal and fish feed as well as other products (silage etc.); and the use of improved manure-storage facilities based on composting and a host of other measures
In summary, the objective is for a sustainable form of agriculture which is more resilient to climate change, which, in addition to increased productivity and growth through improved competitiveness, will also create jobs and ensure a better quality of life, especially for those living in rural areas.
These measures and new practices will also serve to limit deforestation and the degradation of forest cover. And this sustainable forest management will enable the country to increase the number of carbon sinks, which will counterbalance any increase in emissions elsewhere.
This low-carbon growth will also bring about major collateral benefits – economic and social development. Increased productivity will lead to job creation and environmental and health-related improvements will also impact on local communities and their prospects.
Saving forests – A race against time
The INDC document pledges to “support the sustainable management and development
of forests and biodiversity, in particular through the spatial monitoring of land”.
Technological developments can allow for considerable “leap-frogging” in the way mankind today can exploit its resources and ensure this is done in a sustainable manner. Satellite technology for example can help identify trouble spots quickly and pre-empt problems before they become critical.
There are ambitious plans to use technology and advanced knowledge to try and re-forest the savannah and rehabilitate degraded land. Another aspect of the strategy is to promote the use of extremely high-yield seeds and plants in order to increase agricultural production without a need to destroy forests to obtain more arable land. The hope is that this approach will end the “slash and burn” tradition which has had such a devastating effect in the Amazon.
However, Cameroon is not starting from scratch in this respect, and can be considered an early adopter. It has already equipped itself with tools and institutions in order to respond to the environmental problems the country is facing and which it may face more acutely in the future.
A number of specific government agencies and posts have been set up, including a Minister for the Environment and Nature Conservation, a Minister for Forests and Fauna responsible for dealing with forests and species preservation, and an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Environment.
In addition, much pre-emptive action has already been taken, including reforestation campaigns, the creation of natural reserves, measures to fight poaching and the development of a national environment management plan.
Lastly, there has been a conscious effort to facilitate the work of NGOs, so that all the agencies work in a more cohesive manner.
The country has also signed a range of conventions, including the Treaty on the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa, which is a centrepiece of the Yaoundé Declaration.
The latter involves: the adoption of harmonised forest policies at a national level; the swifter setting up of planning tools – in particular internationally-recognised, harmonised certification systems agreed upon between states; and
the strengthening of human capacity to implement those tools. Some $388m has been earmarked for the 2020 Forest and Fauna project.
But it will take more than money to save the forests. It will take political will and a nationwide determination.
Power: Renewables to the fore
A reliable and adequate power supply is essential if African countries are to make the transition to industrialisation and move up the scale to emerging nation status. Yet, with the exception of a very few countries, the power supply situation in most of Africa remains totally insufficient. If South Africa is excluded, the total generation capacity of the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa is only about equal to that of Spain.
Cameroon’s economic transformation plan envisages quadrupling energy production capacity to 6GW by 2025. If it is to do so whilst also reducing its green-house gas emissions, it will need to considerably increase the use of renewable energy sources.
It has started doing so by focusing on areas that are difficult to connect to the electricity grid, and making energy efficiency a national priority. The ultimate goal is to raise the share of renewable energy sources up to 25% of the energy mix by 2035.
If economic development in Cameroon continues at the current rate, the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector will triple compared to 2010 levels, along with a doubling of emissions produced by the waste sector. In a bid to mitigate this outcome, a 26% reduction in emissions has been built in and this will rely on a proactive energy efficiency policy, including tightly controlled consumption patterns.
The Agency for the Promotion and Streamlining of Energy Use (APRUE) will oversee these energy-saving measures. It will provide incentives at a sub-regional level. The agency will work with its neighbours through the Central African Power Pool (CAPP), and with Western Africa (West African Power Pool, WAPP) to promote more efficient use of energy.
Currently, an exhaustive evaluation of renewable energy sources available to the country has identified 35 pilot projects. Subsequently, an Agency for the Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources is to be created, and a framework of incentives to promote renewables.
Cameroon intends to increase the share of renewables within its renewable energy mix using biomass (7%), micro-hydro (11%), solar power (6%) and wind power (1%). Currently this segment represents only 1% of the country’s energy mix compared to thermal (25%) and large-scale hydropower (74%).
In addition, there are plans to improve urban waste management and use waste to produce energy. The target is for landfills with a methane capture level of at least 70% to be established in all major cities by 2035. In parallel, waste from agriculture and forestry will be recycled. But this ambitious yet essential plan will come with a hefty bill. The investment required to implement the plan by 2035 amounts to another $15bn.
Cutting back on transport emissions
In order to reduce energy consumption, an integrated development of low-carbon forms of transport is envisaged in line with the National Transport Infrastructure Strategy. This will involve schemes such as integration of energy and climate issues in spatial planning. Both the state and local communities will be supported in drawing up intra-
and inter-urban low-carbon public transport development plans
(e.g., tramways in Yaoundé and Douala).
Other specific measures proposed include promoting the purchase of low-emissions vehicles and the scrapping of high-emissions vehicles through regulation and incentives.
There are also plans to interconnect the three road networks in Cameroon (North, South and East) in order to optimise transport and distribution and to reduce losses and wastage, which occurs through inefficient transport systems.
The financing strategy
In order to finance this comprehensive programme, Cameroon intends to rely on private sources and donors. The timeline is five years and it will be split into several phases. The first phase of activities eligible for financing will be presented at the start of 2016. The country will also set out to attract foreign direct investment into strategic areas of development.
At a national level, the country will look to the financial markets and domestic banking system to pool and deploy national savings, in particular for projects conducive to low-carbon and climate-change-resistant development,
In addition, in order to make the plan feasible, Cameroon is expecting support for capacity building in all areas as well as technology transfers from the international community. This is where international commitments will have to amount to much more than words, and where clear frameworks will have to be put in place. In particular, the plan proposes partnerships between businesses and research institutes to develop low-carbon solutions.
Cameroon, like most African countries, will require financial, material and logistical resources in order to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets without this impacting on its growth and development plans. It cannot fail, and knows that it must do this against a backdrop of rising extremism that feeds on the poverty and isolation of its populations. The clear and present danger is that climate change may exacerbate this.