Remarks by His Excellency, Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, on behalf of His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba President of Gabon
His Excellency President Khama, Excellences Presidents and Heads of Government, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of His Excellency President Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Republic of Gabon, I would like to thank his Excellency, President Khama of the Republic of Botswana, for the invitation to participate in this timely and important summit.
President Bongo Ondimba asked me to express his disappointment at not being able to be here in person. This summit is on a theme that he considers to be of critical importance. Indeed, just last week at Chatham House he stressed the need to develop a new sustainable model of development, insisting that “Business as usual is not an option”.
Today, Africa is attracting unprecedented levels of investor interest; political stability and democratic accountability is improving, and our voice on international issues is finally being heard. While some of the biggest economies of the world are contracting or stagnating, ours are growing.
These are all positive trends for Africa, and they present us with the opportunity to emerge as a powerful political and economic force on the world stage in the years ahead.
The support that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy for the World Bank presidency garnered exemplified this recently. Her bid reminded us also of the challenges associated with changing old habits and traditional customs.
Not since the days of independence have Africans been presented with such an opportunity to change the world. It is an opportunity that we must grasp with both hands. To do so we must do two things:
In just under a month, world leaders, together with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector and NGOs will meet at the Rio+20 Conference, marking the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit. Despite a number of notable outcomes from the Earth Summit and in the years since, I think it is fair to say that international progress on climate change has been mixed at best.
Negotiations have stalled as countries argue about who is responsible, who should pay or whether there is actually a problem. Africans suffer the effects of climate change more acutely than many others and in Gabon this makes us more aware of our responsibility to protect the rainforests of the Congo basin - the ‘second lung’ of the world and a key pillar in our defence against the worst effects of climate change.
As some of you may know, President Bongo Ondimba is an environmentalist at heart. He strongly believes that sustainable environmental policies need to be the bedrock of our economic growth.
Gabon is in a unique position today: we are rich in minerals, oil and gas and our natural environment is still relatively unspoiled. With a small population and a long tradition of political stability, we have a firm basis on which to conceive a new model for our own development.
We refer to our national development strategy as “Gabon Emergent” - Emerging Gabon. Our ambition is to attain emerging country status by 2025. Our strategy comprises three main pillars- Gabon Vert, Gabon des Services and Gabon Industriel. Our ambition is to conserve our natural environment, while also developing competitive manufacturing and service sector industries.
Two years ago in Copenhagen, our Head of State pledged that we would introduce a national climate plan to integrate climate sensitivity into our development and poverty alleviation strategies. Our Climate Plan clearly maps out a low carbon emission development path. It is not a stand-alone plan, but rather integrates climate sensitivity into our current national development and poverty alleviation strategies.
Our reflection then lead us to the conclusion that for a country such as Gabon, the critical foundation of a climate plan is a national land use plan that is validated at the highest level of decision making. Without this, it is impossible to make strategic decisions about which land to allocate to agriculture, to forestry, to urban development, or to conservation. Without such a plan we cannot commit, for example, to a REDD initiative – and cannot therefore criticize the inertia in the fast start programme.
Alongside these actions we are building a satellite image reception station that will produce the imagery we need to be able to analyse the impact on the environment of our public policies and of private sector projects, be they in the energy, mining, road construction or any other sector.
This base station, AGEOS, will enable us to develop precise topographic, hydrological, land use, habitat type and carbon maps for the entire country and will enable us to publish an absolute baseline, as well as the map database we need to plan Gabon’s future.
By investing in these tools we demonstrate that we are serious about the growth path we have chosen, and that we will not risk the well being of our country for short terms gains.
Since Durban we have enacted legislation to guarantee that we are very clear on the direction we want to follow. We have restructured government, creating a Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development - represented here in the person of my colleague, Minister Oyoubi. A new Sustainable Development Code will ensure that impacts on climate, biodiversity and community capital are fully accounted for and offset in all development projects in Gabon.
A new agency in charge of sustainable development will be responsible for putting in place a national sustainable development reference level and a registry of sustainable development credits. In the first instance we will use a carbon credit system as a convenient proxy for sustainable development.
Each project will calculate its carbon emissions and will be required to offset emissions that exceed industry quotas, rather like the systems in Europe and Australia. As is the case in Australia, we plan rapidly to develop a methodology to extend this practice to biodiversity. Finally, inspired by some of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’ thinking, we will add the principal of community capital to take into account the social side of development.
Once our system is finalised projects will be rewarded for positive impacts on climate, biodiversity and community well being through carbon, biodiversity and community capital credits that they create themselves. Projects will also be able to compensate for any negative impacts by purchasing registered credits to be used as offsets.
It is our intention to apply the highest standards of project evaluation and assessment through the Sustainable Development Code and ultimately to link Gabon’s Registry and Exchange to others of similar standard.
We intend to develop innovative financing mechanisms such as green bonds, in order to stimulate generation of biodiversity credits and to manage the risk of volatility in the long-term valuation of these credits in light of the failure of the international community to arrive at a legally binding agreement on forest carbon.
The overarching aim is to catalyse investments that will spur environmentally responsible, low-carbon growth, whilst creating infrastructure and jobs and moving our economy into the sustainable development ‘fast track’.
His Excellency President Khama, Excellences Heads of State and Government, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me, on behalf of His Excellency President Ali Bongo Ondimba, of myself and my delegation and of the Gabonese people, to reiterate our sincere thanks to His Excellency President Khama, to the citizens of the Republic of Botswana and to the summit organisers for your warm welcome and especially for your vision and commitment to the sustainable development of our continent.