African lead­ers pledge to fight for a deal on cli­mate change

An op­por­tu­nity to em­pha­size the link be­tween cli­mate and de­vel­op­ment

Africa Renewal - - Contents - BY DAN SHEP­ARD AND KINGS­LEY IGHOBOR

As African lead­ers, cli­mate change ex­perts and schol­ars understand it, the cli­mate change agree­ment cur­rently be­ing ne­go­ti­ated and ex­pected to be adopted in Paris in De­cem­ber is an op­por­tu­nity to em­pha­size the link be­tween cli­mate and de­vel­op­ment.

At the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Sum­mit held at the United Na­tions in New York in Septem­ber, var­i­ous African lead­ers force­fully made the case for a strong cli­mate change agree­ment in Paris. They said ex­treme weather vari­a­tions on the con­ti­nent had led to dev­as­tat­ing hu­man costs, af­fect­ing liveli­hoods. Tak­ing ac­tion to ad­dress cli­mate change is es­sen­tial for pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, the lead­ers told the UN, as they joined in adopt­ing a new global agenda — the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) — to end poverty, pro­mote pros­per­ity and pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.

The 196 coun­tries that are par­ties to the UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change ( UNFCCC) are ne­go­ti­at­ing the de­tails of an agree­ment that will put the world on a path­way to meet­ing the goal of lim­it­ing the rise in global tem­per­a­ture to less than 2 de­grees Cel­sius (which is the point at which cli­mate change’s worst im­pacts can be pre­vented) and re­duce green­house emis­sions blamed for caus­ing ex­treme weather vari­a­tions.

To en­sure a uni­fied ap­proach dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions, African ex­perts from the gov­ern­ment, the pri­vate sec­tor, academia and the me­dia met last March in Ad­dis Ababa, Ethiopia, un­der the aus­pices of

the UN Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Africa ( ECA) at the Con­fer­ence of African Min­is­ters of Fi­nance, jointly or­ga­nized by the com­mis­sion and the African Union. At the end of their de­lib­er­a­tions, in ad­di­tion to ex­ist­ing in­di­vid­ual coun­tries’ ef­forts and re­sources from in­ter­na­tional part­ners, the ex­perts re­quested ad­di­tional re­sources to ad­dress Africa’s cli­mate change chal­lenges, ac­cord­ing to a re­port on the ECA meet­ing.

The African ex­perts ar­gued that Africa is con­tribut­ing lit­tle to global warm­ing, and that emis­sions com­ing from the ac­tiv­i­ties of multi­na­tional com­pa­nies should be blamed on the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of such in­vest­ments, not on the host coun­tries.

Ex­treme weather vari­a­tions

There are many ways cli­mate change is tak­ing a toll on African coun­tries, African heads of state main­tained at the UN in Septem­ber. Nige­ria’s new pres­i­dent, Muham­mad Buhari, said th­ese in­clude ex­treme weather vari­a­tions, ris­ing sea lev­els, en­croach­ing de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion, ex­ces­sive rain­fall, floods and land degra­da­tion. “Th­ese devel­op­ments have dev­as­tat­ing hu­man costs and are af­fect­ing food se­cu­rity, liveli­hoods and the very sur­vival of our peo­ple,” said Pres­i­dent Buhari.

Un­like ear­lier cli­mate talks that fea­tured “top-down” tar­gets, for the Paris agree­ment in­di­vid­ual coun­tries will come up with plans for car­bon re­duc­tion. Th­ese na­tional plans, de­signed to make coun­tries ac­count­able for their pledges, will in turn be in­cluded in the global goal. Ex­perts do not an­tic­i­pate the plans, which were sub­mit­ted be­fore the con­fer­ence, to be suf­fi­cient, and the Paris agree­ment will need to out­line how the world will move for­ward to strengthen the will needed to avoid the worst im­pacts of cli­mate change.

Ris­ing tem­per­a­tures

African pol­icy makers are aware of the con­se­quences of in­ac­tion on cli­mate change, which in­cludes tem­per­a­tures ris­ing by more than 4 de­grees Cel­sius by the end of the cen­tury. Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC), a UN body that eval­u­ates and re­ports on the state of cli­mate change, the re­gion is al­ready fac­ing faster ac­cel­er­a­tion of cli­mate change than the rest of the world. “An in­crease of global tem­per­a­tures of 2oC by 2050 is go­ing to be cat­a­strophic for Africa,” warns the re­port at the meet­ing in Ad­dis Ababa.

The IPCC says there is al­ready in­creas­ing ev­i­dence of warm­ing over land re­gions across Africa, which is pre­cip­i­tat­ing pat­terns, wa­ter avail­abil­ity and food se­cu­rity. And African heads of state made it clear at the SDGs Sum­mit in Septem­ber that any agree­ment needed to be sup­ported by a cli­mate fi­nance pack­age that will al­low their coun­tries to de­velop low-car­bon economies as well as adapt to the im­pacts of cli­mate change.

For fi­nanc­ing cli­mate change adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion ac­tiv­i­ties, Africa will rely heav­ily on the Green Cli­mate Fund (GCF), which was cre­ated by par­ties to the UNFCCC to as­sist de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. But the snag is that rich coun­tries are slow to ful­fill their fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments. For ex­am­ple, Ja­pan and the US have dis­bursed just $15 mil­lion of the $4.5 bil­lion each coun­try pledged to sup­port Africa’s ef­forts. “This is a drop in the ocean,” states the re­port, adding that Africa may need be­tween $20 bil­lion and $30 bil­lion per year for adap­ta­tion.

Some ex­perts are scep­ti­cal about the avail­abil­ity of fi­nance to im­ple­ment any agree­ment to be reached in Paris. South Africa, which cur­rently chairs the Group of 77 rep­re­sent­ing 134 de­vel­op­ing coun­tries in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, has ad­vised that a vi­able fi­nance pack­age is es­sen­tial for a deal. South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma warned that “a Paris pack­age that is hol­low and weak on fi­nance would not be ac­cept­able,” urg­ing de­vel­oped coun­tries to hon­our ex­ist­ing obli­ga­tions.

While re­fer­ring to cli­mate change as the “great­est chal­lenge con­fronting hu­mankind,” Dji­bouti Pres­i­dent Is­maël Omar Guelleh added that Africa’s re­quest for as­sis­tance was le­git­i­mate and un­der­stand­able, be­cause the con­ti­nent has more to lose than other re­gions.

Money mat­ters aside, the African ex­perts who met in Ad­dis Ababa would like fu­ture dis­cus­sions about cli­mate change to in­volve more African ex­perts. “African sci­en­tists and schol­ars are grossly un­der­rep­re­sented in the IPCC process,” they said.

With the ECA rec­om­men­da­tions as a guide, African ne­go­tia­tors will ar­gue that any cli­mate change agree­ment should also in­clude a plan that ad­dresses so­cial is­sues such as poverty, health, ed­u­ca­tion and gen­der. Adap­ta­tion pro­grammes must be de­signed by a group that in­cludes rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the pri­vate sec­tor, civil so­ci­ety and academia.

In ad­di­tion, African ex­perts will call for more cli­mate ob­ser­va­tion net­works on the con­ti­nent to as­sist in real-time mon­i­tor­ing and data col­lec­tion. The ECA re­port in­di­cates a need for “ap­pro­pri­ate ca­pac­ity build­ing and tech­nolo­gies for cli­mate-smart de­vel­op­ment.”

Pres­i­dent Zuma wants ne­go­tia­tors in Paris to close the ex­ist­ing am­bi­tion gap be­tween now and 2020, in­clud­ing by ramp­ing up ac­tion be­fore the new agree­ment goes into ef­fect to meet the goal of lim­it­ing the rise in global tem­per­a­tures to less than 2 de­grees Cel­sius. It is not yet clear if all the African lead­ers’ and ex­perts’ rec­om­men­da­tions are in­cluded in the fi­nal agree­ment.

Mean­while, as Africa pushes its in­ter­ests at the ne­go­ti­a­tions lead­ing up to the Paris con­fer­ence, the hope is that the cur­rent global en­thu­si­asm for a cli­mate change agree­ment will be matched by ac­tion dur­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Panos/ Pet­terik Wig­gers

The shrink­ing Gil­gel Ab­bay River, Amhara re­gion, Ethiopia.

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