Africa’s climate concerns don’t count in negotiations, warns TWN

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Source: African Agenda (Third World Network-Africa).

Calls from the developing countries that suffer the worst impacts of climate change seem to fall on deaf ears in the negotiations on the road to the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the UNFCCC next November in Durban, no matter how strident they sound, warned this week Africa Agenda, Third World Network-Africa’s bimonthly magazine.

“On the one hand, those countries mainly responsible for the climate change debacle, the developed countries, are most unwilling to commit to measures to remedy the situation. On the other hand, the cry by the victims of the situation, mainly African and least developed countries (LDCs), for a binding legal commitment, continues to hit the rocks as the developed countries still reject it”, admonished Africa Agenda in its leading article.

The editorial reads as follows: 

For a Safer Earth!

From COP 15 in Copenhagen through Cancun, Bangkok, Bonn on the road to the Durban climate change talks in November, there are ominous signs that the concerns of Africa in the climate change negotiations would not count as the developed countries, the major culprits, refuse to take responsibility to mitigate the damning effects of climate change.

Indisputable though the effects of climate change might be, the fact that some countries are suffering and likely to suffer them more than others continues to make international concerted attempts at remedying the situation through negotiations a difficult challenge. 

On the one hand those countries mainly responsible for the climate change debacle, the developed countries, are most unwilling to commit to measures to remedy the situation. On the other hand, the cry by the victims of the situation mainly African countries and LDCs, for a binding legal commitment, continues to hit the rocks as the developed countries continue to reject it. The preference since Cancun is for a non-binding 'flexible and voluntary reduction regime', 'a pledge and review' system which allows individual countries to take actions in their own parochial interest. This is a far cry from the earlier commitments to the Kyoto Protocol which was internationally oriented.

The Kyoto Protocol system, if there was agreement to the second period, will have meant a top-down aggregate reduction figure of emissions which according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report is 25-40 percent (developing countries were looking for a more ambitious 40-50 percent reduction rate). This as it stands is not likely to happen as even Japan, a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol is dead against it. As for the US which is not signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, it has made it clear even in Bangkok it would not negotiate any legally binding commitments to cut its emissions. 

The UNFCCC's, goal of ensuring a 'common but differentiated responsibilities' approach to the climate change menace more or less stands doomed.

Another critical issue dogging the negotiations is the financial commitment to help developing countries who are most affected by climate change. Initial pledges of $30 billion to fast track moves to mitigate the effects of climate change have proved to be mere talk, so new talk of raising $100 billion a year for that purpose has been received with no hope.

Meanwhile as the politicking goes on the damage to the world goes on unabated. Flash floods, drought, high temperatures and the destructions of life forms and property that come in their wake are not waiting and will not wait for the negotiations so long as the causal factors go on.

Calls from the major victims of climate change, Africa, Latin America andAsia seem to fall on deaf ears no matter how strident they sound. So far it looks like the climate justice agenda just like in other international arena where developing countries' interest are drowned in the interest of developed countries is poised for another setback. However, the stark difference this time round is that it is the planet's health which is at stake. It is true, the developing countries at the moment and in the foreseeable will bear the brunt of the negative effects of climate change but in the long run the rest of the world would suffer as well. 

Indeed if the situation should remain as it were, developing countries would not only be burdened further with mitigating the current effects but also future ones as the developed countries will not be under any binding international obligation to undertake the necessary remedies for both their past actions and likely future ones. 

Responsibility and cause of climate change may be disputed by some, but such effects as a 1.29 C increase in average temperatures in Africa by World Meteorological Organisation, 2010 report and warnings by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, that the world's temperature is likely to rise by between 2.5  to 5 C by the end of the 21st Century must be sobering enough. As reiterated by the Democratic Republic of Congo on behalf of the African Group at Bonn, there is only one sure way of saving the Earth, implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and ensuring that the second commitment period is carried out as the surest way of the reduction of emissions by Annex 1 Parties. Current pledges of reduction of emissions by developed countries is said to be between a mere 3-3.7 gigatonnes of reductions by 2020 whereas the world faces a gap of more than 14 gigatonnes, according a UNEP Emissions Gap Report.

The African Group also asked that the Technology Mechanism become operational by 2012 through the effective implementation of the required financial, technical and capacity -building support from developed countries.

It is important that countries especially the developed countries holding the negotiations hostage be reminded of the Four Bali Pillars on which addressing climate change stand. These are:

1. Enhanced national/international action on mitigation of climate change

2. Enhanced action on adaptation

3. Enhanced action on technology development and transfer to support action on mitigation and adaptation and

4. Enhanced action on the provision of financial resources and investment to support action on mitigation and adaptation and technology cooperation.

These are the points the negotiators need to be mindful of on the road to Durban if both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC and the world are to be saved.