Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 45, December 2009
African common negotiating position - Copenhagen
by Egline Tauya

Southern Africa is in agreement with the rest of the continent on a common position for the upcoming climate change negotiations in Copenhagen.

"SADC and AU must present themselves at the Copenhagen conference while speaking in one voice, so that they can negotiate better for the interests of the sub-region in particular and African continent in general," the Southern African Development Community said at the regional campaign against climate change in Kinshasa in September.

The Copenhagen conference to be held on 7-18 December 2009 in Denmark seeks to find solutions to the rise in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising sea level due to increased emissions of greenhouses gases such as carbon dioxide.

The resultant climate change has devastating effects such as increased frequency and severity of droughts and floods especially for southern Africa.

According to the Southern Africa Environment Outlook, launched by SADC Ministers of Environment and Natural Resources in November, climate change is well underway, with average temperatures in the region having risen by 0.5oC over the last century, and the 1990s deemed the warmest and driest ever.

The book says the region would be affected by sea level rise, estimated to reach 15-95 cm by 2100.

Also noted is the disappearance of glaciers around Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania. The total area covered by snow on Mount Kilimanjaro decreased by six-fold from 12 square kilometres in 1900 to two square kilometres in 2000.

This is supported by a recent study by Lonnie Thompson, professor of earth science at Ohio University who noted that some 85 percent of the ice that made the Mount Kilimanjaro top glaciers in 1912 was gone by 2007, and more than a quarter of the ice present in 2000 was gone by 2007.

In view of such alarming evidence, Africa came up with a common position for negotiations at Copenhagen.

The common position was consolidated at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment held recently in Addis Ababa, in collaboration with the African Union, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the UN Environment Programme.

Key conclusions were that Africa will not accept a new pact to replace Kyoto Protocol, and that Africa requires a new up-scaled finance, technology and capacity for adaptation and risk management.

The spirit and the principles of the Bali Action Plan must be respected and guide all negotiations, the African negotiators argue.

Their concern is that by replacing Kyoto, industrialised countries might weaken their commitments even further and could include even less support for Africa.

This would be against their common position to call for not less than 1.5 of the gross domestic product for compensation as well as pressing for emissions cuts by developed countries by a minimum of 40 percent from 1990 levels and at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The move to abandon Kyoto came in response to the pressure by some developed countries which are pushing emission reductions by the major emitters which include parties of advanced developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

South Africa points out that it is not opposed to targets being set on global warming, but does not support targets that are imposed by developed nations on developing nations to reduce carbon emissions.

The advanced developing countries argue that the words like "Advanced Developing Countries, and Major Emitters are mentioned nowhere in the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Kyoto Protocol.

Therefore are not bound by the protocol and discussion should be based on "Historical Responsibility and the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility" as enshrined in the protocol.

Africa reaffirms the UNFCCC principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and that should form the basis for the post-2012 regime.

The UNFCCC provides a strong foundation for an inclusive, fair and effective international climate change regime which effectively addresses the imperative to stabilize the climate system while recognising imperative and right of developing countries to develop and address poverty and food security.

In this context the intention of some developed countries to bring developing countries under binding commitment on emission reduction is conflicting to the Kyoto Protocol.

Africa says mitigation actions for Africa should be voluntary and nationally appropriate and must be fully supported and enabled by technology transfer, finance and capacity building from developed countries.

The provision of financial, technological transfer, and capacity building support by developed country parties for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, is a commitment under the UNFCCC, that must be urgently fulfilled, negotiators argue.

Africa further demands incorporation in the new climate change agreement of not only the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) programme but also agriculture, forestry and other land uses.

The concept of REDD allows developing countries to be provided with financial incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation.

For southern Africa a REDD programme would not benefit much of the region as it targets rainforests such as the Congo, while the rest of the region has sparse vegetation.

The warming of the climate system as evident from observations of increases in global average of air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level, has therefore prompted the need to step up efforts towards climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

The final position of Africa will be presented at the second extraordinary meeting of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, scheduled for the eve of the high-level segment of the 15th session of Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC, to be held in Copenhagen.

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