Southern African News Features                                           SANF 11 No 02, Jan 2011
Cancun Agreement: A small step forward
by Egline Tauya

Southern Africa will host a global climate conference this year that is expected to produce an international agreement to address climate change.

Talks will continue throughout the year with the objective of finalizing a global accord at the 17th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) to be held in Durban, South Africa in November.

The draft agreement reached late last year in Mexico represents a small step towards a global deal. However, the progress is still far from satisfactory for developing countries as it does not address their position on a number of issues including carbon emission levels, as well as increased finance, technology and capacity for adaptation and risk management.

Governments from 193 countries met in Cancun, Mexico in December and agreed on a set of draft decisions that will support further talks during the course of 2011.

The draft Cancun Agreement includes the development of a Green Fund, formally pledging carbon emissions cut including reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation, making decisions about the future of the Kyoto protocol, supporting technology transfer as well as monitoring, reporting and verification of emission cuts.

Most significant for Africa is the decision to set up a Climate Green Fund with a board that will have equal representation from developed and developing countries.

The Climate Green Fund is intended to raise and disburse US$100 billion a year by 2020 starting with US$30 billion by 2012 for fast-track financing, although there is some scepticism about the magnitude of these figures.

The funds are pledged to assist developing countries to adapt to floods and drought to enable a reduction greenhouse gases and to adapt their economies and infrastructure to a changing climate.

Climate experts note that Africa is already experiencing frequent floods and droughts due to rising temperatures, even though its combined share of carbon emissions is insignificant.

The Green Fund is in line with the vision of an Africa Green Fund, a channel through which development partners will support adaptation as part of the allocation of climate change funds.

Speaking at a panel discussion on progress on the Green Fund project in Cancun, the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UNECA, Abdoulie Janneh, argued that "since Africa’s ability to deal with impacts of climate change depends essentially on the availability of financial resources, the mobilization of resources for the Africa Green Fund should be done in a sustainable manner, bearing in mind that it cannot be a one-year affair."

Janneh urged the Parties to use at least 60 percent of the fast-track fund meant for financing climate change adaptation and mitigation activities in developing countries to kick start the future Africa Green Fund.

"We want resources that are sustainable. That is why Economic Commission for Africa will work closely with the Green Fund through the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) to ensure that it succeeds," Janneh said.

He made it clear that ACPC has a clear mandate to strengthen capacities in Africa to deal with climate change challenges. The ACPC is a joint programme of the ECA, the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission,

While there are already more than 20 climate funds operating internationally, Africa has access to only a few and has only a handful of projects registered under Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Most of the African CDM projects are concentrated in South Africa. Latin America and Asian countries, particularly India and China already boast hundreds of CDM projects.

Architects of the Africa Green Fund claim that Africa's unique challenges and the huge financing gap on the continent were among the reasons for creating the Fund.

Other significant outcomes from Cancun were that pledges made by developed countries to cut emissions were formally put into the UN documentation. The countries are to develop low-carbon development plans and are to report their inventories annually.

While the text adopted recognises that deeper cuts in carbon emissions are needed, they are not legally binding and analysis suggests the pledges would lead to a 3.2°C rise in temperature, far higher than the 2°C generally considered to be a level of safe warming by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change.

This explains why Africa insists that the developed countries must cut emissions to at least 40 percent below the 1990 levels by 2020, and reach at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 since they are the biggest emitters.

Developing counties also agreed to look at how they can cut emissions in future. A registry is to be set up to record and match developing country mitigation actions to finance and technology support from industrialised countries. The countries are to publish progress reports every two years.

It is also significant that Parties agreed to boost action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries-known as the REDD scheme.

Under the scheme developed countries pay developing countries for not cutting down forests, thereby locking carbon emissions.

Details about when this will happen exactly and in what form are still vague, particularly whether developed countries will be able to use it to offset their emissions rather than make cuts at home.

The Cancun agreement also supports the idea of transferring knowledge of clean technology between countries. A technology executive committee and a climate technology centre and network to increase technology cooperation to support action on adaptation and mitigation is to be set.

There is however neither details of where the money for the climate technology centre will be obtained, nor where it will be based, when and by whom.

The conference also established a new Cancun adaptation framework that would allow for better planning and implementation of adaptation projects in developing countries through increased financial and technical support, including a clear process for continuing work on loss and damage.

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