Southern African News Features                                           SANF 11 No 33, November 2011


Towards agreement on climate change

The climate change conference set for Durban, South Africa in November provides an opportunity for the global community to reach a binding agreement towards the common goal of rescuing the planet, but deep divisions remain on the way forward.

The 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will continue negotiations toward a global consensus on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

Comparable emission reductions for industrialized non-Kyoto Parties will be central to the outcome of the Durban conference.

“Climate change is threatening to our future and that of our planet, and we must act now if we are to save tomorrow,” the incoming COP17 ministerial chairperson, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane of South Africa said, adding that “no single country, no matter its size or power, can take on this challenge on its own.”

“We can only succeed when we work together as the international community, reading from the same page, and acting in concert for a common goal. It is therefore, our wish that this conference will become a platform for the world to take a significant step towards a future climate change regime.”

Nkoana-Mashabane, who is the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, said on-going talks are encouraging and the global community should build on this to make COP17 a success.

At the last summit, a draft agreement was reached, representing a small step towards a global deal. However, the progress was far from satisfactory, particularly for developing countries as it did not address their position on a number of issues including carbon emissions levels, as well as increased finance, technology and capacity for adaptation and risk management.

As a result of this, there is scepticism about the magnitude of the figures and the conditions to access funds under the proposed Green Climate Fund, which expects to raise and disburse about US$100 billion a year by 2020, starting with US$30 billion in 2012 to support mitigation and adaptation actions in developing countries.

Africa also argues that global temperature rises should be kept below 1.5 degrees instead of the proposed target of below 2 degrees.

At their annual meeting held in Namibia, SADC ministers responsible for environment and natural resources management re-affirmed their desire to use the forthcoming climate change conference to press for an outcome that reflects the African priorities, which centre on adaptation, increased finance, technology transfer and capacity building.

The ministers urged all Member States to work together and speak with one voice in order to influence the outcome of the conference, adding that adaptation remains a top priority for the region.

The Africa Group of Negotiators on Climate Change (AGN), which met in Durban in August, re-affirmed the need to prioritize climate adaptation to benefit the continent.

“Durban is expected to finalize an ambitious Adaptation Framework, develop guidelines and support for our National Adaptation Plans and build momentum towards a mechanism to compensate for climate-related losses and damage,” said the AGN.

SADC ministers responsible for gender have also emphasized the importance of integrating a gender perspective into climate change policies and adaptation strategies, as women are the worst affected by climate change.

In line with the SADC ministers view, the AGN agreed to press for a second legally binding commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol to ensure that there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods.

The Kyoto Protocol, the only global agreement on climate change to date, sets the targets for industrialized countries to reduce their emissions to an average of five per cent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

COP17 is scheduled for 28 November to 9 December in Durban. This is the third time that an African country is hosting the climate change conference, following Morocco in 2001 (COP7) and Kenya in 2006 (COP13). SADC Today Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region.

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SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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