Africa prepares for climate change talks in Mexico

by Kizito Sikuka – SANF 10 No 31
Africa’s position regarding the forthcoming climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico remains the same – increased finance, technology and capacity for adaptation and risk management.

African leaders re-endorsed this position at their annual Summit of the African Union held in Kampala, Uganda on 25-27 July.

AU chairperson, President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi said all Member States should continue to champion the common position at various international fora as “we prepare for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conferences of States Parties” (COP16) scheduled late this year.

The Cancun conference to be held in December 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 greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

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

“Effects of climate change are there for all to see and we in Africa have to play our own role in mitigating its effects,” Mutharika said, adding that the continent should “go to Cancun with one strong African message.”

“African Governments are seeking predictable and reliable financing to fight development challenges posed by climate change.”

He said the continent is the worst affected by climate change because of its levels of poverty and low capacity to adapt. However, this is despite the fact that Africa is the least contributor of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

“We have already experienced and felt the impacts of climate change in our countries especially on agriculture which is the main source of livelihood for most of our people,” he said, adding that crop failures and loss of livestock due to droughts and floods have had negative consequences on food security.

He said Africa, if accorded the right support has the capacity to address effects of climate change and ensure developmental gains that have been achieved in the last few years are not reversed or lost.

“The people of Africa have the will and desire to surmount the climate change and development challenges they face daily, but they lack the resources and the means necessary to do so,” he said.

While the last climate change conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark agreed that developed countries commit themselves to jointly mobilize US$100 billion a year by 2020 and an additional US$30 billion for the period 2010-12, for adaptation and mitigation in vulnerable countries, Africa favours a different approach.

The continent wants an approach in which developing countries will be beneficiaries of technology transfer, capacity building and funding to the tune of US$200 billion a year by 2020.

Other demands by Africa include the need to cut emissions to at least 40 percent below the 1990 levels by 2020. The continent also wants deeper cuts by developed countries to reach at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Africa say new climate studies show that dangers of global temperatures rises are even greater than thought just a few years ago.

For example, increased rate of melting glaciers including that are on Mount Kilimanjaro, are melting faster than recorded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and provides evidence to this effect. As such Africa argues that global temperature rises should be kept below 1.5 degrees instead on the proposed below 2 degrees.

Apart from the financial support, African countries also request that they should be empowered technologically so that they could effectively deal with the effects of climate change.

To ensure the African position on climate is strongly promoted, leaders established a coordinating committee last year to spearhead the process led by Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi.

At the Summit, Zenawi presented a progress report of developments so far, saying there is need for Africa to continue speaking with a single voice on climate change negotiations.

While, the Copenhagen Summit held last year failed to reach a conclusive deal, expectation is high that COP16 scheduled for Mexico would at least lay a good foundation for countries to agree on a climate change deal soon.

Preparatory meetings held so far such as the Bonn conference in Germany in June indicate that countries are committed towards reaching a deal on climate change.

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