Monday, December 21, 2009

The dilemma of common but differentiated responsibilities

African leaders are very disappointed with the outcomes from the just concluded Copenhagen Climate Conference. They feel that the tentative, toothless and tepid agreements under consideration do not adequately take into account the fact that Africa has contributed least to the problem yet stands to suffer the most from the consequences of climate change.

We must gather up the courage to conduct a bloodless design science revolution before the window of opportunity closes and the other form of revolt becomes more attractive. (GW)

Climate Change: The African Stand

By Maureen Chigbo


December 20, 2009

African negotiators at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference demand immediate reduction in emissions generated by developed countries and financial support to combat the negative impact on the continent

The conference was intended to be the continuation of the journey towards saving the environment, mankind’s common heritage, but the intrigues displayed did not suggest that the delegates were there for a common goal. There were so much posturing, arm-twisting and emphasis on formalities by different delegations, groups and economic blocs including the European Union, the African Group, G-77 and China.

There were protests by different non-governmental and civil society organisations against being shut out or leaving conferees in long queues out in the cold because the Bella Centre, 15,000-capacity venue, could not take about 40,000 people who came for the event. International Youth groups also staged a sit-in at the conference demanding a “fair and legally binding climate deal.”

Even the negotiators from different countries, especially the developed countries, initially held tenaciously to their positions without giving in to the demand of others. Discussions hovered around issues such as reducing carbon emissions, Kyoto protocol, the Bali Action Plan, binding legal document, funding and mitigation and adaptation measures for containing climate challenge. The technical committees made up of experts (negotiators) on climate change and environment issues of participating countries deployed all their energy, wiles and craft of their trade to harmer out agreements that protect the interest of their respective countries. Intrigues led some regions to create divisions among countries of some continents. For instance, the EU was believed to have used the least developed countries, LDC, to upset the unity among the African Group as they tried to present a common position at the conference which will be binding on the EU and the United States of America.

Realising the inherent danger, Kamel Djemouai from Algeria and the leader of the African Group, warned against divide and rule tactic, saying: “it is very wrong. Our brothers from the least developed countries have to be very careful. One day you will have to go out of the group of LDC and become developing countries and then you will face any wrong commitment made at this conference.”

This warning came against the backdrop that the EU had previously promised financial assistance to the LDC to counter African Group’s common position on reducing carbon emissions by the developed world. When the African group felt frustrated with the antics of the developed world, they walked out of the conference on December 14. They returned to the conference debate only after Connie Hedegaard, the president of the Conference of Parties on Climate Change, COP 15, as the Climate Conference was called, deftly reached out to them to salvage the situation.

Unfortunately, Hedegaard resigned her appointment last Wednesday, December 16, due to domestic political shenanigans. However, before her resignation, she warned that the conference could “fail probably, without anyone really wanting it so. But we spent too much time on posturing, on repeating positions, on formalities. If we are going to make it and we are, then we must change gear. We can’t risk failure. No one here can carry that responsibility. That means that the key word for the next two days must be compromise.”

Delegations appeared to heed her call for compromise. Ojo Maduekwe, leader of the Nigerian team, believed the conference would reach a compromise on most of the contentious issues before the end.

A statement issued by Sweden on behalf of the EU said clearly that the union came to seal a deal at the conference. “The Copenhagen summit must be more than just another checkpoint along the road. The breakthrough must happen here and now. Now is the time to give and take. Now is the time to stretch our commitment. Now is the time to show our courage to succeed. I turn to all of you and say: Let us not leave Copenhagen before we have reached an agreement that is ambitious, global and comprehensive.”

To secure a better deal, the African group established a small think-tank of five countries – Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya - to streamline its position. Members of the group are from the technical experts or negotiators.

The African climate change negotiators’ messages were based on Africa’s common position on climate change as adopted in Algiers on November 21, 2008 and updated by the special session of the AMCEN held in Nairobi on May 29, 2009 and endorsed by the 13th African Union Summit held in Libya, last July. Africa is asking, in the context of environmental justice, that it should be equitably compensated for the environmental resources, economic and social losses it has suffered as a result of developed countries’ historical responsibilities on climate change. “In this respect, Africa requires sustained and scaled up finance, technology and capacity building for adaptation and risk management,” the negotiators said in a statement.

They said Africa recognises the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, and reaffirms its principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and that these should form the basis for the post 2012 regime. Given the uncertainties of the impacts of climate change, Africa’s adaptation measures should be based on the precautionary principle. Africa insisted that the Copenhagen summit must produce a two-track outcome – one for the amendment of annex B (all developed countries) of the Kyoto protocol on further commitments by Annex 1 parties for the 2nd and subsequent commitment periods (Article 3.9 of the Kyoto Protocol). Secondly, the conference must produce a separate legal instrument, for the outcome of the negotiations under the Convention. “Africa will not accept any delay by developed countries to deeply cut their greenhouse gas emissions and support for Africa to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change,” the statement said.

According to the African negotiators, for positive and acceptable outcome in Copenhagen, Africa insists that we must stick to the mandate of the Bali Action Plan under the Convention and to the mandate of Article 3.9 of the Kyoto Protocol. On the Bali Action Plan, Africa proposed a shared vision which involves a fair, inclusive, effective and equitable deal in Copenhagen that will benefit the vulnerable countries and be undertaken in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development and the need for gender equity. Africa’s priority is the implementation of the adaptation action. This implies that Africa is the most vulnerable continent and has the right for full support to adapt to climate change.

Africa is of the view that it contributed the least to the global greenhouse gas emissions, and stands to suffer the most. It wants comprehensive and action-oriented adaptation programme to be established to support adaptation action, provide financial, technological and capacity building support by developed country parties for adaptation in developing countries.

In addition, it wants the Copenhagen conference to recognise that climate change is an additional burden to sustainable development and a threat to achieving the millennium development goals. On mitigation, Africa wanted the Copenhagen outcome to contain ambitious, qualified, legally binding and wide greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments for all non-Kyoto developed country parties, of at least 45 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020.

Others are that mitigation actions for Africa should be voluntary and nationally appropriate; that a firewall must be maintained between mitigation commitments by all developed countries and mitigation actions by developing countries. There must also be comparability of efforts among developed countries. Africa is of the view that a financial commitment of at least 2.5 percent of global GDP of developed countries is required to support and enable adaptation and mitigation as well as technology transfer and capacity building actions in developing countries.

Among other things, Africa wanted the Copenhagen outcome to provide new, additional, sustainable, accessible and predictable finance, transparent and equitable institutional arrangements that must facilitate access by developing countries to the means of implementation in a coherent and enabling manner. It asked for an agreement on technology deployment, diffusion and transfer that must ensure access by developing countries to affordable, appropriate and adaptable technologies for enhanced action on mitigation and adaptation that would address the urgent needs of Africa.

On Kyoto protocol issues, Africa, according to the negotiators, will never accept the replacement of the protocol nor its merger with any new agreement. Also, developed countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45 percent below 1990levels by 2020 and at least 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 in order to achieve the lowest level of the stabilisation assessed by the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report.

But the African agenda may not be fully realised going by the position of the EU. From the EU point of view, the Copenhagen Agreement must be ambitious and enable the world to stay well below two degrees of warming. EU has already binding legislation in place that will reduce emissions beyond 2020 and is prepared to reduce emissions by up to 95 percent by 2050 compared to 1990. The EU called on other developed countries to make this objective part of the Copenhagen Agreement. “We will never succeed without important contributions from the emerging economies, which must reduce emissions significantly compared to business as usual. The EU recognises the action already taken by some developing countries. But the world needs more,” it said.

This, notwithstanding, developed countries are also bringing pressure to bear on the oil producing countries like Nigeria. The developed world is blaming oil producing countries for the carbon emission whereas there are historical evidence to show that the global warming the world is witnessing today is as a result of the activities of developed countries 100 years ago when they emitted high levels of carbon into the atmosphere as a result of industrialisation and unsustainable development activities.

Delegates of oil producing countries like Nigeria believe that there is a conspiracy against fossil fuel. For example, in Copenhagen, the energy powering its productive activities is wind energy. A delegation including Nigerians’ visit to a waste to energy plant in Malmo, showed a practical example of workable waste to energy technology based on public private partnership. One of the delegates said that the visit tells clearly that the Copenhagen agenda has a future although that future must not happen without Africa. “There is a conscious agenda on the part of developed countries to phase out fossil fuel and the determination to improve their renewable energy technologies to a level that will enable them turn their back on fossil fuel,” said Julius Okputu, commissioner of environment, Cross River State.

The challenge of the western agenda is for Africa, especially Nigeria, whose revenue is solely derived from oil, to go back and develop capacities to key into the global agenda. What this means is that Nigeria has to go beyond oil to generate its revenue. And the answer lies in keying into the Reduced Emissions on Deforestation and Forest Degradation Agenda, REDD. Nigeria will also develop its capacity to exploit alternative and renewable energy resources if it does not want to be left in the cold in the new global agenda for climate change.


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