Africa's position on climate change in focus

One of the major causes of inequalities in the world today is the manner in which human beings respond to life's situations.
The difference is in the choices that people make.
Faced with the challenge of climate change and global warming, it is up to the world to choose to remain frustrated or come out of the frustration, to swim or sink, to remain stuck in the hole of political and social indecisiveness or be pragmatic and free themselves.
The first steps of addressing climate change in the world and on livelihoods were taken during the landmark, Earth Summit in 1992. A concrete and legally binding treaty at Kyoto followed five years later after the summit. Two decades after the first inclusive global climate conference, progress has been painstakingly slow, frequently punctuated by unnecessary disputes and broken promises on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
In the mean time, climate change manifesting in increased droughts, floods, erratic rainfall patterns, etc, have accelerated havoc on millions of poor souls, particularly in Africa and other least developed countries. The world cannot continue looking aside. African ministers of environment made that position abundantly clear last week.
Though absolving Africa from any tangible commitments, the ministers want developed countries to deliver on their Kyoto promises and pay for the pollution they have caused.
African ministers have proclaimed their expectations for Durban, which in fact is a euphemism for demands made through a communiqué titled, Bamako Declaration on Consolidating the African Common Position on Climate Change.
This was released recently following an African ministerial conference on the environment held in Mali in September. The paper represents Africa's collective position on climate change negotiations ahead of the yearly United Nations Climate Summit to be held in Durban, South Africa later this year.
Among Africa's key demands for Durban is that the conference delivers a balanced outcome that buttresses the current climate change regime, deliver on sustainable development and increase climate funding as well as deeply cutting emissions.
The group wants developed countries to stop playing poker with the future of the world, especially Africa, by showing credible commitment for a second period of limiting carbon emissions under the Kyoto Protocol in the post 2012 era.
The first commitment period expires in December next year having achieved little, save for a widening rift between pledges and action on emission cuts and climate funding.
Africa is looking for concrete and fundamental improvements to present a negotiating framework that requires increased response from developed nations to reverse or at best, mitigate the severe impact of climate change.
A multitude of rural farmers in Africa have been left at the mercy of donor and government food handouts following a string of droughts in recent years.
Urban dwellers have been exposed to a variety of pressures including water shortages.
However, developed nations do not seem to be reading from the same script as with their African partners and others from the developing world.
There is emerging evidence stipulating that developed nations want to alter the Protocol into a voluntary instrument that reduces their own emission commitments and simultaneously force developing countries to come to the party.
Others have actually threatened to discontinue the negotiations if emission pledges are not extended to include the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
This divergence of opinions and targets is deep seated in both the African, developing countries and developed nation groups.
 It presents a major challenge for Durban and Africa at a time when the world needs to act as one to curtail global warming and establish a long lasting solution to the widespread problems caused by climate change. An official at the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance said South Africa has a big responsibility to the people of Africa and the world to ensure an inclusive, transparent and democratic process.
"Africa needs an agreement in Durban on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and not the lowest common denominator where everyone does nothing so everyone can agree," said the official.
Indeed Africa is unflinching in its demands for Durban and beyond.
"You cannot build a table with two legs," said the African Group Negotiators on Climate Change chair, Mr Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu of the DRC. DRC is currently the chair of the 53 African countries represented in the UN climate change negotiations.
"We are doing our part. We need progress on climate finance and emission cuts by the industrialised countries for success in Durban."
Whether these demands would be met is another issue. But Africa targets to contain global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this, it wants developed member states to the Kyoto Protocol to honour their commitments through ambitious mitigation, commitments for a second and subsequent commitment period.
Developed countries must reduce emissions by 40% by 2050 relative to 1990 levels, stressed the African ministers.
Funding must also be released to finance measurable mitigation and adaptation strategies as well as technology transfer and capacity building. - The Herald