Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ravages of climate change will catch Africa napping

Cameroon National Assembly clerk Abdoullaye Daouda (right) and MP Ninolo Onobiono Inzanne go through a presentation during the closing ceremony of the parliamentary summit on Climate Change on Thursday.  Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE

Cameroon National Assembly clerk Abdoullaye Daouda (right) and MP Ninolo Onobiono Inzanne go through a presentation during the closing ceremony of the parliamentary summit on Climate Change on Thursday. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE 

By DAVE OPIYO

One thing that came out clearly at the conclusion of the parliamentary summit on Climate Change on Thursday was that the continent needs to speak with one voice on the issue.

Participants agreed that Africa is least prepared in terms of resources and technology, to deal with the negative consequences of climate change yet it contributed very little towards it.

If they pushed their agenda collectively, the delegates resolved, they would be taken more seriously than if they did it individually.

Financial assistance

And to demonstrate this, the MPs from Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Togo, Cameroon and Namibia jointly came up with a declaration which, if implemented, would greatly assist the continent combat the negative effects of climate change.

The declaration contains a list of demands the legislators want included in the deal to be hammered out at the December climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

on Thursday, President Kibaki officially received the declaration at State House, Nairobi, with a promise to forward it to other African Heads of State for action.

According to their proposals, the legislators want rich countries to be compelled to provide adequate financial assistance to developing states to enable them access climate-friendly technologies that would assist them combat this problem.

And as such, they want the rich countries to set aside at least 1.5 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) per year to support Africa cope with the climate-related shocks.

According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change will threaten economic growth and long-term prosperity, as well as survival of the most vulnerable populations, most of who live in developing countries.

IPCC projects that if emissions continue to rise at their current pace and are allowed to double from pre-industrial levels, the world will face an average temperature rise of 3°C this century.

This will lead to a rise in sea-level, shifts in seasons, and more frequent and intense extreme weather such as storms, floods and droughts.

Climate analyses indicate that, should this happen, Kenya will very likely be warmer by up to five degrees by 2100.

Droughts will continue, possibly becoming more severe while in other parts of the country, rains could become more intense, leading to floods.

The rise in sea level could affect Mombasa, with one study suggesting that 17 per cent of the island could be submerged by a rise in sea level of up to 30 centimetres.

According to proposals by climate change lobby groups, the continent requires at least $200 billion a year, in annual public funding, to adequately and effectively meet these challenges.

Kenya has already indicated that it requires at least $20 billion annually to enable it tackle the problem.

Environment minister John Michuki says the money will be used to boost projects in various sectors of the economy to assist the country beat the crisis.

Even as he made the announcement, he urged other African countries to follow suit and come up with similar claims that would justify their financial demands in Copenhagen.

“As things stand, Africa may come out of the Copenhagen negotiations with nothing. If this happens, we shall have spent our meagre resources for two weeks in Denmark in vain,” said Mr Michuki.

He went on: “This will, however, only happen if we don’t develop concrete programmes to justify our demand for adequate compensation from developed countries to both mitigate and adapt to the negative effects on climate change.”

The conference also resolved to press the industrialised countries to come up with “ambitious and binding” commitments to reduce their emissions as stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol.

Specifically, they want the countries to reduce their global emissions by at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by between 80 and 95 per cent by 2050.

“This is in order to maintain the concentration of the atmospheric carbon dioxide below 450 parts per million and temperature below two degrees centigrade.”

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change binds rich countries to fund developing nations to help them adapt to and mitigate climate change.

“The financial resources required to address climate change should be new, additional, adequate, predictable, sustainable, and provided primarily in the form of grants,” the leaders said in their resolutions.

Pressure has been mounting on the rich countries to demonstrate their willingness to not only put adequate funding on the table, but also assist developing countries accelerate the uptake of clean technology, reduce deforestation and embark on wide scale adaptation programmes.

On Thursday, President Kibaki appealed to African countries not to allow themselves to be manipulated by developed countries during the Copenhagen conference.

“There is need to stand firm in ensuring that this declaration is adopted in Copenhagen. The spirit of the Nairobi summit should be kept alive in all future climatic global meetings,” he said.

He urged African leaders to unite in pushing for the continent’s agenda in the forthcoming climate change conference. “We have to speak with one voice on climate change because the rest of the world should be made to understand what we want,” he said.

The President assured the delegates that he would communicate the resolutions of the Second African Parliamentarians’ Summit on Climate Change to all African leaders.

Mr Cyprian Awudu, the president of the Pan African Parliament Network for Climate Change, says global warming is the biggest threat to human survival.

Mr Awudu was disappointed that parliamentarians had not taken the bull by the horns and taken part actively in the negotiations that would lead to the deal in December.

“We have been spectators... We have behaved like the proverbial ostrich which buried its head in the sand assuming that nothing is happening.”

Catastrophic outcome

Mr Awudu added: “We however hope that with our participation, the climate change deal will be fair, equitable and effective.”

Kenya’s House Speaker Kenneth Marende said mankind must confront climate change decisively or risk a catastrophic outcome with regards to heat waves, droughts, floods among others.

He hoped that the much-anticipated deal in Copenhagen would see to it that nations were held to account for their efforts to reduce emissions and that proper sanctions were set to those who did not adhere to the deal.

Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai also urged the MPs, governments, civil society organisations and religious leaders to take a pro-active lead in assisting the continent fight the negative effects of climate change.

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