Africa’s struggles with climate change

Africa’s struggles with climate change

Harmony Agere
Zimbabwe, just like many other African countries, is struggling to adapt to climate change and has had to endure water management and food security challenges as a result.
The situation has traditionally been blamed on many factors but poor funding and lack of technology transfer from developed countries have stood out as the main challenges.
Some African leaders are of the view that the situation was created by the industrialised world’s unwillingness to work with Africa in reducing the impact of climate change on the continent.
This view appears to stem from the fact that the whole of Africa produces less global carbon emissions and is, therefore, entitled to assistance from developed nations in its quest to curb the effects of climate change.
Consequently, this was the loudest sentiment when African leaders met at the Fifth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA) in Victoria Falls last week.
The general feeling was that Africa should pressurise industrialised nations into action at the the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-21) in Paris, to be held at the end of this month.
COP-21 will come up with a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C and is seen as an opportunity for Africa to influence a climate change plan that benefits African countries.
To curb rising temperatures, the agreement is expected to come up with new guidelines and targets of reducing carbon emissions and invest in clean energy. It will be the first legally binding agreement to curb climate change as it will tie all 196 member states of the UN to cut back on their carbon emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which is the first major agreement on climate, only required 52 developed countries to reduce emissions.
Records also show that the attempt to extend the Kyoto agreement to the developing nations as well fell apart at the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009.
It is against this background that Africa has raised hope that COP-21 will come out with all the remedies for the current problems.
Participating in a session themed “What is at stake at Paris and beyond” at the recent CCDA, delegate Dr Seth Osafo noted that Africa is the only continent that negotiates with one voice when it comes to issues to do with climate change.
Another delegate, Diobe Gueye, from Senegal reiterated Africa’s call for international financial support for adaptation adding that the agreement in Paris must be results-based, outcome-oriented and legally-binding.
Participant Selam Kidane Abebe said the Paris agreement should contain decisions to support implementation of the new instrument, as well as declarations on finance, renewable energy and adaptation.
However, while it is plausible that Africa goes to COP-21 with a clear ambition, experts have warned Zimbabwe and Africa at large not to count much on the conference as it is likely to be marred with stand-offs and deadlocks.
They say Africa should shift attention to addressing its own problems despite having played little role in global warming.
An expert in climatology and environment conservationist who attended the event, Dr Carlos Thembani, said industrialised nations will not give in to an agreement which threatens their economies.
“There is a danger that we might go to Paris with high hopes, we should be careful not to do that because I predict it will be one of the most heated negotiation forums,” he said.
“First, major polluters will not want to cut out industrial emissions significantly and have their economies affected; second, like they have been doing they won’t assist Africa with enough funding for it to adapt. There will be deadlocks and stand-offs and the best solution for Africa now is to do things their own way in mitigating the impact of climate change.”
According to environmentalist and writer Fiona Harvey, funding and reduction of emissions will be the major sticking issue at COP-21.
“Finance remains a major sticking point. Developing countries want richer ones to pledge funding to enable them to cut their emissions, for instance, by funding renewable energy schemes or energy efficiency,” she wrote in her recent article.
“These have significant carbon-cutting potential, but poor countries struggle to find the money to invest in them or to provide the incentives necessary for private sector businesses to invest in them.
“At the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009, developed nations promised $100 billion per year would flow to the poor world in order to fund such operations. Rich countries are wary of signing a blank cheque. They argue that, following the financial crisis and given their existing commitments to poor countries, the prospect of covering the expense from the public purse is out of reach.
“They point to tens of billions already provided by their governments to sectors as diverse as forestry, city development, technology transfer and other means that reach the same goals, as well as contributions from development banks, which are funded by taxpayers from developed countries.”
Vice President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, who officially opened the CCDA, said Zimbabwe is already pushing its own initiatives to deal with climate change.
“Zimbabwe views climate change as a very serious issue and has been meeting its obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and was among the first few countries to sign and ratify the convention, including the submission of the Initial National Communication,” he said.
“The country has also developed a National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) to guide climate change implementation in the country. It has also submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions where we set the global Greenhouse Gas emissions target at 33 percent, subject to availability of support.
“In order to cushion ourselves from the effects of climate change, the Government of Zimbabwe is currently working on the National Climate Policy to enable smooth implementation of the response strategies that have been developed.
“Government has also recently created a fully fledged Department of Climate Change Management to give policy guidance and complement private sector efforts.”
The VP said although Zimbabwe’s main thrust remains adaptation and poverty reduction, some strategic multi-beneficial mitigation actions have been identified.
These include the use of renewable energies such as hydro-power, solar, wind and related environmentally sound projects.
According to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre (CDIAC), Africa’s emissions still produce far less carbon than other countries despite the fact that they have been growing gradually.
In a report, CDIAC says Africa’s fossil-fuel carbon emissions are low in both absolute and per capita terms.
“Total emissions for Africa have increased 12-fold since 1950, reaching 311 million metric tons of carbon in 2008, still less than the emissions for some single nations including mainland China, the US, India, Russia, and Japan.
“Although per capita emissions in 2008 – 0,32 metric tons of carbon were three times those in Africa for 1950, they were still only 6,6 percent of the comparable value for North America.
“A small number of nations are largely responsible for the African emissions from fossil fuels and cement production, South Africa accounts for 38 percent of the continental total and another 46 percent comes from Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Libya and Morocco combined.”
The report says only four African countries have per capita carbon emissions higher than the global average of 1,3 metric ton of carbon per year. Libya has 2,53, South Africa (2,39), the Seychelles (2,22), and Equatorial Guinea (1,99).
Based on 2008 per capita emission rates, 28 of the 55 African nations whose data are available have per capita emission rates less than 0,1 metric tonnes of carbon per capita per year.

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