The Sunday Mail
Harmony Agere in Vic Falls
African leaders and heads of agencies meeting for the Fifth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA) here have called for a united voice in pressuring industrialised nations to take more responsibility in fighting climate change when world leaders meet for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-21) to be held in Paris in December 2015.
CCDA is being held in Zimbabwe for the first time and leaders from across the continent have taken the opportunity to prepare themselves for the COP-21 in a bid to come out with a plan which benefits Africa as previous conventions have failed to address Africa’s needs.
Themed “Africa, Climate Change and Sustainable Development: What is at stake at Paris and Beyond”, CCDA has provided African countries with a platform to iron out what they seek to achieve from COP-21.
COP-21 will be a crucial conference, as it 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.
Previous agreements on climate change at Kyoto, Copenhagen, Warsaw and Lima have often been viewed as addressing the needs of the developed countries while African countries are left in the cold.
Those who share this view argue that Africa emits far less green house gases when compared to industrialised nations yet it is the one which stands to suffer the consequence the most.
African leaders say there is pressure from developed nations for Africa to slow down its industrial development in order to reduce emissions.
The developed world has also been accused of neglecting climate change initiatives which it had pledged to support before.
It is in the backdrop of such developments that African leaders are calling for the developed nations to release more funds to tackle climate change as well as reduce industrial emissions.
Officially opening the CCDA conference on Wednesday, Vice President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa lamented the fact that Africa produces the least emissions but always stands to lose the most.
“It is now generally accepted that anthropogenic climate change poses a major threat to humanity unless drastic and urgent responses are implemented to control greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
“Since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, global efforts to respond to climate change have not been particularly successful. Instead, global warming has worsened and the search continues for an appropriate governance framework capable of adequately controlling greenhouse gas emissions.
“For Africa, climate change has massive implications for development. The continent contributes the least greenhouse gasses but stands to lose the most because of its vulnerability and limited adaptation capacity.”
VP Mnangagwa said Africa remains committed to fighting climate change as it stands guided by the African Union industrialisation strategy. He urged African leaders to fight for the benefit of the continent at COP-21.
“The upcoming COP-21 in Paris in December is expected to deliver the new climate agreement, which will define global climate governance in the post-Kyoto period,” he said.
“COP-21 represents a unique chance for Africa to assert itself in global climate governance and influence the outcomes of Paris towards aligning with the continent’s long-term sustainable development agenda.
“The Conference will, in addition, seek to contribute to the refinement of the African common position in advance of COP-21.
VP Mnangagwa said the power shortages affecting the country at the moment as a result of depleted water levels in Zambezi River are a testimony that climate change affects the continent the most.
“As we are gathered here ladies and gentlemen, Zimbabwe and our Zambian counterparts are grappling with power challenges, which have been triggered by reduced rainfall and run-off into our major dam, Kariba.
“This aptly demonstrates that the effect of climate change on weather patterns calls for a paradigm shift from a business-as-usual way of doing things. So as we deliberate on some of the clean technologies under the new Paris climate agreement, let’s not be blind to some of the realities and challenges which countries are facing during this transition.”
Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said there was need for African countries to work together to adapt to climate change.
“It is, therefore, critical to have wholly African driven processes which respect the UNFCCC principle of equal and differentiated responsibilities hence the need to clearly state that climate change adaptation remains our priority.
“This should be our hymn as we head for the Twenty-First Conference of Parties (COP-21). In Paris, we need to press for a new climate change agreement that has a clear measurable, reportable and verifiable framework for means of implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation.
“In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I do hope during the coming days we will come up with a solid position for Africa that will feed into COP-21 and beyond.”
Director of special initiatives division at the Economic Commission for Africa Dr Fatima added her voice on the need for Africa to stand its ground at COP-21: “This meeting is about our collective security as a continent. We are going to tell the rest of the world that we can do it and we can look out of ourselves.”
Mr Almani Dampha, senior policy officer with the African Union Commission said COP-21 presents Africa with the platform to be finally heard, while Professor Frederick Semazzi said many climate change initiatives are failing to work because countries particularly the developing ones are failing to provide the necessary finance.
Speaking on behalf of the COP-21 chair, which is the French Government, Mr Laurent Godefroy, said: “Africa’s priorities are being heard by the French.”
The CCDA conference series was conceived as an annual forum to enable linkages between climate science and development policy by promoting transparent discussions between key stakeholders in the climate and development community. CCDA seeks to mainstream climate information into decision-making and strengthen capacities focusing on climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, food security, energy and transport.
The conferences are organised by the Climate for Development in Africa Programme, a Uneca initiative, the AU Commission and the African Development Bank.