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Recently, thousands of delegates spent two weeks in Warsaw, Poland to do something about climate change. However, global civil society has seen little benefit.
The 19th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland came at a time when science shows that human activity is responsible for the rise in global warming.
If Africa needed a sign for the need to come to terms with the dangers of climate change, the 2011/2012 flood disaster remains the most practical example. After several weeks of torrential rain, most parts of Africa; especially Nigeria, South Sudan, Uganda, and others, were caught napping; literally running from pillar to post.
The World Bank, in its second quarter annual report of the 2013 world economy, alluded to the environmental disaster caused by the flood as being responsible for the slow pace of growth in some African economies. The bank even slashed the economic growth ratio down for some the countries affected, just as it did with other economies around the world. Even with these devastating indicators of the negative impacts of climate change, there are still no concrete signs that governments have shown full commitment in the mitigation of environmental degradation on the continent.
Again, it is doubtful if the magnitude of the environmental problems the continent is confronted with have been reduced, nor are they being addressed squarely. In all, the politics of protecting the environment and ecosystem, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions are often on the global stage. Specifically, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides the best platform where nations pacify their various environmental challenges back home.
Though at the centre of deliberations of the UNFCCC summit is the Kyoto Protocol agreement, participating countries are also expected to bring to the table efforts that have been put in place to curtail the depletion of the ozone layer and reduction of emissions. For this year’s conference, top on the agenda included a review of emission inventories tendered by participating nations, an overview of efforts on reducing human-generated greenhouse gas emission, stabilization of global average temperature, protecting world forests and assisting vulnerable populations to adapt to climate change challenges.
Topmost in the battle for a safer environment ahead of the Warsaw conference was the issue of adaptation and mitigation. Another crucial area that attracted a lot of attention was effective implementation of previous COPs’ agreements. These agreements surround the level of implementation of the so called Cancun Agreements, Durban Outcomes and the Doha Gateway. In view of the above, participating countries were tasked with formulating new global agreements expected in 2015, that will be geared towards the mitigation of climate change effects. So where do most Africa countries such as Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda etc stand in all of these?
African countries approach these negotiations in two ways. First, to seek progress with the implementation of decisions already taken under the convention and the Kyoto Protocol and, second, to ensure that there are significant advances in the work under the Durban Platform, so that negotiations on a new global agreement on climate change can be concluded by 2015
According to Maesela Kekana, South Africa’s lead climate change negotiator, progress is expected on both the implementation of the Bali Outcomes and the Durban Platform. Kekana added that, on the back of the gains made in previous conferences in Durban and Qatar, it was critical for actionable plans to emerge from COP19 and COP20 in Lima.
Developed countries have set aside billions of dollars to help rainforest nations save their trees by earning credits for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). They won’t start spending it in a big way, however, until they see trustworthy reference levels that tell them both how much carbon is captured in the recipient countries’ forests, farms, and prairies and how that carbon content is changing.
Developing countries, on the other hand, are reluctant to invest time and effort to create reference levels until they know the money will flow. Some of them, most notably Brazil, are also adamantly against third-party verification, which they see as a violation of sovereignty.
These and other issues are a central focus of talks, as the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) works to crystallize existing principles for the creation of reference levels into concrete guidelines that will be shared with the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).
The general expectation here is that a text will be finished and approved by a committee and will be dumped away until the next conference and the next.