Road to Paris a rough but vital ride

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The need for a fair and collective solution to fight climate change and the difficulty of achieving that was underlined at the Road to Paris Regional Dialogue that was held in Addis Ababa from April 7 to 9 at the Gullele Botanic Garden.

The event brought together different representative stakeholders of many governments and the private sector to discuss on issues that could potentially lead to an agreement during the COP 21 conference that is scheduled to be held in Paris, France in December.
“We need to use a form of energy that does not produce green house gasses and that is renewable. We need to also work on reforestation to remove carbon dioxide. In Ethiopia, we are doing both.  Energy is produced from hydropower, wind power and geothermal power. Aggressive reforestation has also increased the forest coverage to 15 percent,” stated Belete Tafere, Minister of Environment and Forests.
The minister stated that Ethiopia’s different projects in utilizing clean energy has and will continue to benefit neighboring countries. “We have already started exporting power produced from renewable sources to neighboring countries. The Renaissance Dam will also be producing electricity partially at the end of this year, and once the dam goes fully operational, we will be able to export electricity to more neighboring countries,” he stated.
In order for climate change to be reversed, the world will need to unite and work together to find solutions for the problems.
“If the world is genuinely united, sufficient mitigation is possible to stop global warming from continuing and to carry out adaptation measures for the effects that have already happened. We are marching on time on the road to Paris. The Ethiopian government is giving its full attention to the negotiations to be had during the climate conference,” the minister further stated.
The Road to Paris Regional Dialogue was held with the aim of identifying areas of shared concerns, and to promote  regional consensus among climate vulnerable countries towards successfully securing a new climate change deal in Paris.
“This kind of event is critical to raise awareness about climate change, and it is something I hope that can be duplicated in different places. Given the global nature of climate change, we clearly need a global solution,  one that is fair, applicable, and above all, effective,” stated Ismail Elgizouli, Acting Chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
He stated that the IPCC’s mandate is to provide policy makers with information and the options regarding climate change and it will be up to negotiators to assess these options.
“The impacts of climate change are no longer abstract, they are clearly seen. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and oceans are warmer. About 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions occurred in the last 50 years. Unless we change the course, we will enter a world that none of us will recognize or welcome,  filled with food and water shortages, droughts and violent conflicts as a result of forced migrations, among others,” said Elgizouli.
“But this does not have to be our future. It is still within our power to slow and ultimately stop climate change. But we will need institutional and technological changes to give us a chance to keep global warming below 2 degrees temperature. We need knowledge, determination and hope,” he further stated.
Annick Girardin, French Minister of State for Development and Francophony, stated that Africa can offer several solutions to the problem of climate change.
“There are several solutions across the world, even here in Africa. I was on the ground in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania to look at the different solutions that are provided by Africa. We can reach sustainable growth only if we take into account all of these,” she said.
According to Girardin, sustainable growth is not only about climate change but also about fighting poverty. She also stated other countries have the opportunity to learn from Ethiopia regarding zero greenhouse gas emission.
“In Ethiopia, we see how they have made progress and how they have tackled the issue of climate change with the strategies they have developed in their ambitious plan. We had the chance to visit the wind power project in Mekele, for example. So Ethiopia is a real laboratory for solutions,” Girardin said.
“We should bring solidarity and responsibility together: Solidarity because it is unfair that the poor pay the bill and are the first to suffer the effects of climate change. Paris should be the moment where concrete solutions are provided for the most vulnerable. Responsibility because everyone should contribute to the solution,” she further said. She also acknowledged that reaching an agreement in Paris will not be as smooth as a walk in a park.
Djibouti is one of the countries represented at the Dialogue by Dr. Nabil Mohamed, Minister of Higher Education and Research. He similarly underlined the need for a solution that should take into consideration everyone’s interest.
“We all face the same problems and obstacles and it is time to formulate a program that is common and that can be shared throughout the countries in different regions and that can be useful to reversing climate change. Solutions need to be realistic and easy to implement,”Mohamed said.
Djibouti will be hosting a conference from May 2nd to 4th this year that will focus on the environment. The East Africa Risk and Opportunities Summit Djibouti will host will be a platform that challenges the public and private sector leaders to propose impactful and profitable solutions to aspects of the biggest environmental and economic challenges facing East Africa and Arabia currently.
“Today Africa has the capacity; a lot of us have been to the best universities and bringing back the knowledge from these universities to help our continent is important. During the summit in May, we want participants to share the experiences of some of the programs they have implemented in their countries and the actions they have taken to reverse the effects of climate change,”Mohamed further said.
He also underlined the need for the establishment of a task force and an expert committee to deal with the issue of climate change.
“We need to put together a task force for the Horn of Africa that focuses on scientific research. This region needs to have an expert committee with regards to climate change. We all have people in each of our countries that have the knowledge of how to carry out scientific research,” he stated.
According to him, the establishment of a task force and an expert committee to carry out scientific researches would mean that Africa will not need to depend on other partners to solve its problems. With the right expertise pulled together, the continent can solve its own problems.
Currently, Djibouti has put in place several renewable energy projects such as wind, solar and geothermal. According to Minister Mohamed, climate change also brings forth an opportunity to create employment in areas such as recycling, and such opportunities need to be explored as much as the risks.
It was also mentioned at the Road to Paris dialogue that Ethiopia is among very few countries that has a strategy put in place to develop a Green Economy and that should be an example to be taken by other countries as well.
The Green Climate Fund, a fund founded as a mechanism to redistribute money from the developed to the developing world in order to assist developing countries efforts in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter the impacts of climate change, is expected to become one of the most important discussion topics at the Paris conference.
The fund is initiated to support projects, programs, policies and other activities of developing countries to halt climate change. Although the Fund was supposed to be fed  with USD 10 billion by 2015 and USD 100 billion by 2020, it currently has only about USD 3 billion.
According to Annick Girardin, although it is true that the financing is nowhere where it should be, so far, no developing country has put forward a proposal of a project in order to utilize the Green Climate Fund.