Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Commit to reducing carbon emissions

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati

November 29 -it  is a full house of environmentalists, politicians, activists in the civil society and diplomats at Durban after the United Nations climate talks formally kicked off yesterday. Delegates attending the seventeenth conference of parties (COP17) to the UN Framework on Climate Change make Durban’s international conventional centre a beehive activity. Swarms of delegates move to and fro the centre oscillating across several conference rooms badges dangling across their chests discussing the next move in the UN convened climate talks.

Key issues at the COP17 are extension of the Kyoto protocol where countries have to commit and implement reducing carbon emissions and the funding to the worst hit countries by effects of climate change among others.  There is great lobbying going on among the delegates and countries on ensuring these key issues are secured but the half-hearted commitments to the binding carbon emissions reduction agreements are in mind. Canada has pulled out of the Kyoto protocol that expires next year, throwing cold water on entire COP17 processes early enough. And securing the green climate funds gets more complicated given the current economic crisis in Euro zone countries that are major funders of carbon emission reduction programmes. This has raised doubts on whether COP17 can deliver on the much needed green climate funds. 

Women walks past a flood homestead in Teso, Uganda
However, if China, which is now the number one carbon emitter after the United States, gets the backing of other rich countries the green climate fund can be secured since Chinese delegates  are pushing for it in a bid to reduce emissions. On the other front international NGOs like Oxfam and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) among other groups are lobbying governments to levy an emissions' reduction charge on shipping companies as a way to mitigate impact of climate change on the poor. The NGOs argue for a compensation mechanism that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) whereby can avail a significant share of any revenues collected from international shipping companies and direct it to developing countries and provide a new source of finance to support their efforts to tackle climate change.

Studies by a number of organisations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Oxfam are warning that extreme weather events have contributed to food insecurity at global, regional and local levels since 2010. Farmers in Uganda are reporting poor or no yields due to increased drought and excessive rainfall. Already the current floods in Teso region have put thousands of Ugandans at risk of hunger thereby submerging more into abject poverty. But the call
for decisive action on need to reduce the impact of climate change has been made clear.

“Climate change can no longer be treated just as an environmental problem. It’s a matter of life and death,” said South African president Jacob Zuma as he opened the Durban COP17. Zuma said the drought in Somalia, a myriad hurricanes in the U.S, out of season and destructive rains and an increasingly warmer world which are linked to climate change are causing much suffering for the people. This, he said, should be learning points for countries to commit and comprise to reduce carbon emissions.  

As the South African president Zuma put it Durban COP17 is going to be a decisive moment in fight against global warming. He told delegates that their discussions and the outcome will effectively place the future of the world in their hands. Before COP17 ends on Dec. 10, it will already be clear if the interests of politicians, lobbyists, activists, climate scientists, environmentalists and conservationists, have been met. Sadly, the poor farmers who are hit most are hardly brought in the negotiation room and it's the bureaucrats who are doing all talk. Hopefully this poor farmer affected by floods in Teso and his friends in Thailand come out of COP17 as the real winners.

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