Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Stakes high at Durban COP17

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati

November 30 – the bright cloudless sun marked the beginning of yet another negotiations day at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa. Delegates across world governments are involved in numerous meetings in their respective negotiation groups to bring ideas that will save the world from the ravaging impacts of climate change.

The Africa group which represents a batch of 54 countries said it has three targets in the COP17 for which it won’t make any concessions. To emphasize the group’s determination, Seyni Nafo, the spokesman of Africa Group at COP17 said it is improper to sit back as the world is endangered by a climate change which he described as being “worse than terrorism”. Nafo might have hyped his assertion but there is urgent need for Africa to use the Durban UN climate conference to secure a better deal; since the continent is the least emitter but the most at risk from vagaries of climate change.

Africa said it aims to secure a better deal on mitigating the impact of climate change, funding for to minimize harm caused by climate change, and getting a legally binding document to make countries liable for their emissions. Nafo said there are no shortcuts to these objectives. “This is the plan. We have no other. It must go through,” he said. But preliminary outcome of the formal and informal negotiations at COP17 indicate that these objectives set by the Africa group will be hard to come by since the major partners in drive of cutting down greenhouse gases are putting stringent conditions that can place the poor countries in more vulnerable situations. Besides there is still stiff opposition to the reality of climate change notion.  China and Brazil have turned around to say no deal is possible at United Nations climate talks this year without a new round of targets for industrial nations under the Kyoto Protocol.

More is at stake as the European Union remains the major developed (rich) bloc still interested in decisively dealing with climate change impact. While the developing countries are insisting on a "second commitment period" that would run until 2020, Europe's major partners in Kyoto – Japan, Russia and Canada – have abandoned the accord, and the US has ruled out signing up.  Africa wants the second commitment that is only 5 years. This is generating heated debate. 

Moreover, the discussions of a report on green climate fund already generated heat in the plenary where delegates are yet to agree on establishing the fund that will help in compensating for the negative impact of climate change. The stakes are high and countries must take decisions that will save the world from weather vagaries like frequent floods, severe droughts, erratic and destructive rains. Several surveys linking climate change to food insecurity and conflict abound. Some suggest that we now have climate refugees (those displaced by floods, typhoons, hurricanes, and landslides, etc) leaders must find lasting solutions to these and stop people’s suffering.

As such comments by the World Bank Group Managing Director, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, are pertinent.  “Climate change threatens to undermine much of the development progress that has been made over the past 20 years,” Indrawati said. “The stakes are high. Durban needs to help move the world closer to a climate change agreement that is pro-poor and good for development.” Africa and other poor countries will definitely smile at such comments but action is much needed.
Action Aid and Oxfam International have warned of a food insecure world because of the danger posed by climate change related impact. Over 1 billion people are already on the verge of a climate-driven food crisis, and unless this is tackled, global warming could put an extra 50 million people at risk of hunger by 2020. 

 “The actions that will be taken at the UN climate talks in Durban South Africa over the next 10 days could define the future of rural people across the African continent. Business-as-usual could push millions more people into hunger and poverty,” reads a statement by Action Aid International. If courageous steps can be taken by rich countries in agreeing a just and binding global climate deal the worst impacts of climate change can still be averted. 

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