29 January 2009

Gambia: Government, Stakeholders Discuss Climate Change

Banjul — A two-day national inter-ministerial dialogue on climate change, yesterday, kicked off at the Corinthia Atlantic Hotel in Banjul. Organised by the Department of State for Forestry and the Environment, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP), the opening session brought together decision-makers at all levels - both government and private sectors and other relevant stakeholders.

The dialogue, accordingly, aims at creating an opportunity for raising awareness for policy makers on issues of climate change, key national priorities, and to build capacity development for negotiators on the building block of the Bali Action Plan and related policy issues. It was also designed to build capacity development for technical experts on conducting assessment of investment and financial flows to address climate change.

In his opening statement, on behalf of the SoS for Forestry and the Environment, Abdou Kolley, secretary of state for Trade, Industry and Employment, described climate change as one of the most complex, multifaceted and serious threats which is fundamentally linked to pressing concerns of sustainable development and poverty reduction strategies of nations.

According to the Trade, Industry and Employment SoS, the IPPC fourth Assessment Report and the 2007/8 Global Human Development Report revealed that climate change is not only an environmental issue rather, it has clear economic and social consequences which are inextricably linked to the broader sustainable development agenda.

"The Conference of the parties to the convention held in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2007, was a turning point in determining the future of global action on the main element of the global response to climate change. The road map for negotiators, laid down in Bali, included a "Bali Action Plan" focussing on the four main building blocks - mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing, and it established a timetable under the Kyoto Protocol, with detailed steps to be taken to complete negotiation on the new emission reduction target for industrialised countries by 2009," he said.

The Trade, Industry and Employment SoS further revealed that the Gambia is among 10 pilot countries to benefit from UNDP through its project of "strengthening national capacities of developing countries, to develop policy options for addressing climate change across different sectors and economic activities" he stated.

He noted that it was important to recognise that "any effective response to climate change will need to combine both mitigation and adaptation. On the other hand, SoS Kolley went on, "it would be nearly impossible to adapt to some of the potential impacts of climate change, especially catastrophic impacts such as the loss of the West Antarctic ice-sheet and the implied five to fifteen metre sea level rise as well as irreversible damages to natural ecosystem," he said.

According to him, mitigation is required to avoid these impacts, and he added that even though they are clearly complementary, mitigation and adaptation to climate change differ in important respects. For his part, Pa Ousman Jarju, director of Water Resources, who doubles as the national focal point for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in The Gambia, said climate change poses serious challenges to the social and economic development drive of all nations.

According to him, developing countries are particularly vulnerable because "our economies are generally more dependent on climate sensitive natural resources," thus they are less able to cope with the impacts of climate change. "A global challenge as unprecedented as climate change will test humanity's capacity to solve shared problems as never before; this is not just a threat that transcend national borders, but it also cuts across divisions between numerous areas of policy - from energy to transport, food security, water management, as well as from individual behaviour to global governance," Jarju stated.

He further highlighted that the capacity development efforts will initially focus on the main building block of the Bali Action Plan, as well as on the other key topics. Speaking earlier on, the UNDP deputy resident representative, Limya Eltaytb, said that the scientific evidence that our climate is changing is now overwhelming. She pointed out that evidence of its impact on our socio-economic development is irrefutable, thus the link between human activity and climate change.

The UNDP deputy resident representative highlighted that potentially catastrophic effects are eminent in the long run, so she stressed that "we must therefore take insurance against these risks by mitigating now." And she added: "Time is quickly running out and the more we wait the greater the risks. Having said that, we also recognize that there is a degree of uncertainty regarding the process that mediates between Green House Gas (GHG) emission and their concentration in the atmosphere, and the effects of different concentration on climate."

Madam Limya went on to point out that at the last United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) conference, held in Bali, Indonesia, governments reaffirmed that social development and poverty reduction are global priorities, and stressed the need for consideration of positive incentives, enhanced technology financing and policy options, to support developing countries in mitigating and adapting to climate change, in the context of their sustainable development.

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