2 December 2011

Africa: Glimmer of Optimism At Climate Talks

Climate talks have progressed slowly and little ground has been covered, but manoeuvres by government negotiators in private discussions suggest there is still cause for hope, an aid agency said yesterday.

Christian Aid United Nations climate change expert Mohamed Adow expressed optimism over the talks suggesting a deal could be struck to save the Kyoto protocol under threat from major players such as the US, China, Russia and Canada among others.

"In the open meetings there's no progress. No-one is saying anything new. But in bilateral meetings we understand they are trying to find the middle ground between them, looking at the options and at possible trade-offs," Adow said.

"This is encouraging - and it is too early to say these talks are not working. We have seen some good dialogue, albeit in closed rooms, and we want Governments to build on in the days that remain. We want to leave Durban with a deal which is a strong response to the climate chaos which is hurtling towards us - and which is already having devastating effects on poor people."

He added: "Governments have just over a week in which to agree how to respond to the latest climate science, which shows that without deep emissions cuts now, dangerous global warming will occur. It will cause human suffering on a terrifying scale."

Christian Aid wants an agreement to extend the Kyoto Protocol and to implement rapid and massive cuts in developed countries' emissions and real progress towards getting the Green Climate Fund up and running by 2013.

"Rather than taking time to argue about the legal form of a potential new international climate deal which might come into force in six or eight years' time, Governments should focus on what is most urgent," Adow said.

"Right now we need ambition - on emissions cuts to prevent dangerous warming and on finance to help poor countries cope with the massive human and financial costs of climate change, which they are already suffering. Delaying everything until 2020 will have catastrophic consequences, many of which will fall on the backs of poor people in Africa."

The agency said the most important task at hand was to keep Kyoto alive by extending it before its first commitment expired next year and increase countries emissions cuts to sufficient levels.

"This must be done in Durban. Kyoto matters because it is the world's only law on countries' emissions of greenhouse gases. It's the only system we have which says emissions cuts must be based on climate science and equity - not what governments find politically convenient. At the same time, poor countries need the Green Climate Fund to become more than an empty shell. The Durban talks must get the Fund working next year and identify sources of long-term, predictable finance which can start flowing from 2013. The impacts of climate change are not waiting for governments to get their act together," Adow said.

This comes as South Africa promised to build the climate resilience of the country, and to manage the transition to a climate-resilient, equitable and internationally competitive lower-carbon economy and society in a manner that simultaneously addresses its over-riding national priorities for sustainable development, job creation, improved public and environmental health, poverty eradication, and social equality.

Environment minister Edna Molewa said even though South Africa is a relatively significant contributor to global climate change with significant gas emission levels from its energy-intensive, fossil-fuel powered economy it has committed itself to a number of Near-term Priority Flagship Programmes to be implemented as an integral part of the policy.

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