African Civil Society Organisations are calling on developed countries to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to keep Africa safe from the impact of global warming and climate change.
"Africa bears the burden of climate change which is not of its making," argued Mithika Mwenda, the Coordinator, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, PACJA.
Mwenda was addressing African journalists who met in Nairobi, Kenya last weekend to discuss the African civil society position ahead of the 18th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar which opened this morning.
Global temperatures are rising due to increased carbon dioxide from growing industrialization in the developed countries.
The temperature rise affects rain patterns in Africa causing flooding, landslides, prolonged drought, famine and disease. Africa is the least able to cope with the impact of climate change yet its population of a billion people contributes less than 4% of the emissions.
United States of America alone accounts for 20% of the global greenhouse gases emissions. The developed countries on the whole account for 70% of the emissions.
"Landslides are killing people, there is an increase of hot days, the changing climate conditions impact on food production in Africa," said Muthika Mwenda.
He noted that African economies mainly depend on agriculture. Increased drought and flooding cause famine, putting people's livelihoods at risk.
According to Mwenda there is global consensus that climate change will have effects on poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
This week global leaders, scientists and climate experts from over 194 nations are meeting at the eighteenth Conference of Parties, (COP18) in Doha, Qatar to discuss the way forward as the first commitment period to reduce greenhouse emissions ends this year.
Developed countries categorized as Annex1 parties agreed in December 1997 at the third Conference of Parties in Kyoto, Japan to reduce their overall emissions of six greenhouse gases by 5.2% to below 1990 levels, between 2008 - 2012. Specific targets vary from country to country. The Kyoto Protocol entered into force in 2005 and now has 191 parties. United States, the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions has never signed to the protocol.
"The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol which ends this year, has achieved nothing. Poor people in developing countries have not benefited," Mithika Mwenda says.
African civil society organisations are calling for global dialogue on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocal to be pro-poor, people-driven, equitable and just.
Fanuel Tolo, the Director of Programmes, Climate Network Africa observes that nature does not discriminate adding that when it strikes, the poor developing countries are least able to cope.
Highlighting the recent Hurricane Sandy that hit New York, he observed that USA did not ask for help to manage the damage of the storm and has already resolved the challenge. However, Haiti, also hit by the hurricaine is still struggling to recover from the storm's impact.
African civil society organisations are therefore urging the COP18 meeting in Doha to keep Africa safe by reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 40% by 2020 and 100% by 2050.
"A goal of less than 2 degrees Celsius condemns Africa to incineration and to no modern development," a PACJA position statement says.
The atmospheric concentrations of these emissions should be stabilised in a timeframe that safeguards food production to allow Africa's agricultural and ecological systems to adapt naturally, the statement further says.
Africans are also calling for an equitable sharing of the atmosphere. More than 70% of the world's carbon dioxide from industries is emitted by only 20% of the people living in developed countries.
"Developed countries are polluting more than their share. They should reduce their excessive and wasteful consumption and polluting lifestyles," Tolo says.
"New York State in America alone has more cars than the whole of Africa," he observes.
Africa is also demanding for the compensation and protection of communities affected by climate change. Activists note that the impact and cost of climate change have been grossly underestimated.
"There is need for home-grown solutions and technology transfer to address climate change, support to develop African technologies," Tolo adds.
Though Africa suffers the impact of climate change, it is weak when it comes to the global negotiations.
Mithika Mwenda reveals that the talks at these conferences go on late into the night. African delegates are often outnumbered and not focused. Many times resolutions that affect the continent are passed without protest or participation.
Civil society organisations are therefore urging African delegates at the conference to remain focused and on call during the talks.
Activists also call on African delegates to be skeptical about the concessions given by the developed countries for example through Carbon trading.
According to Mwenda, even if the whole of Africa were turned into a forest, it would not be sufficient to curb global warming if developed countries do not make any domestic efforts to reduce emissions.
"The carbon concessions should be in addition to domestic action in the developing countries to reduce emissions. Right now we have not seen sufficient commitment to this," he notes.
Mwenda also notes that there is growing skeptism globally on the international negotiating process.
"There is need to move beyond a scientific discourse to a mass public discourse," he says.
What needs to be done
"Climate change should no longer be looked as an environmental issue alone, it is a political, economic and social issue argues, Kenya's Member of Parliament, Wilbur Otichillo who has tabled a Bill to legislate Climate Change in the Kenyan Parliament.
The Bill, the first in East and Central Africa, is one of the first steps at legislating Climate Change issues and will this week be presented for the Second reading to be passed into law before their tenth Parliament.
"We must have home-grown, customized strategies. This matter should be taken in our hands. The United Nations is not going to give us solutions, not even the green funds," he said.
The Green Climate Fund was created by the United Nations as a means through which developed countries could give money to the developing ones, to assist them to implement practices to counter climate change impact.
Otichillo argues that these funds are not going to easily be accessible and therefore urges African leaders to develop capacity in clean energy and simple technologies to help Africans produce less carbon dioxide.
"We have many resolutions made by developing countries but they are never fulfilled. Where they have been, they have not benefitted the people of Africa. African countries are better off taking their destiny in their hands," Otichillo says.