1 December 2012

Africa: It's Time to Walk Fast - and Far

Photo: Argaw Ashine/Oxfam
Elders speak about changing climate patterns to a journalist.

Quick action is needed to deal with climate change, which poses a grave threat to efforts to achieve sustainable development and a reduction in hunger and poverty.

That's been the message at the latest round of global climate negotiations in Doha, where Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Atttiyah, president of the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) received a rousing round of applause when he called climate change a common global challenge for humanity - and said the meeting is a golden opportunity, which the world must make the best use of for the sake of our future generations.

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the outgoing South African president of last year's negotiations in Durban, urged delegates to work together for their common good.

"If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk with others," she said.

But representatives of developing countries insisted there is now an equally strong need to walk fast to deal with growing climate impacts - in particular to agree a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.

The Kyoto Protocol is the only binding global agreement to reduce climate-changing emissions, and some of the initial signers have already said they will not sign on to any extension.

Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief, agreed that a faster, workable response to climate change is needed - and is possible.

Her optimism isn't shared by many representatives of developing countries, who point to the failures of past negotiating sessions. Hopes for success at these talks, they say, is little more than a hollow wish.

International experts from NGOs organised as the Climate Action Network (CAN) - a network of more than 700 organisations from over 90 countries - said they also have no big expectations from COP18.

Rich nations, they said, have yet to live up to all of their promises to rein in greenhouses gases, and extend adequate funding to help poorer nations tackle climate change, particularly in terms of transferring technology and sharing scientific know-how.

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are development reporters based in Karachi, Pakistan.

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