5 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Africa Awaits Doha Outcome

CAN anything good come out of Doha for Africa?

That is the hope, but after a week of negotiations, it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that

Africa and other developing nations, hard hit by climate change, will get a fair deal.

Securing an extension of the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 alone will in itself be a major victory for the continent.

Forget about Africa's demands for deeper emissions cuts (which continue to sound loud at Doha) from the developed countries, put at 40 percent by 2020 and by up to 90 percent by 2050, relative to 1990 levels.

But even then, the Protocol would be severely weakened. Key carbon polluters notably the US, China, Russia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada have refused to be bound by the KP.

These countries have regrettably made their intentions clear telling the ongoing climate conference they will not be part of the KP should it enter a second commitment period.

Now that is a significant blow to the climate negotiations, more so to the global efforts of stabilising the emission of climate change-causing greenhouse gases.

Getting these nations to commit could be the difference that the world is looking for given their combined global emissions output of up to 70 percent.

The US and China produce between themselves at least 50 percent of all world greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

That is not to say, however, wealthy countries outside the Kyoto Protocol are not doing anything to limit their own carbon pollution. They are but on a voluntary basis.

This pathway is less effective, and makes accountability difficult, as reporting is also voluntary.

On the contrary, the KP, which was signed in 1997, is the only global legally binding agreement that commits nations to reduce emissions in an effective, measurable manner.

And as for the European Union (emitting 11 percent of all world carbons), its pledges are still very inadequate despite having met its current KP targets well ahead of time.

The EU, which is likely to enter the second commitment period should it materialise said recently that it would keep its emission reduction pledges at the current levels of 20 percent until 2020.

That is not the kind of action that Africa and the rest of the developing world is looking for to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius and stop climate change from damaging their food production systems.

Greater ambition and action is now required than ever before particularly after a new World Bank report warned two weeks ago the world was firmly on course for an unsustainable warming of 4 degrees Celsius or worse by the end of the century.

But what makes this year's UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's Conference of the Parties 18th meeting (COP18) in the Qatari capital, Doha, very critical is the Kyoto Protocol and its future.

COP18 holds at a time when the first KP commitment period that came into effect in 2005 is just four weeks away from expiring and the world is desperate for its extension beyond 2012.

Thus, the world stands at a precipice, to fall off the cliff or hang on and keep the climate hopes alive by entering the second KP commitment period.

Any other outcome jeopardises the Protocol, and is likely to set the negotiations 20 years back, exactly the same amount of time since the world made commitments to fight environmental damage at Rio de Janeiro.

What has been encouraging since the negotiations started on November 26 is that Doha has not tried to renegotiate Durban.

Instead, the focus has been on moving forward, even with existing fundamental differences between the varying negotiating parties.

However, there is still little hope on climate finance and transfer of technology, as countries struggle with the current global economic recession.

The US and the EU reported during the Doha talks that they had pumped in US$7,2 billion and nearly US$6 billion respectively into the clean start finance programme.

Still, even with contributions from other nations, the money failed to meet the US$30 billion target during the two years to December-end 2012.

Funding of the Green Climate Fund remains uncertain although a board has already been established.

It also remains a guessing game whether developed countries would be able to raise the promised US$100 billion per year after 2020 to help mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries.

These funds would be critical in Africa's efforts to limit the impacts of climate change on its predominantly poor population.

Their absence will only make things worse for a continent that stands in the frontlines of the impacts of climate change.

Progress is likely to be made on the Durban Platform, the process set at COP17 in South Africa last year to secure a new binding deal to replace the KP, which this time aims to include developing countries, becoming effective after 2017.

Most wealthy nations are pushing for this position. What we are likely to see here are negotiations continuing to an pre-determined end, propped by the developed world's keeness to grudgingly rope in those in the developing to join the party and enter into legal commitments under the KP.

That, of course, is nonsense, which, unfortunately may become a reality, as it negates the historical epic contributions of industrialised countries in the problem of climate change and global warming.

It is clear, however, Africa's aspirations will not be sufficiently met at Doha.

But, as they say, half a loaf is better than no bread at all. If Annex 1 countries -- those industrialised nations obligated under the KP to cut emissions -- agree to commit to a second KP period, that leaves room for further negotiations and keeps alive hope that more parties could possibly join the Protocol in the future.

Climate finance will be difficult to secure this time around, but with continuing negotiations pledges could be met in future, hopefully.

Africa has suffered the impacts of climate change more, and widespread poverty does not make things better.

Its agro-based economies have been ravished by extreme and frequent droughts or floods seriously threatening food security.

Indeed millions are starving today in West Africa's Sahel region while several thousands died of famine in the Horn of Africa last year. Doha ends on Friday.

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