New Era (Windhoek)

8 February 2013

Namibia: How Can We Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change?

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Article Views (non — THE 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 8th Session of the Conference of Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol opened on 26 November to 8th December 2012 in Doha, Qatar.

Some of the concerns and questions raised during the discussions were: how to identify and develop appropriate approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including slow onset events and extreme weather events through risk reduction; risk sharing and risk transfer tools, as well as approaches to rehabilitate from loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change and how approaches to address loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change may be integrated into climate-resilient development process.

Since the Conference started on 26th November, lots of discussion has taken place on preparing a work plan on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) with clear milestones and deadlines; amendments of the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol; creating new opportunities for public financing, the work programme on Loss and Damage Assessment, as well as fostering national adaptation plans through adaptation committees.

There is increasing concern over scientific conclusions regarding social, economic and environmental impacts of climate change in Africa, particularly as Africa has contributed the least to the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, and that the continent is most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and has the least capacity to adapt.

The intergovernmental panel on climate change has confirmed that: Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change; all of Africa is very likely to warm during this century. The warming is very likely to be larger than the global annual mean warming throughout the continent and in all seasons. Currently in Namibia we experience extreme heat.

Increasing global temperatures will cause sea levels to rise, and are expected to increase the intensity of extreme weather events and to change the amount and patterns of precipitation as it happened in Mozambique on 22 January 2013. The Mozambique authorities started emergency evacuations in the flood-struck south where 55 000 people are said to be in immediate danger from rising water levels.

The south and the central parts of the country have been placed under red alert after experiencing the heaviest rainfall seen since devastating floods killed around 800 people in 2000 (The Namibian 24,January 2013 p.22). According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) regarding the status of the world's climate in 2010 temperatures averaged over Africa were 1.29°C above the long term average, breaking the previous record by 0.35° C. Moreover, the Saharan/Arabian region was 2.22 °C above normal, the largest annual anomaly ever recorded for any sub-region outside the Arctic and East Africa, which never had a year as much as 1 °C above normal prior to 2003, has now reached this threshold in eight successive years.

Climate change and global warming, as a consequence of human activity, is unequivocal, and global atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values. Current atmospheric concentrations are principally the result of historical emissions of greenhouse gases, the largest share of which have originated in developed countries.

Those countries and communities who have contributed least to climate change but who are already in vulnerable situations will feel the adverse effects of climate change most acutely. In order to reduce greenhouse gases, all countries (developed and developing) should enhance their contribution to long-term cooperative action to combat climate change with a shared vision, which is based on and in fulfillment of the objectives, principles and provisions of the UNFCCC or Convention in particular with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, equity and historical responsibility.

The Bali Action Plan describes the shared vision as a vision for long-term co-operative action now, up to and beyond 2012 to achieve the ultimate objective of the convention in accordance with the provisions and the principles of the Convention. Africa is presently facing numerous severe negative impacts arising from the adverse effects of climate change that have been documented and supported by scientific findings, including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other reports.

Such impacts are hampering Africa's efforts to attain its development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. There is an urgent and immediate need to avoid further loss and damage arising from the adverse effect of climate change on Africa and, in this regard, state that immediate action should be taken, in particular by Annex I Parties to reduce their emissions in line with the recommendations set out in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a way that will limit the global average temperature increase to well below 1.5°C.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) constitutes the fundamental global legal framework on climate change and that all actions or measures related to climate change must be in full conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention, in particular those of equity and common, but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

The climate negotiations under the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol should produce two legally binding outcomes at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, in line with the Bali Action Plan, regarding the long-term cooperative action to enhance the implementation of the Convention, and Article 3, paragraph 9, of the Kyoto Protocol regarding further mitigation commitments of Annex I Parties for a second commitment period from 2013 to 2017 under the Kyoto Protocol.

Since climate change is a major threat to all aspects of human development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, it could become a significant constraint on economic development in most African countries that rely on agriculture for a substantial share of gross domestic product and employment. Now the pertinent question to all of us is: what can we do to reduce the effects of climate change in Africa? The response to this threat requires strategies for adaptation and mitigation urgently considered and therefore no longer secondary, but long-term response options based on priority needs. Success in adapting to possible future climate change will depend on prudent investments, made in a timely fashion, in adaptation strategies by African countries supported by Annex I Parties as part of their historical responsibility.

The other solution is that all countries should enhance cooperation to promote research, development, demonstration, deployment, transfer and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies, and in particular to take effective measures to encourage and enable development and transfer of technology to non-Annex I Parties by removing barriers, including intellectual property rights in the present context.

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