Fahamu (Oxford)

6 June 2013

Africa: Message On Climate Change to 21st AU Summit

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The biggest challenge for the continent's economic take-off is climate change, which threatens to roll back multiple gains attained over the past years

MESSAGE TO THE 21ST SUMMIT OF THE AFRICAN UNION IN THE OCCASION OF 50TH ANNIVERSARY

We convey our message of solidarity to the African Heads of State and Governments as well as People of Africa in the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity/ African Union. We celebrate your commitment, clarity, courage, and your willingness to defend our lives and livelihoods, those of our children and the future generations of Africans.

As we celebrate our achievements for the past years, we should look into the future that is so bright, yet challenges abound. African people are free from colonial bondage, and democratic culture in many countries is an integral part of development. Africa stands in the community of nations as the continent which holds countless mineral resources that have however turned to be a curse rather than blessing to the people. We are writing another page of our lives with mixed fortunes, economically and democratically. The future of Africa will be determined by ourselves, and how we share the diminishing resources.

But as scramble for resources to fuel global growth redefine Africa's next phase of socio-political and economic development, the biggest challenge for the continent's economic take-off is climate change, which threatens to roll back multiple gains attained over the past years. Climate change is a defining challenge of our times, and as we struggle to pull our people from poverty and bring prosperity in our countries, it has become extremely difficult for governments to attain national poverty reduction and sustainable development milestones because we find ourselves diverting money earmarked for development to respond to climate-inspired emergencies such as floods, famine, starvation, diseases and death.

Africa has contributed the least to the problem of climate change, yet we find ourselves on the receiving end of its impacts due to the incapacity of our people to adapt. Unfortunately as the impact of climate change becomes increasingly obvious, those responsible for global warming continue to procrastinate and prevaricate on their obligations. Industrialised countries have not met their obligations both in the Climate Change Convention and Kyoto Protocol. We have seen shift of goalposts from meeting to meeting.

Having observed the goings-on within the international climate change dialogue process for the last three years, we conclude that the North-South divide which denies poor communities a chance for a better future still continue to permeate the negotiations. The future, in our assessment, is quite uncertain as the momentum towards COP20 in Paris coming up in 2015 picks up. The negotiations around Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which will lead us to the new regime to take effect by 2020 should strengthen the North-South conversation to bearing in mind that solving the climate problem is not a choice, but an urgent duty for all to preserve the health of the planet for the sake of future generations.

For Africa, we need to see countries responsible for climate change responding responsibly and equitably. All countries now have a responsibility to act to protect it's citizens from climate change. With the forthcoming negotiations on the ADP in Bonn (3 - 14 June 2013), it is imperative that we define an equitable global pathway that sees countries responsible for causing climate change carrying most responsibility to address its causes and impacts. Whilst we will all take action to cut emissions, it is incumbent on rich countries to take the greater share of action: at the moment it is developing countries, including those in Africa, that are doing more.

An agreement that has a clear definition of equity that ensures those who have contributed more to climate change take more responsibility with:

- Urgent and sufficient action to stop temperatures increasing above 1.5 particularly by industrialised countries who are most responsible for contributing to climate change.

- Commitments from industrialised countries to deliver on climate finance to reach at least $100bn by 2020 including 50% going to adaptation in grant form; action to raise long term sources of finance; and that are new, additional and reliable.

- Mechanisms created to address the loss and damage in developing countries will face due to unavoidable warming that threatens to destroy millions of livelihoods of the poor.

- Prioritisation of food security and small scale farmers who provide most of the food for the continent.

- Commitment by industrialized Countries to cut their emission levels by at least 40% by 2020

Climate finance must be the deal breaker of a new global deal on climate change. Whilst African countries try to invest in climate action where possible, their budgets are over-stretched trying to bring health, education and security to their citizens. By COP19 rich countries must commit the finance that they promised that is new, additional and from their own government's budgets.

At least 50% of climate funding should go to adaptation as grants that will not push our countries further into debt. And whilst we recognise the important role of the private sector in addressing climate change, rich countries should not transfer responsibility of delivering climate finance to the private sector who will see no rewards in supporting the most vulnerable people.

While climate change remains a threat to all aspects of development - including peace and security - we are concerned that our leaders have not given it the due attention it deserves. The fact that there are urgent issues to be addressed, such as security hotspots in Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, DRC and Mali, does not mean that the biggest crisis on earth which is Climate Change finds itself at the periphery of priorities in the AU agenda.

Following the pronouncement by the AU and her member States on developing a strategic work-plan for Africa for the next 3-5 years, we hereby urge the AU to ensure development of a strategic plan to adequately respond to Climate Change in Africa. The consequences for the African Poor need not be overemphasized. A strategic Climate Change Plan of Action for Africa is indeed a felt need.

The expediency for African states under the AU to establish Climate Change legislation, Policies, Strategies and Action plans is a call that we hereby clarion under a certificate of urgency. We call upon the AU to provide leadership in this direction to not only address loss and damage but also put into place Climate Change Units in each and every Ministry to monitor and cushion the African poor from the consequences of Climate Change.

Climate change is redefining development paradigms in the new global development arena, yet our leaders have not awoken to this reality. We urge the African Union to wake up to this reality and given the subject the necessary political attention it deserves. This will include establishment of climate change Ministries in African Countries, and strengthening the Conference of Heads of States and Governments on Climate Change, which unfortunately became inactive following the demise of the former Ethiopian Prime Minister HE Meles Zenawi.

Issued at Addis Ababa on during the Africa Day, 25 May 2013

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