26 November 2013

Africa: Ag, Energy Ministers Need Voice in Climate Decisions - Experts

Warsaw — For the past 20 years, negotiations on how to combat and adapt to climate change have been led by environmental ministers. But the decisions made affect a country's agriculture, energy and finance systems as well.

Now, experts say, it's time for other players to be involved in the process, particularly when it comes to deciding how to most effectively spend available funds.

"It is now clear that for effective implementation of projects under climate change finance, the environment, agriculture, energy and finance sectors must work as a team," said Ayalneh Bogale, the advisor for climate change and agriculture for the African Union Commission.

At the just-ended UN climate negotiations in Warsaw, developed countries agreed to contribute $100 million dollar to the Adaptation Fund to support more projects put forward by poor countries. Such projects include shoring up food production, reducing climate-related disaster risks, improving water security and other efforts to help people cope with climate change.

Through National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs), least-developed countries, including many in Africa, have already identified their most urgent and immediate priorities for adaptation projects - those for which further delay would increase vulnerability and costs at a later stage.

All the countries listed as least developed have identified between 10 and 15 priority areas under the NAPAs, Bogale said. "But not more than two projects have been implemented in any single country since 2007," said Bogale, a former professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

TOO MUCH SEPARATION

Besides a lack of funds, "the reason for poor implementation is that the majority of people who prepared the projects are from the environment sector, yet more than 60 percent of the projects are agriculture oriented, and have to be implemented by people from that sector," Bogale told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

At the continental level, Africa similarly has a variety of bodies that unite players from different countries to make decisions, but many of them work in isolation.

Before international climate change negotiations, African ministers of environment usually meet under the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment to discuss a common position for negotiation.

But African agriculture ministers meet instead under the Conference for African Ministers for Agriculture to make common decisions. A Conference of Energy Ministers of Africa also exists.

"There is need for all these bodies to be brought together on a climate change platform for effective negotiations, identification of adaptation and mitigation projects, and smooth implementation," said Bogale.

Agricultural experts have for years focused on adapting effectively to climate change, but agriculture also needs to be involved in discussions on reducing climate-changing emissions, experts said.

"We are looking at different acceptable farming techniques which researchers have pointed out that can be useful for mitigation, apart from contributing to adaptation and income generation," said Wilbur Ottichilo, a Kenyan legislator and climate negotiator, who agreed agriculture is too important to be neglected in the climate negotiation process.

Climate-smart agriculture, which includes innovative "green" farming techniques for small-holder farmers that can produce strong, resilient yields, can work as both adaptation and reduce the levels of greenhouse gases emitted.

In Ethiopia, for instance, farmers are changing their farming practices to improve food security and incomes, and improve storage of carbon in the ground and in forests. The country is also working to expand electricity generation from renewable sources and to quickly adopt energy-efficient technologies in industry, transport and buildings, Bogale said.

"This is a multilateral approach, and to achieve the objectives the ministries of agriculture, finance and energy must directly be involved," he said.

Getting agriculture involved in reducing climate-changing emissions is particularly important, he said, because farming, food production and food transport is a significant contributor to the problem.

Officials involved in agriculture, energy and other areas need "to be fully involved in negotiations on climate change," Bogale said.

Isaiah Esipisu is a freelance journalist specialising in environment and agriculture reporting. He can be reached through esipisus@yahoo.com

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