Africa expectation at climate change convention Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri

Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri

Innocent Ruwende Review Writer
The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) takes place in Paris, France at the end of this month. This is at a time when the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has indicated that climate change is impacting on sub-Saharan Africa more than any other continent because its economies are largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture.

Africa has experienced huge shifts in climate over past millennia, but the likely changes in the next few decades may present some of the greatest challenges this troubled continent has seen.

The IPCC says the interior of the vast African continent will suffer greater increases in temperature than the average warming elsewhere.

Zimbabwe has already experienced a rise in temperatures of up to 2 °C in some areas in the past century, according to the director of Climate Change Management Department, Mr Washington Zhakata.

He said while some of Africa’s drylands may get higher rainfall, such increases are likely to come in heavier torrential downpours, which risk carrying away top soils and vegetation.

“Tokwe-Mukosi flooding is one of the recent impacts that signal a bleak future under climate change. The 2000 flooding caused by cyclone Eline resulted in unprecedented suffering, loss of property, infrastructure damage and lives.

“Higher temperatures will also increase evaporation of whatever moisture is left in the soil, thus impacting on water resources. The worrisome low levels of the Kariba dam and other inland waters may be worsened by global warming,” he said.

Africa, supported by other developing countries in other regions, believes the rich countries are not yet taking a fair share of the burden of climate change given their contribution and should lead by example by cutting emissions and also providing financial support to poorer nations as stated in the Climate Change Convention.

Going to COP21, the dilemma for Africa, according to experts, is that it is discovering fossil fuel resources which it must use to improve energy access and increase economic growth but at the same time must cut down its emissions as climate change is likely to intensify water scarcity in Africa.

Mr Zhakata said the road to the Paris summit remains unclear with some stumbling blocks on the way to success as governments may be unlikely to outline cuts in annual emissions that will be collectively consistent with a path that gives a good chance of remaining below the danger limit of two degrees.

“As Zimbabwe, we advocate that developed countries who accepted historical responsibilities for causing the current changes in climate should focus more on increasing the ambition of their intended reductions, and show these are credible by setting out how they will be achieved through domestic policies and legislation.

“A mechanism must also be included in the Paris agreement which commits countries to continually review and strengthen their emissions targets,” he said.

Speaking at the Fifth Climate Change and Development in Africa Annual Conference recently in Victoria Falls, Ms Fatima Denton, director of special initiative division, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, urged Africa to be confident and capable of giving a new meaning to its growth story.

“It should be able to use the argument on historical emissions to say to the rest of the world ‘you no longer have the license to emit on our behalf and we are prepared to invest in smart development by using our current atmospheric space to green our economies and to build climate resilient infrastructure’.

“Indeed, today is symbolised by a confident youth that is demanding a new, fair treaty, not merely one that regulates global emissions, but a social contract that will hold current generations responsible, not for what they did, but especially for what they are not doing. The price of inaction is as grave as the recklessness of continuing to pollute the earth as we continue to condemn our women children to a lifelong exercise of searching for food, fuel and water,” she said.

She said Africa must take to Paris a new resolve using its numbers, collective voice, agency and strength in demanding a fair, just and binding treaty abetted by a means of implementation which will align commitments to development priorities, including Intended Nationally Determined Contributions which will support ambitions towards energy efficiency and agricultural transformation and demand financial commitments.

The United Nations Development Programme’s environment, climate change and energy specialist Ms Anne Madzara also said COP21 presents a golden opportunity for mutual reinforcement of the voices from the developing economies.

“This meeting will hopefully provide an opportunity to reflect on how the climate change governance framework has impacted on Africa’s economies.

“I also expect this meeting to bring out common African views and perceptions on the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol and to prepare the continent for actions to implement the anticipated outcomes of COP 21.

“I wish for two most important things to happen at COP 21 – (i) Africa must represent an effort to ensure that climate finance reaches the poor and most vulnerable, and (ii) Africa must push for a governance framework that ensures that despite climate change, developing countries will be guaranteed of sustained economic growth that is inclusive,” she said.

She said African countries were the least emitters yet they suffered the most and stood to lose the most from Climate Change impacts due to their vulnerability and limited adaptation capacity.

Ms Madzara said it was therefore inescapable for the African continent to be the most interested in shaping a climate change governance framework that effectively controls emissions and at the same time providing effective solutions for adaptation.

“We therefore acknowledge the important task that the African Union Commission and its partners have at hand and the role that the various regional and national mechanisms have to play in championing and representing Africa’s interests,” she said.

Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri said the fact that agriculture was the mainstay of Zimbabwe and most African economies made climate change an issue of survival.

“Climate change will exacerbate poverty in Africa due to food insecurity, malnutrition and disease. We continue to see our forests disappear, our animals and humans dying as a result of veld fires. We continue to observe the pollution of our rivers with dangerous toxins and the massive air pollution from imported second hand vehicles which are not roadworthy at all.

“As scientists and researchers, we need to work very hard to ensure that our climate change policies are informed by research. We should also take precautionary measures to ensure that our development processes are not slowed down,” she said.

She said it was critical to have a wholly African driven processes with respect to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) principle of equal and differentiated responsibilities.

Minister Muchinguri said there was need to ramify and clearly state that climate change adaptation remains Africa’s priority.

“In Paris, we need to press for a new climate change agreement that has a clearly measurable and verifiable framework for means of implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation. I do hope during the coming days we will come up a solid position for Africa that will feed into COP 21 and beyond,” she said.

Paris, France is the host of the major United Nations Climate Change Conference from November 30 to December 11 this year.

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