Climate Conference : Africans likely to be disappointed

In  the Paris Climate Conference, there are little signs that African demands concerning the financing of adaptation and mitigation costs by developed countries will be met.

Africa is hit climate injustice. Though it only contributes 3 percent of green house gases (GHG), the continent is likely to suffer the most from climate change. Food security risks to be affected but it is not the first priority of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), although according to United Nations Development Programme projections, agricultural yields will decrease in average by at least 10% on the continent between now and 2050, owing to climate warming.

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As a result, Africa’s food reliance on imports is likely to increase. And South-East Asia could experiment the same problem. During a seminar of experts on water and food security in the Mediterranean area which took place in Paris, last February, the impact on water resources of climate change was considered as a major threat. The irregularity of rainfalls and the large of “non sustainable” water from overexploited fossil layers which can reach rates of 30 or 40 percent of the water consumption, are worrying signs, said scientists at the Paris seminar.  West Africa is blessed with sizeable water resources but said the French water and forests engineer Guillaume Benoit,  «owing to the lack of institutional capacity and of sufficient funding, only a small portion of the irrigation potential has been implemented”. The other threat is land degradation in number of Southern countries, caused by erosion, soil salinization and desertification.

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Industrialised countries have promised to assist developing countries faced with those huge challenges. But the Green Fund, created in 2009 in Copenhagen to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation costs for the poorest and less polluting countries which should receive US $ 100 billion per annum until 2020, only raised the 10 billion threshold in December 2014. Another issue, argue African negotiators is that the climate change aid from developing countries should come in addition to development aid and not as an alternative to other projects.

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There is little room for optimism since African demands are not meeting an enthusiastic reception from major polluting countries such as China, United States, India, the European Union and Japan. Last June, the DRC Minister of Environment, Bienvenu Liyota Ndjoli, during a preparatory workshop of the COP 21 conference, which took place in Kinshasa last June, proposed to reduce his countries GHG emissions by 17 percent for the 2021-2030 period. The minister justified this amount mentioning the climatic risks (intense rainfall, coastal erosion, floods, heatwaves and seasonal droughts) which could adversely affect the crops. Bienveny Liyota said that in addition, the DRC deserved compensations for the moratorium on new logging permits and for the sacrifice endured by the populations who might have benefitted from this kind of activity.
But the Congolese demand was met with scepticism at the EU Commission which considers that the amounts claimed by the DRC do not rely on a very rigorous methodology since even the Congolese Minister admits that his country lacks reliable ata allowing a realistic interpretation of climate change impacts. Nevertheless, the loopholes of this Congolese contributions do not only suggest needs have been overestimated. Indeed, the DRC could have mentioned other impacts which could on the contrary lead to the conclusion that such needs were underestimated. One of them are the studies made by the International Commission of the Congo-Ubangi-Sangha basin which noticed a decrease of river flows, which has consequences on navigability, fisheries and food security in addition to losses of hydropower production.

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There is a risk that the COP21 conference may not reach an agreement in the absence of firm commitments on this kind of funding. Other African countries made their GHG reduction commitments conditional upon the payment of compensations by industrialized countries. Senegal for instance committed not to build a coal power station if it receives money to finance alternative renewable energy projects. Likewise, Ethiopia made its commitment to stabilize its GHG emissions, which represent a de facto per capita decrease, owing to its fast demographic expansion, conditional upon external aid. But so far, neither the European Union, United States or other Organisation Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) expressed the intention to commit themselves to a figure, as requested by African countries. This lack of solidarity has prompted South Africa to resist EU pressures to force it to commit itself to a legally binding commitment to reduce its coal power stations emissions.

 François Misser





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