Monday, 6 December 2010

What’s up in Cancun and what’s the deal for Africa?

From 29th November to 10th December, the 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) convenes in CancĂșn, Mexico to follow up on last year's summit in Copenhagen, where word leaders failed to negotiate an international, legally-binding treaty to curb harmful emissions of greenhouse gases.

There are low expectations for successful negotiations in Cancun. This is because people have lost faith in not only the ability for a political agreement and consensus to be made, but also in the process. And on Tuesday (30 November 2010), UNEP released a report that concluded those reductions committed to in the Copenhagen Accord, even if fully met, are only 60 percent of the reductions needed to stop prevent global temperatures from rising by more than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels – the point considered to be the threshold for catastrophic climate change which will expose millions to drought, hunger and flooding.

So even if an agreement is made at the end of Cancun, the commitments within it will prevent some of the worse case climate change scenarios playing out, especially since from day one of the negotiations, Japan stated that it explicitly will not have anything to do with a post 2012 Kyoto Agreement.

So where does this leave Africa? Ironically, the lack of trust in attaining a political agreement has shifted discussions to issues more relevant to Africa, specifically on finance, forestry, technology transfer and adaptation in general.

Scientists agree that the best starting point for adaptation is to be rich, though it is not foolproof: not even the rich can buy off all hazards. But wealth buys information and it opens up options. Resources help people adapt both before the fact, by reducing risks, and after it, by aiding recovery from harm. Wealth can create hedges against the effects of climate change. It is wealth that Africa, compared to the rest of the world is short of.

Fortunately, a key pillar of the Cancun negotiations is the establishment of a Green Climate Fund, which was agreed upon in Copenhagen – disbursing $30 billion in 2010 to 2012, and then $100 billion each year after that until 2020. Multilateral funds have been established before so it’s not as if the Green Climate Fund is charting new territory. However, the political sensitivities and the criteria countries will have to meet to access these funds are looking onerous.

If African countries want a piece of this pie, they will have to focus seriously on governance, transparency, monitoring and valuating their carbon emissions and sinks - a tough job for any country. It would seem that many African countries will need funding to build this capacity in the first place. All of this is feasible, but African countries need to now use these conferences and meetings to gather information, exchange knowledge, learn and build their expertise from the participants and get everything in place so that they are an attractive destination for new climate and development specific funds.

For more information on climate finance and to check out the flows and channels, visit the new platform created by the World Bank and UNDP to track climate-change related finance by region, focus area, sector or financing mechanism: And to be ahead of the games for the climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa, the official COP17 website was just launched:

No comments:

Post a Comment