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Africa united at climate change negotiations, determined to avoid getting a ‘raw deal’

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Africa united at climate change negotiations, determined to avoid getting a ‘raw deal’

6th November 2009

By: Christy van der Merwe

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Determined not to get a “raw deal”, Africa has emerged with “the most unified voice” compared with other negotiating blocs at the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Barcelona negotiations.

African negotiators in Barcelona on Thursday told journalists in Johannesburg, that they would “boycott” discussions regarding the Kyoto Protocol at the Barcelona negotiations until developed (Annex-1) countries made real commitments on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions.

Participation in discussions on other matters continued.

“We need certain commitments. We know the scientific evidence. We know the impacts on agriculture, health and so on. We know what action needs to take place. And we are expecting that there have to be ambitious targets taken on by Annex-1 countries – and at the moment they are not coming up with that,” emphasised Lesotho Ambassador in Germany and coordinator and chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) within the IPCC Makase Nyaphisi.

“Africa is not stalling discussions, nor will we do so at Copenhagen. But we must have an equitable, transparent and fair deal. Countries must stop holding their cards to their chest, and let us know what they are willing to do,” he stressed.

It was understood that countries were supposed to have tabled numbers and figures of targets they would take on, in March 2009 already.

“We have taken a risk. We have given Annex-1 countries the opportunity to say that Africa is blocking the negotiation process,” explained environmental adviser to the President of the Ivory Coast Cedric Lombardo.

Lombardo further explained that Africa took this position because the science, as laid out in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, required that Annex-1 countries reduce GHGs by 40% below 1990 levels, in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Africa needed this commitment from developed countries because it was the continent that was most vulnerable to these catastrophic effects of climate change.

At the same time, African emissions were minimal when compared with that of China, the US, Russia, and Europe.

African nations felt that the Kyoto Protocol, which is a legally binding document until 2012, should not be scrapped, as was suggested by some countries, but should rather be amended. Establishing an entirely new protocol to be ratified by numerous parliaments around the world could take a very long time, and Africa, which was already feeling the effects of climate change, could not waste time in adapting for a changing climate.

The US was reluctant to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and without the US being engaged “we won’t get anywhere,” said the African negotiators.

Nyaphisi stated that Africa required three critical outcomes from an equitable climate deal. These were: a commitment to providing funding for climate change adaptation in developing countries; an agreement on technology transfer from developed to developing countries; and capacity building for the LDCs to enable them to adapt to climate change.

“It is not in our interest to stop discussions – we cannot do that. But we must make a standpoint, because we don’t want a raw deal,” Nyaphisi said.

The current Barcelona negotiations precede the highly anticipated UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen, in December. Initially, hopes were high for a strong agreement to be reached, at a policy level at least, in Copenhagen.

“It doesn’t look like we will have an ambitious binding agreement at Copenhagen. We already have one legally binding agreement which is the Kyoto protocol and there is no need to create a new agreement. In DanChurchAid we are worried that a political agreement will lack an ambitious content, and that public pressure and momentum may be lost on the road towards a new legally binding agreement in 2010,” said nongovernmental organisation DanChurchAid representative Mattias Soderberg, conveying the sentiment among many negotiation participants.

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