Sunday, November 17, 2013

For a meaningful progress, African Ministers must sit down and negotiate at COP 19

By Isaiah Esipisu

African Civil Society handing over their demands to negotiators
As the negotiations at the highest decision making authority on how to tackle climate change enters the critical political stage, the outgoing chair of the African group of negotiators has warned if African ministers do not remain vigilant, decisions will be taken without their inputs.

“We have already done our technical part in the negotiations, and we are already advising the ministers accordingly. But if they do not sit in to ensure that the African demands are adhered to, then decisions will be made, and they will be binding to their countries whether they like it or not,” said Dlamini Emmanuel, the outgoing chair of the African team.

The Ministers of Environment from all the parties (countries) will join the negotiators as from Nov 18 to Nov 22 to take decisions and agree on particular issues following the one week long negotiations that begun on Nov 11, 2013 in Warsaw, Poland.

“The minister’s session is the most critical stage,” said Emmanuel. “Decisions taken at this point are usually binding, and they come with timelines,” he told a group of African civil society representatives in Warsaw.

One African negotiator who has been in the Arena for the past five years says that the process is all about compromise. “In negotiations, there are no winners. It is all about compromise and it is all about give and take. And if the ministers are not there to compromise, then the other part takes it all in their absence.”

He notes that some of the biggest challenges in Africa include lack of resources to avail enough negotiators in such forums, inconsistencies – where governments bring on board new negotiators every year who still need to start learning the ropes, and failure for African negotiators to prepare beforehand.

“African negotiators hardly meet without a major event coming up. But we have several opportunities for them to strike deals with major financing institutions and related parties,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In the previous negotiations, decisions have been taken without involvement of representatives from some African countries either because they were busy elsewhere or they were simply not available to defend their interests.

According to Emmanuel, sometimes negotiations enter into an extra day after the stipulated period of the conference of parties, and decisions are therefore taken on that day. “Nobody will hold on a decision because it is being taken when some ministers have already flown back to their countries following the return trip on their air tickets. A decision will still be made, and it will be binding to all the parties, present and absent,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation in Warsaw.

So far, the civil society has criticised the overriding position at the moment, and which was approved during the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) - that the temperature rise should be limited to 2 degrees Celsius up to the year 2020. “This is not ambitious enough, given that the impact of climate change is already unbearable. We need it to be reviewed to the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Mithika Mwenda.

He pointed out that the biggest problem is that ministers are usually changed from time to time, and the ones pushing for the previously made decisions or pledges are not in many cases the same ministers who passed the very resolutions. “New people always come with new priorities, and this is not always good for a continuous negotiation process for a life and death issue like the one at hand,” said the head of the African civil society groups.

The most important issues discussed at all the Conference of Parties include strategising on how to help farmers, individuals and communities adapt to the changing climatic conditions, how to stop or mitigate climate change, how to transfer appropriate technologies to enable adaptation and mitigation, and how to finance those activities.

At the COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland, on one hand, the African team say that the main demands include compensation for the past climate injustices for loss and damages, and increase for funding for adaptation and technology transfer.

On the other hand, the developed world wants the developing world to take active roles in mitigating climate change, a position that has been criticised by the civil society groups from Africa and Asia.

However, the main goal of the negotiations is to on modalities that will enable people survive in the shifting climatic conditions, reduce further emissions of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, and generally, to make the world a habitable place for the current and the future generations.

“This is our world. And our actions determine our survival,” said Mwenda.

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