Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Good Tidings from Warsaw

By Godwin Haruna

The United Nations Climate Change Conference that ended in Warsaw penultimate Saturdayhas kept governments on track towards a universal climate agreement in 2015 that includes significant new decisions that will cut emissions from deforestation, Godwin Haruna writes

For slightly over two weeks, the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland was filled with negotiators from governments, corporations, civil society groups and other interested stakeholders for a world devoid of pollution. After walkouts and trade-offs, Warsaw set a pathway for governments to work on a draft text of a new universal climate agreement for other conferences to build upon in future.


In the context of 2015, countries, including Nigeria decided to initiate or intensify domestic preparation for their intended national contributions towards that agreement, which will come into force from 2020. Parties ready to do this

will submit clear and transparent plans well in advance of Conference of Parties (COP) 21, in Paris, and by the first quarter of 2015.
If anything, the devastating events occasioned by the Typhoon Haiyan that ravaged the Phillipines just before COP 19 started, reminded the global community to act fast to save humanity from further sufferings. As it would be observed when the conference began, not a few felt that the industrialised world did not learn any lesson from such disasters. Well, common sense prevailed when the conference wore on after walkouts and disagreements leading to compromise on some issues, especially on emission reduction and finance.
COP19 in Warsaw had been a showcase for climate action by business, cities, regions and the civil society groups. The UNFCCC secretariat also celebrated its annual Momentum for Change lighthouse activity awards for climate actions that demonstrate positive results through innovative finance, by women and the urban poor. In addition, Momentum for Change launched a new initiative focusing on contributions by information and technology sector to curb emissions and increase adaption capacity.
The conference was characterised bymany walkouts by civil society organisations and even governments led by China.At a press conference, the African group said that the continent was in the frontline for climate change impacts."We watch with horror what has happened in the Philippines, and know that it is happening in our homes too." Mithika Mwenda, the Secretary General of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), said.
"I don't know how rich countries can ignore the facts being screamed by mother nature, nor the cries being made by the world's poor - the time has come to cut climate changing causing emissions and to cut them deep," Mwendaadded.
"Africans expect our governments to stand firm on setting an emissions budget, as recommended by the IPCC. They must then share this budget fairly, based on historical responsibility and capacities," said Dr. Habtemariam Abate, from Ethiopian Civil Society Network on Climate Change.
"These negotiations are about the emissions budget, whether governments admit it or not, they either negotiate to share that budget fairly, or they plan to exceed it," Abate added.
"African civil society has strong and clear proposals for how to deliver energy to those who do not have it whilst avoiding the trap of dirty fossil fuels and therefore allowing us to live within the emissions budget. Proposals include a globally funded feed in tariff - we expect such a measure to be adopted here in Warsaw," Azeb Girmai, from LDC Watch, said.
"Warsaw can be the moment the world chooses clean over dirty energy and Africa will be leading in that choice," Girmai, said. "African people need an international mechanism to address loss and damage from climate change. That's the reality. We see it everyday. Perhaps the rich only see it on television - well they need to turn it on, watch it, learn, and then take responsibility for the suffering their emissions have caused." Robert Chimambo, from Zambia Climate Change Network, said.
Following the walkout, governments agreed to a set of decisions on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and the degradation of forests. The agreement on the REDD+ initiative was backed by pledges of 280 million dollars in financing from the US, Norway and the UK. A negotiator from the civil society revealed to journalists that decisions adopted provide guidance for ensuring environmental integrity and pave the way towards the full implementation of REDD+ activities. The package also “provides a foundation for transparency and integrity of REDD+ action, clarifies ways to finance relevant activities and how to improve coordination of support,” he said.
President of the conference and Polish Minister of the Environment, Marcin Korolec said: “I am proud of this concrete accomplishment. We are all aware of the central role that forests play as carbon sinks, climate stabilizers and biodiversity havens. We know the destructive impact that forest fires and deforestation have on peoples and economies. Through our negotiations, we have made a significant contribution to forest preservation and sustainable use which will benefit the people who live in and around them and humanity and the planet as a whole.”

Responding on behalf of the civil society organisations, Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) welcomed the breakthrough agreement on the REDD+ initiative and the pledges from US, Norway and the UK but kicked against “the absence of a stricter framework that will ensure that these new pledges do no go the way of previous pledges that are being modified and shifted at whim by the developed countries.” Mwenda also stressed the need for the conference to redeem its image by “tackling the complete failure of rich countries to deliver on existing promises on long-term finance which putting the most vulnerable people in Africa and other parts of the world at risk.”
However, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change believes otherwise. According to her, “Governments have shown their firm commitment to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in Warsaw. They have delivered a set of decisions that will make a significant impact in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries and catalyze actions in this critical area of addressing climate change.”
Countries also resolved to close the pre-2020 ambition gap by intensifying
technical work and more frequent engagement of ministers.

The conference also decided to establish an international mechanism to
provide most vulnerable populations with better protection against loss and
damage caused by extreme weather events and slow onset events such as
rising sea levels. Detailed work on the so-called “Warsaw international
mechanism for loss and damage” will begin next year.

“We have seen essential progress. But let us again be clear that we are
witnessing ever more frequent, extreme weather events, and the poor and
vulnerable are already paying the price,” said Figueres.
“Now governments, and especially developed nations, must go back to do
their homework so they can put their plans on the table ahead of the Paris
conference,” she added.
In addition, governments provided more clarity on mobilising finance to
support developing country actions to curb emissions and adapt to climate
change. This includes requesting developed countries to prepare biennial
submissions on their updated strategies and approaches for scaling up
finance between 2014 and 2020.
The Warsaw meeting also resulted in concrete announcements of forthcoming
contributions of public climate finance to support developing nation
action, including from Norway, the UK, EU, US, Republic of Korea, Japan,
Sweden, Germany and Finland.
Meanwhile, the Green Climate Fund Board is to commence its initial resource
mobilisation process as soon as possible and developed countries were asked
for ambitious, timely contributions by COP 20, in December, next year, to
enable an effective operationalization.
In Warsaw, a milestone was passed after 48 of the poorest countries of the
world finalised a comprehensive set of plans to deal with the inevitable
impacts of climate change. With these plans, the countries can better
assess the immediate impacts of climate change and what they need in the
way of support to become more resilient. Developed countries, including
Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland
have also paid or pledged over 100 million dollars to add to the Adaptation
Fund, which has now started to fund national projects.

“A groundswell of action is happening at all levels of society. All major
players came to COP19 to show not only what they have done but to think
what more they can do. Next year is also the time for them to turn ideas
into further concrete action,” Figueres said.
In Warsaw, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his invitation to
all governments, and leaders from finance, business, local government and
civil society, to a climate summit in New York on September 23, 2014. This
will be a solutions summit, complementing the UNFCCC negotiations. “I ask
all who come to bring bold and new announcements and action. By early 2015,
we need those promises to add up to enough real action to keep us below the
internationally agreed two degree temperature rise,” he said.
How did Nigeria fare at the conference? Well, as usual with most delegations to such conferences, they arrived late. However, Delegates such Salisu Dahiru, Paul Tarfa and others, who were later joined by Head of the Climate Unit of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Dr. Samuel Adejuwon could be said to have put a fair representation for the country. They joined the African group in the negotiations and their demands were loud enough.
An environmentalist and civil society activist, Hamzat Lawal, who was among the early birds to the conference, voiced his frustrations in an open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan on issues around COP 19 and the environment generally.
He wrote: “Climate change will define our present and future existence, and you can be part of history by directly contributing to the world's response. At this crucial moment, political leaders are required to take bold steps in shaping our existence by protecting the ecosystems that hold up our societies. I strongly believe your leadership role would inspire other African and world Leaders.
“A bill to establish the Climate Change Commission is currently awaiting your Presidential assent; this bill, if passed into law, would coordinate Nigeria’s response to climate change and would give a positive signal to the global community while putting Nigeria at the forefront in tackling this menace.”
He continued further: “Last year, many states in our dear country were ravaged with floods leading to the death of over 100 people. Millions were displaced, infrastructure worth billions of naira destroyed leading to temporary economic collapse, children were unable to go to school and water-borne diseases increased. You immediately made a provision of N17.6 billion in direct financial assistance to the affected states and some federal government agencies for disaster management; funds that could have been directed to economic growth if we had a legal and institutional framework in place.
“The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows that Africa will suffer the most from climate change compared to the other continents. We are particularly vulnerable because our current capacity to adapt to climate change is considerably limited.
“In recent years, average temperatures have soared. They are projected by scientists to increase three to four degrees Celsius within the next century if nothing is done now. The extreme weather that comes with temperature rises will destroy infrastructure and have undue impacts on agriculture and disease risk rates. Currently, agriculture accounts for over 60% of our labour and contributes to our GDP, both of which are threatened by climate change.”
Therefore, Lawal urged Jonathan to act fast with a reminder: “You promised transformative growth, development and ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’. Now is the time to act on your promises by signing the Climate Change Commission bill into law.”

For Nigeria, therefore, there are a number of things we can do to improve our participation in COPs and to send out a positive message to the world. Apart from getting a broad spectrum of delegates to attend, the government should ensure early arrival and hard with embassies of host nations who deny legitimate delegates visas. In this regard, the attitude of the Polish Embassy towards COP 19 is dismal, frustrating and condemnable. When all these are sorted, our country will have a crosscutting assimilation of the deliverables from the forum, and be able to implement relevant local processes and Nigeria will be heard, loud and clear.

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