Thursday, June 4, 2015

Will Paris Deliver An Agreement that Aligns with Africa Aspirations?

By Ann Makena Kobia
(Pan African Climate Justice Alliance)

A village in Kenya's Arid Marsabit County. Isaiah Esipisu
2015 is a critical year for humanity. Critical as the world leaders come together to agree to the Paris Climate Deal to tackle the greatest threat facing humanity. This year also witnesses new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will offer a global strategic framework for the coming decade and a half, slated to be finalized in September in New York.
Climate change is one of the key transformative issues under discussions in the new development framework succeeding MDGs.
Recent analysis of the 5th Assessment Report by Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms the world is on course for levels of warming that will be catastrophic and may as well be irreversible. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Emission Gap Report further warns that the current mitigation pledges – unless strengthened – will set the world on course for global warming of between 2.5 to 5°C.

While the impacts of climate change are experienced globally in terms of increasing cases of droughts, floods, famines and shifting seasons, Africa remains one of the continents witnessing the brunt impacts of climate change. From increasing desertification Niger, to the devastating floods in Mozambique, climate change has excerbated countries grappling with high poverty rates.
This has not gone unnoticed. Many have spoken about it. From political leaders like Barack Obama and Francois Hollande to religious leaders like Pope Francis and Desmond Tutu, many have expressed concern on human’s contribution to the changing climate and have called for an urgent rethinking of our development pathway.
That is why 2015 is critical and could as well be the turning point for Africa. Key summits have been lined up in the lead up to Paris and New York Conferences, all with a common goal of making the world a better place.
As an African who has been following these processes, and who is deeply concerned for our future generations, I have a few key issues I would like to see our leaders set aside their differences and agree upon.
It is imperative the leaders agree to keep Africa and the World safe. This will only be attainable by agreeing to limit emissions to well below the 2 degrees Celsius level. This should be a legally binding commitment that ensures the world follows a sustainable development pathway.
As the impacts of climate change continue to ravage vulnerable communities with low adaptive capacities,  African governments and the rest of the world  should stand with the people and communities on the front-lines of the climate crisis and as well as the vulnerable communities whose voices need to be listened to.
These boardroom deals should not be profit-driven to merely cater the corporate interests. The agreement should take into account environmental integrity, inter-generational equity and respect of human rights, as well as the right to development and the rights of indigenous peoples, youth, women and children.
For the Paris Climate Deal to be appropriate for Africa, it should include a framework for key policy provisions that will be strategic toward safeguarding ecosystems and natural capital that will be central to sustainable economic growth in the region. This should include but not limited to, technology transfer and capacity building to operationalize a Low Emissions Development (LED) strategy for the region; ambitious international financing toward adaptation actions; commitment by Annex I countries to meet their climate obligations to support non-annex countries in line with the UNFCCC recommendations; and the agreement should ensure adaptation and mitigation action is considered at a par by global players in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities based on respective capabilities.
While failure in Paris is not an option, Africa should not passively wait for the climate deal but rather proactively engage and strongly advocate and stand by its best interests to ensure protection of its sons and daughters and its ecosystems key towards building climate resilient communities and economies. And as we call on the world to embrace clean energy, Africa should as well take action to actualize low carbon economies.
There remains less than 200 days to go for the Paris Agreement,  let the world leaders remembers the poor woman in a village in Zimbabwe who’s been long waiting for rains to grace her farm, but that never comes, and when it does, it is torrential downpour sweeping away the crops. Let them remember the poor children of Mozambique whose school lives have been interrupted by floods and subsequent waterborne diseases. Let them also remember families whose lives have been interrupted by climate-related disasters, the typhoons of Philippines and the famine-stricken Turkana. Let them remember all these and the dreadful thought that without proper actions the future will only get worse.

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