Saturday, September 5, 2015

Law Professor urges Africa to turn its vulnerability into a negotiating force at the COP

By Friday Phiri in Dar-e-salaam

Professor Oliver Ruppel at the forum
In the 1970s, Tanzania’s founding President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere issued a thin booklet that he distributed to all his diplomats, titled, “Argue, Don’t shout,” in which he tried to show how disputation is more effective than name-calling and shouting, even when someone is becoming an irritant.

Close to five decades after this famous undertaking, a South Africa law Professor, Oliver Ruppel thinks Africa should adopt such a stance ahead of the crucial climate change conference--COP 21, slated for France later in December at which a new climate deal is to be reached.

Prof. Ruppel, who is Coordinating lead Author for Africa in the IPCC, says time has come for Africa to ‘argue’ by advancing solid arguments backed by available socio-economic evidence of its people’s suffering as a result of climate change and stop ‘lamenting’ its vulnerability, as the case has been over the years.

“Climate change is not only physical science, it is also a social science and there are millions of people in Africa struggling with climate related socio-economic challenges”, noted Prof. Ruppel, saying this was enough evidence to advance Africa’s demands in the COP negotiation processes.

“Another powerful asset that Africa has is the abundance of natural resources and it only requires finding a comparative advantage to push its agenda”, added Prof. Ruppel, who is currently in Dar-e-salaam, Tanzania for the Africa Climate Talks (ACT) organised by the Africa Climate Policy Centre of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Dubbed the “The Promise of Paris”, ACTs are being held to critically look at issues, challenges and prospects of a post Kyoto climate framework for Africa.

The talks are exploring the possibilities of Africa prospering in a changing climate, how that prosperity can be leveraged, and the roles of different countries in enabling this prosperity through their contributions to global climate governance.

Over the years, the global climate governance framework has evolved and become more complex, ultimately increasing the challenges of pushing Africa’s interests.

One of the clearly marked failures was the Copenhagen conference in 2009 which did not deliver an agreement, and now, all hope is on COP 21 in Paris in December this year, expected to deliver the new climate agreement which will define global climate governance in the post KP period.

However, while Africa’s involvement has largely been submissive due to its limited resource capacity, it is ironically the most vulnerable with visible effects such as sea level rising, prolonged droughts and food insecurity among others.

“For the developing countries, these challenges are interacting with existing vulnerabilities to worsen the already bad situation”, Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal, Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania  told delegates at the official opening of the African Climate Talks (ACT) for Southern, Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean states in Dar-e-salaam.

And it is from this background that organisers of the ACTs are trying to stimulate Africa’s position —seeking to build up consensus towards a common African position on the post 2015 framework, and to develop mechanisms to hold African policy makers and negotiators accountable to this vision.

But in achieving Africa’s objectives, some experts such as Prof. Ruppet believes in adding value to Africa’s arguments through law expertise to improve its argument.

“For example, lawyers would be key to the issue of technology transfer and intellectual property; just like they pushed for subsidised prices for HIV drugs to make them affordable for the poor in Africa and other developing countries”, he said, pointing out that the same can be done with technology transfer and its related challenge of intellectual property rights.

And Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance agrees with Prof. Ruppel on the importance for the African Group of Negotiators to incorporate an expert to advise on the technicalities of law.

“Three years ago, we were talking about developed countries channeling resources to developing countries but now the language has changed to resource mobilisation dependant on national circumstances. The industrialized countries have powerful technical resource people who always look for technical knock-outs sometimes just changing a sentence with a comma is enough to change the whole context of the arguments”, observed Mithika.

Meanwhile, Governments have given ‘Green Light’ for Draft Agreement for Negotiation in October in Advance of Paris

According to the UNFCCC media brief, the latest round of climate change negotiations ended Friday, 4th September, on track to produce the first comprehensive draft of the new, universal climate change agreement that governments are committed to reach in Paris, in December.

The draft, to be drawn up by Ahmed Djoghlaf of Algeria and Daniel Reifsnyder of the United States will present clear options and ways forward on all elements of the agreement and the decisions that will operationalise it from 2020.

“At this session, countries have crystalised their positions and have requested the co-chairs to produce a concise basis for negotiations with clear options for the next negotiating session in October. This means that we will arrive in Paris on time without too much turbulence-- not before, not later,” said Mr Djoghlaf, Co-Chair of the ADP, the negotiating body tasked with reaching the agreement that must put the world on a path to stay beneath a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise.

The document will retain sets of options reflecting the different views and positions where governments still need to agree common landing zones.

Laurence Tubiana, Special Climate Envoy for the Government of France said: “At this session, countries have clarified all the different pieces of the puzzle. Now, all pieces of the puzzle will be assembled and this will enable the negotiations to pick up pace.”

And UNFCCC chief, Christiana Figueres said: “I am very encouraged. This session has yet again proven that all countries are moving in the direction of progress and all agree that Paris is the final destination for the new universal agreement.”

The October meeting is the final scheduled session of the ADP (Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) before the December conference.
But ACT Alliance, a network of over 140 church and faith based organisations working together in 140 countries to achieve sustainable change in the lives of people affected by crisis, disasters, poverty and injustice, has described the progress as sluggish.
“The sense of urgency required in view of the few months remaining before Paris in December, was simply not there,” said Mattias Söderberg, chair of the ACT Alliance advisory group on climate change advocacy, who led the alliance delegation that attended the talks.
“We cannot afford to delay the process, because the consequences would be unbearable for the efforts towards climate action. Therefore we keep calling on governments to step up and use the next – and final – session of negotiations in October meaningfully.”

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