Sunday, November 22, 2015

Civil society may be barred but not silenced on climate change

By Busani Bafana 

Webster Whande of CDKN
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (PAMACC News) - Civil society organisations - closed out of global negotiations- are emboldened to have their say in demanding a fair climate change deal.

Much is expected of twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) which starts November 30 to December 11 2015 in the French capital, Paris.

More than 100 global leaders are expected to agree on a deal that would galvanise the world in saving humanity by cutting greenhouse gas emissions blamed for extreme weather variations.

Smallholder farmers especially in Africa are witnessing the impacts of climate change in terms of droughts, floods, water scarcity and poor harvests. Developing countries and Africa in particular, want a deal that will up commitments by the developed countries to cut emissions and provide much needed funding for adaptation.

"One of the main criticism of adaptation it is difficult to conceptualise and to do on the ground but if there is a way of aggregating the lessons coming out of the work of civil society on adaptation then this is useful in equipping negotiators with practical examples on how adaptation can work and how it can be interpreted into decisions at COP21," said Webster Whande, Technical Advisor to the African Group of Negotiators and the focal point for the Climate and Development Knowledge Network's (CDKN) negotiations support in Africa. "The leverage that civil society brings to these negotiations is that of being a knowledge broker and ensuring that there is access to that knowledge that assists negotiating parties.'

Paris is hosting the watershed climate change talks on the back of terrorist attacks in which over 100 people were killed. This has forced the French government to cancel planned public marches as part of tightening security around the conference. The ban could affect the participation of civil society groups, whose make bold statements through marches and demonstrations at almost every COP has kept negotiators on their feet.

Mithika Mwenda, Secretary General  of the  Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) a continental coalition of more than 1000 organizations, says civil society are a critical stakeholder representing the communities at the  frontline of climate change impacts.

"We been very frustrated with the UNFCCC process and when we were in Bonn we noticed that the space of civil society and general observers was shrinking by the day and this is really worrying because the UN should be a space for interactions for everybody but civil society is being excluded, " said Mithika, adding that, "We need increased of civil society participation in the climate change negotiation process. We believe that Paris may not deliver what we are looking in for in the first placed based on the outcome of the processes which have preceded the conference but we still insist on an agreement which is responsive to African realities, just and equitable."

Mithika said civil society was disappointed with the outcome of COP 15 which resulted in the disastrous Copenhagen Accord.

"This is just a milestone and Paris will be one of those conferences where we want to hammer an agreement but we believe it will not solve all problems. We are looking at Paris and beyond."

Africa is expecting a progressive Paris agreement which while helping limit global warming will accommodate climate financing for adaptation and mitigation.

Rising temperatures attributed to climate change are set to shrink the global economy by 23 percent and reduce average incomes in the poorest 40 percent of the countries by 75 percent in 2100, according to a new study by the US University of Berkeley California released this month.

A new World Bank report published in November 2015 warns that Climate change will put another 100 million people into poverty in 15 years unless developed countries reduce their carbon emissions.

Developed countries are accused of acting in bad faith by failing to honour pledges of funds to help vulnerable countries adapt to the negative effects of climate change. A sore point has been the $100 billion per year until 2020 pledged at Copenhagen in 2009 to be provided to developing countries.

Developing countries, many in Africa, argue that they contribute little in carbon emissions compared to the rich and more industrialised developed countries. They need the financing and technology to fix a problem not of their making. Some African countries have argued that Africa should be allowed to develop and use fossil fuels before they can be told about taking mitigation measures.

Africa wants a Paris deal that will help protect its resources and secure its development, Fatima Denton, the Economic Commission for Africa Director of Special Initiatives Division, told said delegates at the CCD-V conference held last month in the Zimbabwe resort town of Victoria Falls to help fine tune Africa's position on climate change actions and expectations at COP 21.

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