African political leaders have urged more than 190 nations attending the Climate Change Conference to put their national interests aside and act to prevent further crisis in Africa, which contributes least greenhouse gas emissions yet was suffering the most from hostile weather patterns.
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Chad President Idriss Deby and Angolan Vice-President Fernando de Piedade said the climate change negotiations were complex, but millions of poor and vulnerable people depended on decisions to be made at the conference.
The leaders were speaking at Monday’s opening ceremony of a two-week climate conference at which the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact that sets targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions but expected to expire at the end of 2012, will be known.
President Zuma said climate change was threatening agriculture in Africa, with agricultural output in many African countries expected to decrease by at least 50 per cent by 2050, yet poverty limited most African nations to deal with the impact of climate change. “Africa’s vulnerability does not only stem from climate change impacts such as the rise in the sea level, severe droughts and floods,” said the South Africa leader.
He said severe droughts were fuelling further conflict in Somalia, leading to the flood of refugees in Kenya and grazing communities in Sudan were fighting over scarce grazing fields. “In our country, we have experienced unusual and severe flooding in coastal areas in recent times, impacting on people directly as they lose their homes, jobs and livelihoods,” said President Zuma.
As Zuma called upon rich countries to provide funding needed to address impacts of climate change through the Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to channel USD100bn a year by 2020 to help developing countries fight climate change, skepticism was ripe among delegates weather rich nations would provide the funding due to the souring economic conditions.
But the executive secretary of UNFCCC Christiana Figueres said in her opening ceremony address that future commitments by industrial countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions is “the defining issue of this conference.”
However, she said that is linked to pledges that developing countries must make to join the fight against climate change.
“The process needs to take two decisive steps here in Durban, finishing the tasks from COP16 and answering the key political questions that remained unanswered in Cancun,” Figueres told the delegates.
One of the developing countries which made commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was South Africa at the climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009.
President Zuma said the country had promised to carbon emissions by 34 percent in 2020 but said their efforts depended on support from developed countries in terms of finance, technology and capacity-building.
“There are also significant opportunities for the development of a green economy in Southern Africa and which could also be extended to other parts of the continent. South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo recently an agreement with respect to the Grand Inga Hydro Electricity Project for the construction of a dam that will provide electricity to more than half of Africa’s population.
The Plant is estimated to generate about 40,000 megawatts, which is over one third of the total electricity produced in Africa today,” said President Zuma.
In relation to President Zuma’s assertion, the South African ministry of environmental affairs issued a press statement, saying 550 million people in Africa did not have access to electricity and mentioned hydropower as being underutilized energy source, with less than 10 percent of the hydropower potential in Africa being utilised currently.
The newly elected President of the Durban Climate Change Conference Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said the Cancun agreements must be “operationalized”.
Nkoana-Mashabane, who is also South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, also said adaptation to climate change is an essential element of the outcome of COP17.
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- Jacob Zuma opens Durban climate negotiations with plea to delegates (guardian.co.uk)
- Focus on Africa as COP17-CMP7 officially launched in Durban, South Africa (examiner.com)
- Durban Climate Change Conference 2011 opens in disarray (telegraph.co.uk)
- S Africa urges global solution of climate change (europe.chinadaily.com.cn)
- Rifts emerge as UN climate talks open (news.smh.com.au)
- Africa: UN Climate Talks Open in South Africa (allafrica.com)
- Zuma, others launch Africa Pavilion at UN climate change conference (appablog.wordpress.com)
- Major rifts emerge on first day of UN talks (telegraph.co.uk)