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Africa’s Climate Roadmap: From Johannesburg through Africa to Copenhagen
Marthinus van Schalkwyk, President of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, and Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South Africa
Marthinus van Schalkwyk
“Africa’s Climate Roadmap, from Johannesburg through Africa to Copenhagen” was adopted at the twelfth session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN-12), which took place from 7-12 June 2008, in Johannesburg, South Africa.  In our climate change discussions we highlighted the urgency for Africa to articulate a common position during the ongoing climate change negotiations for a strengthened international agreement beyond 2012, and to exploit the opportunity to build consensus on the complex issues of climate change and sustainable development for the benefit of the continent. Africa agreed to put forward a shared vision based on scientific evidence and broad political consensus. That shared vision would have several key elements: the future climate change regime should accommodate the priorities for Africa of sustainable development, poverty reduction and attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); increased support should be provided under the regime for capacity-building, financing and technology development and transfer for adaptation and mitigation in Africa (the means of implementation); and the agreement should result in the stabilization of emissions in the atmosphere. A deal on climate change requires a deal on development, including Africa.

African Ministers of Environment have repeatedly stressed the importance of giving adaptation a higher priority in order to balance it with mitigation on the international negotiating agenda. Africa will remain vulnerable even if, globally, emissions peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years.  African countries are taking action to address the impacts of climate change. However, our efforts will not be effective without international support. The longer the international community delays in providing support for adaptation programmes in Africa, the more costly it is going to be in the future. No agreement on the strengthening of the international climate architecture, when we meet in Copenhagen at the end of 2009, will be considered balanced if adaptation is not accorded much higher priority. Our deliberations in Johannesburg stressed that a future agreement should emphasize the importance of providing assistance to developing countries with adaptation technologies, finance and capacity building. In particular there is an urgent need to upscale adaptation financing that is new and additional and that does not divert existing official development assistance away from poverty eradication and other development priorities. It is our firm belief that these new sources of finance must be channeled through the Kyoto Protocol’s Adaptation Fund. Political conditionalities on funding African development are unacceptable. In our decisions we have requested the UN agencies, Bretton Woods Institutions, African Development Bank (AfDB) and other development partners to support African countries in taking measures to build economic and ecosystem resilience against climatic variability and change, and to effectively implement the Bali Action Plan.

At the regional and national levels, African ministers have committed to integrate climate change adaptation measures into national and, where appropriate, regional development plans, policies and strategies, with a view to ensuring adequate adaptation to climate change in such areas as water resources, food and energy security, and management of coastal and marine resources.  The framework will also include stand-alone adaptation activities, building African capacity to respond to extreme events and changes in the short, medium and long-term. At AMCEN-12, we adopted a wide ranging decision regarding the development of a Comprehensive Framework of African Climate Change Programmes. This Framework will address the critical need to integrate existing and future climate change initiatives and programmes under a consolidated agenda, thereby ensuring greater coordination and coherence in the implementation and review of climate change initiatives and sustainable development plans in Africa. This Framework should be ready for adoption when African Environment Ministers meet next year at a Special AMCEN Session.

In this regard, several important events have recently taken place to solidify an integrated African climate and development agenda.

Africa’s Ministers of Environment and Health took strides toward integrating climate and development when they adopted the Libreville Declaration at the Inter-ministerial Conference for Health and Environment in Africa, held from 26-29 August 2008, in Libreville, Gabon. The Declaration will be submitted to the African Union (AU) Heads of State Summit for consideration and adoption.

At AMCEN-12, we launched a call for the modification of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), to enhance its contribution to sustainable development efforts on the continent and to provide increased support for the introduction of climate change mitigation measures and technologies in African countries. African governments, the private sector, civil society and the UN system have gathered in Dakar, Senegal, from 3-5 September 2008, at the first African Carbon Forum to address these concerns. The inequitable geographic distribution of CDM projects must be addressed in the second review of the Kyoto Protocol to be undertaken in Poznań, Poland, in December 2008.

With the window for CDM projects under the first commitment period rapidly closing, African governments and our development partners need to scale-up efforts to maximize the development potentials of the CDM. During the next commitment periods under the Kyoto Protocol, the potential of the carbon market to contribute to low carbon growth and sustainable development will grow by orders of magnitude. If all developed countries took on much more stringent emissions reduction targets, aiming for cuts of 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050, and if they purchased half of their reductions in the developing world at a carbon price of at least US$10 per ton, then financial flows to developing countries could gradually grow beyond US$100 billion per year by mid-century. Capturing even a modest share of these financial opportunities could make part of the difference in the choice between fossil-fuel energy and more expensive renewable energy sources. But then the international conditions must be in place. And we must also mobilize public funding leveraging private investment beyond carbon markets. More ambitious mid-term targets for emission cuts by all developed countries, towards the upper end of the range of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020, would be critical to stimulate demand in the carbon market. The need to develop large scale CDM projects in Africa is also important. However, many economies in Africa, where the energy, transport, construction or industrial sectors are in early stages of development, have relatively small mitigation potentials. We must therefore also find ways to seize the opportunities that exist by developing methodologies for appropriate small scale mitigation projects, simple in structure and finance, but with high contributions to sustainable development. The mitigation challenge for most of Africa is about avoiding emissions (rather than emission reductions) – not to follow the dirty development path of the North in order to get cleaner later, but to develop in a more sustainable manner in the first place.

In addition to realigning the carbon market to recognize the special needs of Africa, there is also a need for a more coherent financial architecture for climate change as a key element of the ‘means of implementation,’ with technology and capacity building. This should be guided by agreed principles, including an equitable and transparent system of governance, direct access to funding, simplified procedures, removal of conditionalities, and a country driven approach. They also underscored the importance of climate friendly investment flows and stressed that Africa must use the opportunity created by the current negotiating processes to act now and create enabling conditions for the leap-frogging of African countries towards a low carbon economy and society. Africa must position itself to build international competitiveness within the emerging low-carbon global economy and must work to structure the climate change regime in a way that enables it to build its own competitive advantages and to reach economic development and sustainable development goals while decarbonizing growth. At AMCEN-12, we invited multilateral financial institutions and other development partners to take into account the special needs of Africa in the decision making processes under international financing schemes, including, among others, adaptation funds, World Bank climate funds, AfDB funds and UN initiatives, and to streamline their procedures to improve Africa’s access to finance.

During South Africa’s Presidency of AMCEN, we will seek to strengthen and support the implementation of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) across the African Continent. In the JPOI, we recognized that poverty and global inequality were the greatest threats to sustainable development. It is this very challenge that faces us today in the face of even greater threats of climate change and environmental degradation. Africa’s Ministers of the Environment firmly believe that the future climate change agreement should accommodate Africa’s priorities for sustainable development, poverty reduction and the attainment of the MDGs. We welcome the convening of the UN General Assembly’s High-Level Event on Africa’s Development Needs, in September 2008, as a further opportunity for the international community to renew commitments to Africa’s development agenda and focus urgent attention on the challenges of meeting the MDGs in the context of climate change and rising oil and food prices.

In Johannesburg, we started our journey to Copenhagen. This journey has now taken us to Accra, Ghana, and in December 2008 we will convene in Poznań, Poland, where we must show that we are gearing up for serious negotiations. In Johannesburg, we agreed to further strengthen AMCEN’s voice and strategic coordination in order to ensure that Africa’s concerns and interests are at the forefront of the international climate negotiations. Together, the African Common Position and the Framework of African Climate Change Programmes constitute Africa’s foundation as we prepare for our journey to Copenhagen in December 2009. Africa’s Environment Ministers are committed to providing the leadership to safeguard the environment for future generations, and meet the multi-faceted challenges posed by climate change. Our task, now, is to provide the leadership that will convert public will into political will, and political will into action and implementation.
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