The time has come for the global community to converge for yet another round of negotiations to come up with a new deal that will help stabilise the climate system and assure vulnerable communities of a promising future.
Climatic conditions are changing very fast, and the impact can be seen all over. Yet, Africa, which bears the least responsibility for the phenomenon, is evidently on the losing end. However, this is the right time for African negotiators to spell out their conditions during the negotiation platform to be held in Durban, South Africa beginning at the end of November.
It therefore calls for the Heads of State and Government representing Africa to come up with a common position that will embrace the cause of climate justice and ensure outcomes of the climate negotiations that will keep Africa safe, safeguard our right to development and implement the United Nations Climate Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.
The protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The agreement sets binding targets for 37 industrialised countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are a recipe for global warming. This amounts to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period between 2008 and 2012.
While in Durban, the leaders and negotiators from the least developed countries, including African countries, must therefore pressurise the developed world to commit to second and subsequent commitment periods under the Kyoto Protocol in order to maintain global warming well below 1.5°C by the year 2050.
In a quest for development, the developed countries have been emitting greenhouse gases to the atmosphere emanating from factories and related machineries. Under normal circumstances, greenhouse gases are important on earth because they react with sun rays to maintain the world’s temperatures, making it suitable for life to thrive. But when such gases are emitted in plenty, the reaction becomes even more intense, making the earth warmer that it naturally is.
Such warming is therefore referred to as global warming, and is characterised by high temperatures that lead to extreme climatic conditions such as extreme droughts and unpredictable rainfall patterns.
This becomes lethal to a continent such as Africa, which highly depends on rain-fed agriculture as the main source of food and income.
According to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and climate variability, a situation aggravated by the interaction of ‘multiple stresses’, occurring at various levels, and low adaptive capacity.
The impact is already evident. Across the continent, in villages, in towns, on coastlines and deep in the heart of Africa, people battle daily with a growing climate crisis. Rivers have run dry. Crops have turned to dust. Seasons shift and change. One can easily see the effects of climate change reflected in the expectant eyes of hungry children, and in the lengthening footsteps of women carrying water from far away distances.
Across Africa, a growing congregation of people suffer from starvation and disease while others, after freeing themselves from the grip of grinding poverty, are shackled again by an increasingly hostile climate. It is a cruel irony that a people who have lived for so long in harmony with Mother Earth, imprinting the lightest of carbon footprints, are now suffering from a crisis they did not cause.
Now, the IPCC report is warning that if no measures to reduce the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere are put in place, the entire continent is likely to warm even further during this century. The report predicts that the warming is very likely to be larger than the global annual mean warming throughout the continent and in all seasons, with drier subtropical regions warming more than the moister tropics.
This is a worrying trend. And the Durban platform is the perfect place for pro-African scientists, African policy makers and negotiators to work in harmony in order to come up with a deal that will be appropriate for the continent, thereby pressurizing leaders and negotiators from the developed world not to give non-binding promises.
At the same time, curbing global emissions within a decade will require technology transfers on a scale never considered before.
To be fair to Africa, the developed countries must remove intellectual property rights and pay ‘full incremental costs’ of such technology transfer in order to protect the earth.
As stated in the Convention, the extent of developing countries’ implementation depends on developed countries’ commitment on financing and technology transfer. Africa must therefore oppose efforts to sell rather than transfer technologies, or to strengthen rather than relax intellectual property rights and make such a position official.
Mr Esipisu is a science journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. email@example.com