UN Ghana talks: Africa needs funding for climate change

Posted by Laura Grant on August 29, 2008
Posted in Green News

This week 1,500 delegates from 160 countries have been in Ghana talking about climate change. The overall plan is to create a successor deal for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, that can be agreed on at a UN climate conference scheduled for 2009 in Copenhagen. So what happened in Ghana? Treevolution trawled the news reports to create the summary below.

What of Africa?
The fact that the conference was in Ghana highlighted some of the problems Africa faces if what climate models predict actually happens. Ghana’s president John Agyekum Kufuor, who opened the conference, said that his country’s rainfall had decreased by 20 percent over the past 30 years, and that up to 1,000 square kilometres of land may be lost in the Volta Delta because of sea-level rise. Villages on the southern coast of Ghana are already having to move continually inland as sea levels rise, AP reports.

If predictions of sea level rise run true, many West African coastal areas could be inundated in the next century. “The coastline [as it is now] will be completely changed by the end of this century because the sea level is rising along the coast at around 2cm every year,” Stefan Cramer, Nigeria director of Heinrich Boll Stiftung, a German environmental NGO, was reported as saying. [Irin] Sea level rise could also threaten groundwater, increasing its salinity and making it undrinkable and unsuitable for agriculture, the report said.

Money to help us cope
Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change reportedly said that Africa was at risk of, “becoming the forgotten continent in the context of the fight against climate change.” [Voice of America] But, he said, the continent had a “golden opportunity” in UN climate talks to ensure that it gets help to cope with global warming.

Reuters reported De Boer as saying: “[Africans] need to formulate what is essential to them to act, both to limit emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change.” He added, “Africa has to know what’s to the liking of Africa.”

The UN Environment Programme was reported as saying that Africa was starting to benefit from a UN project to help investments in clean technologies. Although China, India and Brazil had up to now won almost all of the 3,500 projects, a UNEP study projected that Africa might get 230 such projects by 2012, generating up to $1 billion in credits. [TVNZ]

Africa’s big emitters
South Africa and Nigeria were singled out as Africa’s worst greenhouse gas emitters, accounting for almost 90 percent of the continent’s emissions, in an AFP report. Nigeria’s emissions were from gas flaring by oil firms and South Africa’s because of it’s dependency on coal for energy. Although, environmentalists pointed out that African emissions were negligible compared to the 150 years of emissions from Europe.

“It doesn’t make sense for Nigeria and South Africa, for instance, to reduce their emissions while the industrialised nations who are largely responsible for climate change do not make any efforts at reducing theirs,” AFP quoted a WWF spokesman as saying.

“Emissions reductions should not be used as a ploy to create obstacles on our way to development. The developed countries should help us with low-carbon technology,” the report quoted Ewah Otu Eleri, head of the Nigeria-based International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development, as saying.

According to a report in Afrique en ligne, African civil society organisations “slammed” South Africa for announcing unilaterally that it would take up commitments in the post 2012 regime on climate change, saying it had caused disunity in the continent and within the G77 and China.

More generally
A major issue in the negotiations for the new environmental deal is how to incorporate developing countries into the fight against climate change without hampering their economic growth.

Negotiators were looking at ways to encourage tropical developing nations to slow the rate of deforestation. Emissions from deforestation are said to account for about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. About 13 million hectares of forest are estimated to be lost to loggers, farmers and fires every year, mostly in the Amazon, in Southeast Asia and in West Africa. [AP]

Reuters quoted a WWF spokeswoman as saying that it might cost between $20 billion and $30 billion a year to set up a system to safeguard tropical forests, perhaps using a mixture of carbon markets or donor funds.

Ways were discussed on how to raise the money to reward countries for saving their forests [see Reuters]

AP reported that headway had also been made on a plan to encourage developing countries to regulate carbon emissions by focusing on setting pollution targets for their largest industries, such as cement, steel or aluminium, rather than on the national targets for overall emissions that the Kyoto Protocol has set for the industrialised countries.

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