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Speech by President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa at the opening ceremony of the 15th ordinary session of the African Union Assembly

25/07/2010

Kampala, Uganda / Stenographic version

Your Excellency, Mr. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda;
Your Excellency, Mr. Bingu wa Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi and President of the African Union;
Your Excellency, Mr. Jean Ping, President of the African Union Commission;
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government of the countries that make up the African Union;
Representatives of the different delegations;
Ladies and gentlemen representatives of international bodies;
Special guests;
Ladies and gentlemen:
It is indeed a privilege to be here today as a guest speaker at this Opening Ceremony of the Fifteenth Ordinary Session of the African Union.

On behalf of the Mexican people, I thank you for this honor.

Mexicans are well aware that a significant part of our roots lies in Africa. We are a blend of the indigenous peoples who lived in our land for centuries and of those who arrived at a later date from Africa and Europe.

In this opportunity I wish to begin by expressing on behalf of the Mexican people, and certainly on behalf of Latin America, our strongest condemnation of the terrorist acts recently occurred in this city and our undying solidarity with the people and the government of Uganda. 

In 2010, we celebrate our Independence bicentennial, honoring the melting pot of cultures that gave birth to our nation. Coincidentally, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the independence of many African nations. The Mexican people congratulate you all on this important occasion.

Nowadays, countries work very hard not only to protect their autonomy and their citizens’ civil liberties, but also to secure a sustainable natural environment for our children and for the coming generations. This, may I say, is the reason why I am addressing this honorable assembly today.

True to the facts, the Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, once said: “It is evident that many wars are fought over resources which are now becoming increasingly scarce. If we conserved our resources better, fighting over them would not then occur… so, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace… those of us who understand the complex concept of the environment have the burden to act. We must not tire, we must not give up, we must persist.”

For years, mankind has caused great harm to the environment, our common home. By doing so, we have put our civilization at grave risk. Africa is the continent with the lowest levels of carbon emissions and bears the lesser responsibility of the climate change. Nevertheless, Africa is bound to suffer the greatest burden of the consequences of climate change. For these reasons Africa can be the continent that reaps the greatest benefits if we finally adopt in Cancun an effective agreement. Today, Africa and the whole world suffer from increasingly intense droughts and, at the same time, more recurrent flooding which harm our communities. Rising sea levels are threatening coastal populations.

As to this Continent, it is an alarming fact that almost 90 percent of the ice cap of Mount Kilimanjaro’s glaciers has already disappeared. Climate change also threatens many of the continent’s species of wildlife.

Rainfall in Eastern Africa is expected to increase, whereas a greater risk of drought is forecasted for Southern Africa. Additionally, the rise in average temperatures and the probability of shorter and more intense rain cycles may intensify the spread of diseases such as malaria. Water scarcity will cause affect agriculture and especially the drinking water supplies, raising the prevalence of bacterial infections such as diarrhea, due to water contamination and food shortages. Regrettably, women and children are often the most vulnerable groups in the face of these risks.

That is why climate change must be part of the agenda for this forum on Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa.

Today more than ever, we must adopt effective measures to stop climate change. I am convinced that we can change the course of events. This is a global challenge that demands a global response.
Both the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol provide us with a solid legal structure to act together. However, it is clear that the world has not complied with the obligations that both instruments entail. Proper incentives that would help us foster the development of low carbon economies are absent, nor do we have the adequate tools required to ease financial and technology transfers from developed to developing countries.

The current challenge calls for concerted action on the part of all countries, both developed and developing. We all must contribute in some way. Developed countries are in a position to contribute more resources and technology. Those countries which are unable to offer either one of them, should contribute by assimilating and enhancing international aid through adaptation measures and, above all, mitigation efforts in areas such as clean technologies, energy efficiency, renewable energies, biofuels, reforestation and land conservation, among others. These international resources could and indeed should be used, for example, in the construction of dams in Africa because of its less than 10% untapped hydro electrical potential, which is a cleaner and more responsible source of energy.

Today, developing countries are responsible for half of global carbon dioxide emissions. In other words, even if developed countries should drastically reduce their emissions, we would still be far from solving the climate change problem. Therefore, we should all contribute to the best of our abilities, since we all suffer the consequences. This is the very essence of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

At year’s end in Cancun, we will have the opportunity to make decisions to effectively deal with this phenomenon, as we meet for the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

I firmly believe that at Cancun all countries will be able to significantly contribute to the fight against climate change. I am here to listen to what the African countries have to say. I am here as well to ask for their support. Let us remember that in order to understand this problem, and be successful in fighting its causes and effects, as it is indeed the case with many other pressing issues in the international agenda, we require the full participation of the nations of this continent.

If we reach to a global agreement, all actions against climate change will receive greater international support. They would in fact become a tool for growth and a means to fight poverty and promote social development.

There are many aspects to this issue that demand an agreement in Cancun, an agreement supported by all parties, especially the countries of Africa.

First. Although significant progress has been achieved with regard to adaptation, Cancun can bring about more effective mechanisms, such as technology transfers and access to financial resources from developed countries. The fast-start funds envisaged under the Copenhagen agreement give preference to financing the most vulnerable countries, including African nations.

Instances of the improvements made in this field are the actions taken by Malawi, which has set in place an initiative to manage climate risks. It has been suggested that building sea walls and other infrastructure projects should be a priority for Africa, given that many of its urban areas lie in the coastal region.

Many countries face institutional limitations, as well as limitations in technical and professional skills that make it difficult to gain access to necessary information to make decisions, design strategies and undertake programs regarding mitigation and adaptation. The development of skills and abilities is, therefore, another area in which we can expect significant progress during the Cancun meeting.
Second. Technology will undoubtedly be the most important instrument in reaching our mitigation and adaptation goals. While there are useful technologies in the market, we must make sure they are available and within the grasp of developing countries. And we shall insist upon this fact in Cancun at the end of the year. It is essential that developing countries, especially those that are most vulnerable, receive sufficient support to plan their adaptation and risk management strategies.

Third. Two years ago it was debated whether forests could play a role in mitigating climate change. The social benefits of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) projects are beyond doubt today, and considerable resources have been invested in them due to the fact that reforestation is an efficient measure.

The social benefits of this strategy are beyond doubt. Such has been Mexico’s experience, where new efficient and transparent mechanisms have been put in place, allowing for payments offered in exchange for environmental services. This allows farming and indigenous communities to preserve their forests, while at the same time securing an income that will improve their living conditions.

Many African countries suffer the consequences of droughts, desertification and deforestation. At the same time, this continent is home to some of the largest forests and natural areas in the world. Through the REDD+ process several nations have identified areas where they can receive immediate support. In addition to that, several developed countries have pledged important funding to sustain these efforts until 2012. I am aware that many of you present here have defined as a priority the development of national strategies, capacities and know-how in this field, and that some African nations, such as the Republic of the Congo and Ghana have secured fresh financial resources to this end.

Fourth. Financing also constitutes a key strategy in the struggle against climate change. Developed countries have already committed 28 billion dollars over the next three years. This is why we should insist in the urgency of implementing concrete projects and advance in mechanisms for measuring and verification.  At the same time, significant progress has been made to consolidate the green fund against climate change that will allow financial flows of 100 billion dollars every year, starting in 2020, even though there are still important aspects that remain to be solved for its implementation. This is another subject that remains to be discussed in Cancun, in order to ensure financial flows to result in effective actions that fight climate change.

Mexico will strive to ensure that developing countries, and those of Africa in Particular, have access to predictable and adequate financial resources to support their strategies in the fight against climate change.

If the adaptation tackles the effects, the mitigation combats the root causes of climate change; hence its importance. On mitigation, there is no doubt that we must see clear and verifiable commitments from all developed economies. Some developed countries have made ambitious commitments, but we are still far from what is required to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Under the terms of the Convention, developed countries have the obligation of providing technology and finance to developing countries, given the former’s historic responsibility. In Cancun we must establish clear guidelines and specific mechanisms for its fulfillment.

We know that Africa is not an important source of greenhouse effect gasses. However, it is very encouraging to see how several countries have adopted growth strategies that are low in carbon. South Africa and Nigeria have initiatives that can be eligible to receive support from the Clean Technology Fund. Kenya, Senegal, Mali and Mauritania are using the Clean Development Mechanism to promote a variety of clean energy projects.

Even though the convention does not mention it, it is in the interest of all countries to start mitigation efforts, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Already, our nations are suffering from the consequences of climate change. I am talking about the floods in Western Africa and the droughts in the East. We have also seen the negative impact these droughts have had on crops from the strip between the Saharan desert and the African savannahs, the region known as Sahel. I am also talking about the ever stronger and more frequent hurricanes that affect my own country, as was the case of hurricane “Alex” in recent days, which left behind it a wake of destruction throughout Northeastern Mexico.

An ambitious agreement on climate change at Cancun will benefit Africa and the entire world.

We must adopt an ambitious, comprehensive and balanced package that leads us to effective action.

We must establish the framework for a better implementation of the climate change regime.

Through the political will of African nations, with their support, and on the basis of a pragmatic approach that allows us to start acting at once, Cancun 2010 could well be the beginning of a new era of agreements on climate change. This is what our peoples expect.

 

Without sacrificing our current levels of ambition or the central principles of the current regime, we need to be pragmatic. Evidence proves we need to do more. Our correspondent obligations differ, but we all have them.

We must give clear signs that we are determined to act with the sense of urgency that the current situation demands. This will help us prevent that those who have been postponing the fulfillment of their obligations find an excuse and manage to avoid, yet again, the need to act at once.

Mexico is doing its utmost to ensure that the meeting will produce far-reaching agreements by all countries to secure the viability of the Planet. I know Africa will play the leading role in Cancun 2010. Let us write history together by confronting climate change.

Thank you very much.

    

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