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Setting agenda for Africa at UN climate talks in Cancun

Nigeria
Daily Independent
05/11/2010

As the world prepares for yet another climate change conference in November/December this year in Cancun, Mexico, science writer Alex Abutu explores the numerous options available for adoption by African delegates preparing to grace the occasion.

The world is currently witnessing scores of global tragedies occasion by flood, earthquakes, landslides, and communal classes as well as civil unrest.

This clearly shows that the physical manifestations of the impacts of climate change as predicted by scientists have finally caught up with us. This is inspite of denials and slow action by those in position of taking decisions on reducing emission of green house gases now saturating the atmosphere.

In Africa, a glimpse of what is to come was on display a week ago when Mozambicans took to the streets to protest a 30 per cent increase in the price of bread. The unrest eventually left about 13 people dead while many others stained various degrees of injuries that may take a while to heal.

The protest grounded the country, resulting in socio-economic loses that may take several years to regain as well as investment opportunities that may never come again.

In Niger Republic, the international community has been battling to end the hunger that is ravaging over nine million people following incidents of drought and crop failures attributed to climate change.

Uganda witnessed a devastating flood early this year leading to the death of hundreds of human and animals as well as the washing away of farmlands, a situation scientists say will continue in the years to come.

In Nigeria, an outbreak of cholera has claimed over 200 lives since May and experts insist many more lives will be lost if medical aid fails to get to the vulnerable and poor communities already affected by the infection.

In Egypt, the Nile is drying up, meaning several hundreds of thousand lives will be on line as their source of livelihood is disappearing before their eyes.

In Chad and parts of Nigeria, it is no longer news that the lake which is a source of livelihood for over a million people in the Chad basin is receding faster than scientists had predicted.

What is more, the encroachment of the Sahara Desert is alarming and land grabbing on the continent is assuming a new dimension with western companies taking up farmland to grow biofuel crops.

The pertinent question to ask is: if a 30 percent increase in the price of bread was able to trigger a protest of the magnitude witnessed in Mozambique, what will happen if cereal grains such as maize which is staple food for many millions of Africa is no longer affordable or available?

The platform to find answers to the question and several other issues relating to the devastating impact of climate change on Africa is the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in respect of which the 16th edition is scheduled to hold in Cancun, Mexico from November 29 to December 10 this year.

In the various meetings held so far, a lot of agreements had been reached and decisions on how to cushion the impact of a changing climate on the vulnerable and poor nations taken.

But, according to Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Laureate at the Copenhagen conference in 2009, the world is doing less to address the global climate challenges.

“Let us say no to injustice and let us say no to allowing the poor people pay for something they did not cause. If we do not solve this problem, nobody is going to survive. We are all winners or we are all losers. Let us join the winner team and make this world a better place,” he said.   

Tutu based his analysis on the fourth assessment report on climate change prepared for world leaders by a selected team of scientists under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in 2007.

The report had warned on the current climatic impact being witnessed globally, even as it suggested steps to be taken. But, surprisingly, this advice is either being neglected or treated with disdain.

At previous conferences, Africa made remarkable attempts to persuade developed countries to take the lead in providing her with the means to adapt to the realities of what she is facing.

Delegates’ arguments are based on the fact that the developed world is responsible for polluting the atmosphere hence they should be responsible for providing the means with which developing countries are to adapt and follow a green path to develop.

Legal and justifiable as the argument may sound, it has failed in the last 15 years to bring the rapid result expected and had not only left the continent more prone to disasters but had made her a laughing stock before the polluters.

Jonathan Pershing, United States deputy special envoy for climate change, said at a recent gathering on climate change that every country has a role to play and that the thinking that USA or Europe can solve the entire climate change related-problems is no longer realistic.

The USA’s position, according to Victor Fodeke, Head of Nigeria’s climate change unit, is a challenge to African countries to brace themselves up to the looming disaster and begin to look inward for the appropriate strategies to adapt to the impact of climate change.

“We should start developing strategies that will climate proof Africa and prepare her to tackle the challenges of climate change,” he added.

From the tone of Fodeke, the time is ripe for Africa to take her destiny in her own hands, and begin to source answers and solutions to how to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Observers insist that African countries should start establishing and designating ministries or agencies for climate change with budgetary provisions, claiming that the era of waiting on the United Nations and its agencies to provide them with resources to convene meetings at national and regional levels on climate change is past.

African scientists made up about one third of the current crop of scientists assembled to write the fifth assessment report of the IPCC, which is a pointer to the fact that African scientists and researchers are knee-deep in climate change.

National governments in Africa should adopt deliberate policies to invest in climate change research that will utiise the local knowledge and myth on how to cope with the vulnerabilities of climate change common in every community on the continent as their starting point.

More importantly, Africa should go to the Cancun conference as a party with vested interest and not as a victim looking for handout on how to survive.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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