Africa Speaks with One Voice on the Issue of Climate Change

07/12/2009
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Interview with Anthony Okon Nyong, Head of Unit, Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, AfDB

Question : How important is the issue of climate change for Africa?

Answer: African nations, in both absolute and per capita terms, are not significant sources of emissions on a global scale, but bear a disproportionately larger negative impact of climate change.

Climate change poses an additional burden to the continent, which is currently grappling with the challenge of meeting basic developmental needs. In fact, the continent is at risk of a reversal of the modest gains made thus far towards achieving the MDGs, if the projected negative impacts of climate change are not addressed in the near term.

Considering that climate change poses a formidable threat to the continent’s economic development, Africa needs to seek ways of building resilience into its climate sensitive economic sectors to ensure sustained economic growth.

This ultimately creates competition for the scarce financial resources available. However, climate change is also providing the impetus for the continent to chart a low carbon intensive development pathway that will ensure that the continent does not become a major polluter in its quest for development. This requires substantial financial, technical and human resources that are currently outside the continent’s reach.

Africa Acting Together
Question
: What prompted Africa to act together and adopt a common position for the Copenhagen conference on climate change? Could it be the 2008 Algiers Declaration  or the 2009 Nairobi Declaration?  

Answer: The risks posed by climate change do not respect political boundaries as they are common to the entire continent. There is no single part of the continent that is spared its deleterious impacts, as basic human survival is threatened everywhere on the continent.

This threat has therefore served as a rallying point for all African leaders to seek a common solution to the problem. It underlies the continent’s bid to develop a common coherent African position and to speak with one voice in on-going negotiations. It is also important to send a clear message to Africans and to the world that African leaders take the issue of climate change very seriously, that Africa wants to be a part of the solution to the global climate change crisis.

Question
: What is the African position?

Answer: Africans have voiced their concerns and recommendations on a number of issues:

Adaptation to Climate Change
Africans urge urgent international cooperation on the implementation of adaptation actions as well as according adaptation the same level of priority and emphasis as that given to mitigation globally. The continent seeks the establishment of a global adaptation action program that will implement, support and facilitate urgent and immediate adaptation actions, and build the continent’s resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Mitigation
Africa is advocating for the building of a firewall between developed country commitments and developing country actions. There is an objection to the continued reliance on offsets by developed countries for meeting their commitments, insisting that these commitments should be met primarily domestically. The continent also demands that developed country emission reductions include specific targets, be subject to a compliance regime and be comparable in terms of efforts made.

Technology and Capacity Building
Africans are urging for a commitment by developed countries to deploy and transfer accessible, affordable, appropriate and adaptable technologies to developing countries for enhanced action on both adaptation and mitigation. Developed countries should commit to providing full costs and incremental costs to support the development of adaptation and mitigation technologies, as enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Furthermore,  African negotiators are asking for the removal of barriers to technology transfer, which includes addressing intellectual property rights for the development and deployment of climate-friendly technologies. They are also asking developed countries to commit to strengthening the institutional capacity of developing countries to undertake climate action.

Financing Africans support the establishment of new financing mechanisms to deliver financial resources that are adequate, predictable, sustainable and additional to existing ODA. The financial mechanisms should ensure a transparent governance structure, ease of access to funds by developing countries, and an effective disbursement mechanism. They also request that developed countries commit to a target of 0.5% of their GDP for climate action in developing countries.

Moreover, they also urge that financial incentives be developed to implement adaptation actions on the basis of sustainable development policies; and that positive incentives be adopted for developing countries to enhance the implementation of national mitigation strategies and adaptation actions.

AfDB Approach to Climate Change
Question
: How does the AfDB approach this whole issue of climate change?

Answer: The Bank did not jump on to the climate change bandwagon because everyone else is talking about climate change. The Bank’s Mid-Term Strategy recognizes climate change as a cross-cutting issue that threatens the achievement of sustainable development in Africa. Our role is to build climate resilience in Africa’s development and promote the adoption of a low-carbon intensive economic growth pathway.

This is done by:

  • Enhancing the capacities of AfDB Regional Member Countries (RMCs) to mainstream climate change resilience into their national development plans and policies. This includes the commitment of USD 30 million to strengthen the capacities of Africa’s regional climate centres and the Board’s approval for the establishment of the Special Climate for Africa’s Development (ClimDev-Africa) Fund, which will be jointly implemented by the African Union Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
  • Investing in projects that seek to increase the continent’s adaptive capacity to climate change. Such projects include several in the agricultural sector that seek to wean the continent from perpetual reliance on rain-fed agriculture, improve agricultural land use practices and increase the continent’s water storage capacities.
  • The Bank is also implementing several clean energy projects that do not only contribute to increasing energy access on the continent, but help to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. These include several new generation thermal energy plants in Egypt, the Morocco solar thermal power station and the Turkana wind farm in Kenya.
  • The Bank is also leveraging additional financial resources to assist its RMCs address climate change challenges. This includes its participation in the USD 6.2 billion Climate Investment Funds where over USD 1.2 billion is devoted to the implementation of clean technology projects in the continent.


Question: Specifically, what is the AfDB’s contribution towards the Copenhagen Conference?

Answer: We have done a number of things. The most important activities undertaken include:

  • Recruitment of consultants
  • Climate change touches upon many technical and very complex issues, so it was important that African representatives be properly supported. Based on identified needs, the Bank has provided expert support to the African Union, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment and to the African negotiators involved in the issue.
  • Carbon Finance Training
  • Along the same line, it was important that African representatives be properly trained to be in a better position to present and support their arguments. Training has been provided to the Bank’s RMC negotiators and Bank staff on carbon finance.
  • Regional Consultations
  • The Bank has supported regional consultations on the continent to build a stronger pan-African consensus on the issues under negotiation.

AfDB Role at COP 15
Question: What role will the AfDB play during the conference?

Answer :Although the Bank has an observer status at the UNFCCC and cannot be involved in the negotiations, it is visibly participating at COP 15.

The Bank is taking the following key messages to the COP:

  • Climate change is a threat to development and poverty reduction on the continent, and immediate efforts and immediate priorities should be geared towards achieving the continent’s development goals.
  • There is a need for broad adaptation measures, within a sustainable development framework to tackle climate change impact on the continent.
  • Opportunities to grow low-carbon economies exist on the continent, particularly through the development and implementation of clean technologies.
  • The African Development Bank is, within its limited resources, intervening in key areas that will reduce the adverse impact of climate change on the continent, help it achieve sustainable development, while contributing to low-carbon intensive economic growth.

Already, a key statement with other MDBs on climate change has been issued. We are also organizing side events on site.

The first is on the Congo Basin Forests Fund (CBFF). It is aimed at informing potential technical and financial partners of the existence of Fund; updating participants on advances made; underscoring the importance of including forests in the post-Kyoto climate negotiations; building a global partnership to promote initiatives like CBFF, in seeing forest conservation and REDD as a key element in a global deal on climate change; and encouraging new donors to contribute to the Fund.

The second side event aims at showing how the Bank is helping to build climate resilience on the continent. The event aims at presenting the Bank’s readiness to participate in the new global financial architecture that will be negotiated in Copenhagen.

Question: Any other comments about the upcoming conference in Copenhagen?

Answer: It is my sincere hope that Copenhagen offers an historic opportunity to build a new, strong, fair and collective climate change regime that takes into account the various interests, views and concerns of all parties. While no single meeting can transform humanity to one living within the climate change boundary, COP15 in Copenhagen offers a unique and timely opportunity to start such a transformative journey.

If we are successful in meeting the climate change challenge, future generations will read in their history books that COP15 was where the journey really began; and that our RMCs will remember that the African Development Bank, under the leadership of its president, Donald Kaberuka, was at the forefront of that journey.