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Africa’s United Front at COP 17 in Durban Wins its Climate Change Concerns a New Respect


Africa emerged from the climate change conference, or COP 17, in Durban with a strong united front when it comes to tackling climate change on the continent, and in particular for fighting for its fair share of climate change adaptation and mitigation funds.

Panelists speaking at COP17's Africa Day on 8 December 2011 on how Africa can grow and develop but remain on the low carbon track affirmed that Africa wanted to control its own destiny

Several panelists commented on the fact that the decision of African nations to speak with one voice in Durban had earned Africa and its concerns a new respect.

Jean Ping, Chair of the African Union Commission, said the Africa Pavilion had been symbolic of this new view of Africa.  Of all the attractions on display at COP 17, he said, “The Africa Pavilion turned out to be the liveliest and best attended, and showcased not only the climate challenges, but also how Africa can contribute to solving climate change problems.”

He thanked the Pavilion organisers – the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the South Africa government, for their “tremendous effort and creativity”.

Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, said that Africa has not waited to act while climate change negotiations “inched along.”

“Climate resilient development is our only option, and each African country is developing its own plans in this regard. But we mustn't lose sight of regional and continental perspectives: climate change goes beyond borders. Green, sustainable development may be an option for others, but for us, it’s the only alternative we have.”

Donald Kaberuka, President of the AfDB, said, "It is about ensuring justice…it is not enough to create these international instruments. The access for Africa is not enough - less than 12 percent [of global climate change funds].  We must ensure that Africans have access that is equitable and just."

Panelists also agreed that Africa did not want to follow the environmentally-unfriendly path of developed nations but they did feel it only right that the high carbon-emitting nations should assist the low-carbon emitting regions such as Africa.

“We will not copy them. But we need lots of support in finance and technology because this challenge has been imposed on us,” said Abdoulie Janneh, UNECA Executive Secretary.

There is also a new perception of ‘the Africa story’, said Lord Stern of the Grantham Institute, and economics and government professor at the LSE.  Africa’s story, he said, “is now one of growth overcoming poverty…But it's a different type of growth, with new sources of energy and innovations, as have typified past industrial revolutions.”

However, the transition onto the green development path cannot happen tomorrow, speakers cautioned.

Trevor Manuel, Head of South Africa's National Planning Commission – challenged on his country’s dependence on coal - said African countries could not be expected to “walk away from” their fossil fuel resources.

“South Africa's development path is premised on our mineral energy complex. We can't forget we have coal, or ask the Congo to forget their oil reserves. But at the same time we can invest more in cleaner coal technologies, and in renewables.”

The Green Climate Fund, to which rich nations would pledge USD100billion annually to help poor nations with climate change adaptation and mitigation, is seen as a key instrument to allow Africa to follow low-carbon development.

Donald Kaberuka expressed optimism in response to concern from the floor about whether the Fund would be sufficient or even happen at all:

“I feel confident the Green Fund will be created by COP 17's close. But then there's immediate work to be done so the Fund is used as intended: to finance green growth programmes and leverage additional resources for areas of greatest need.”

“It's important to continue to explore how the money will be raised, and we have indicated several possible avenues, including taxes on financial transactions, aviation and maritime taxes, and raising money from the carbon market.


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