Africa is lagging behind the rest of the world in seeking help to cut carbon emissions, despite being the continent that suffers the most from the harmful effects of climate change.
That was one message that came across at the climate change conference, or COP 17, currently happening in Durban.
Countries around the world can submit proposals to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCC) for assistance in dealing with carbon emissions.
The mechanisms are called Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs). They are catalysts for low carbon development and were under discussion at a session in the Africa Pavilion at COP 17.
Caroline de Vit, of Ecofys Germany, opened the session by saying: “The large diversity of NAMAs makes the term difficult to define”. A NAMA could be a specific target such as a carbon-neutrality goal, an intensity target, a strategy, a policy or even a specific development project.
In short, she summed NAMAs up as a set of strategies and actions that countries undertake as part of the fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Africa is not short of climate change problems – adverse effects range from drought, floods and other severe weather effect to deforestation and desertification.
Yet of all NAMA proposals submitted to UNFCCC, only 20 percent have come from African countries, said Sandra Freitas of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact.
As a result, she said, Africa is ‘a bit behind’ compared with the rest of the world.
NAMAs which have been submitted from African countries span a wide range of sectors, said de Vit. They include sectors extremely important to Africa such as forestry and transportation, which are not eligible for another form of support, Clean Development Mechanisms.
In Gambia, NAMAs have been submitted for the energy, waste, transport and agricultural sectors, said Pa Ousman Jarju, chief of the Least Development Countries Group at UNFCC. They are sectors where good opportunities exist for mitigation action.
Ousman Jarju said NAMAs could go a long way in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in Gambia. Also, specific projects could entail further development possibilities.
Another African delegate from Niger echoed these views. Amadou Souley Massaoudou, executive secretary of the National Environment Council for Sustainable Development, said one NAMA is currently being developed for the agro-forestry and energy markets.
This affirms studies that have concluded the country needs green cover. The applicants hope to achieve clear initiatives for green forestry with the help of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
As in Niger, NAMAs should be integrated into national development plans and goals, the audience heard.
“The question is whether NAMAs can meet the needs of Africa in promoting sustainable development as well as cutting CO2 emissions,” said Freitas.
The AfDB’s Mbarack Diop said the Bank supported its member countries in Africa regarding NAMAs. He added that money for countries and projects was not enough – the contribution to the national economy was also important.
To achieve this, said Masayuki Karasawa of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, “it is critical to integrate NAMAS with national development strategies.”
Still, African countries face a number of challenges when developing and implementing NAMAs. These include “institutional differences” said Massaoudou, as well as a lack of synergy between sectors to integrate new programmes, he added. He listed other obstacles such as technical barriers, funding, the management of future potential and landownership.
Ousman Jarju added there are various organisational ‘layers’ that must be coordinated, which can be challenging. There were also gaps in the necessary institutional and human capacity and financial support. The lack of data to support the potential of NAMAs was also mentioned.
According to Diop, the AfDB can get involved in multiple stages of this development process, and help with many of the mentioned challenges. Such help could take form of assessing a project’s mitigation potential, data collection, the sourcing of in-country capacity and knowledge sharing. However, he added that although the AfDB is an important source of funding, it should not be seen as the only one.
The session adjourned on a positive note. Seyni Nafo, mitigation coordinator for the African Group reported that there are very optimistic prospects for NAMAs that would result from COP 17.
These include that the very likely prospect that a prototype registry will be in place at the end of the conference. De Vit was confident this new tool would lead to more transparency on developing countries' mitigation initiatives and getting the support they need.