BY JAYA RAMACHANDRAN
BERLIN (IDN) - India, China and 53 African countries – together home to more than half of the world's population -- have opened what may turn out to be a new chapter in the history of international climate diplomacy as the clock ticks down to Copenhagen.
While India and China comprising about 37 percent of the global population have decided to join forces to push for an agreement at the landmark UN conference on global warming coming December, Africa will be represented in Copenhagen by one cohesive delegation spearheaded by the Conference of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).
The African delegation, representing some 970 million people, will consist of the chairperson of the African Union (AU), senior government ministers of Ethiopia, Algeria, Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda. The delegation will also include the chairperson of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment, the chairperson of the AU Commission, and technical negotiators on climate change from member states.
The Conference of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change agreed Aug. 24 in Addis Ababa that the African Union demand US$67 billion per year from the global community in compensation for the effects of climate change. The annual sum would be spent on establishing science-guided projects to help with adaptation and mitigation, reports SciDev.Net.
The not-for-profit London-based Science and Development Network said after being endorsed by the African heads of state at their two-day meeting Aug. 30-31 in Tripoli, Libya, the demand would be tabled at the UN conference in Copenhagen Dec. 7-18.
As SciDev.Net reported, the figure of US$67 billion a year has been debated for some time, including at African Union (AU) summits in February and July of this year, gaining prominence at the Nairobi, Kenya, meeting of African ministers of environment earlier this year. The payments would need to be achieved by 2020, the Addis Ababa conference agreed.
CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE
At the meeting in the Ethiopian capital, some delegates called for the sum to be nearer US$200 billion a year, representing Africa's share of the four per cent of global GDP (Gross Domestic Product) which, it is argued, should be spent on adaptation and mitigation worldwide.
Delegates said they would like to see the money go towards establishing centres of excellence on climate change. The AU will push for compensation through technology transfer and capacity-building, rather than cash.
The AU wants individual countries to use the money to carry out national plans of action, which mostly consist of finding ways to use efficient technologies in the energy, agriculture and water management sectors, as well as obtaining intellectual property rights for these technologies
The South African representative at the meeting, Judy Beaumont, said that the amount required for adaptation programmes globally is more than US$400 billion and that at least half of this should go to projects in Africa, Kimani Chege of SciDev.Net wrote in an article published Aug. 27 in allafrica.com
Beaumont added that Africa needs low-carbon technologies, energy-efficiency projects and renewable-energy technologies, which have previously remained elusive because of a lack of affordable financing and difficulty in obtaining intellectual property rights.
"This is not about begging for cash but the urge for a common but differentiated responsibility," Beaumont pointed out. "Most developed countries took a dirty route to development, and Africa cannot take the same route."
"WE WANT AN AGREEMENT"
In an interview Aug. 25 in Beijing, where he met with Xie Zhenhua, China's top climate change negotiator, India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said India and China should not be viewed as a "negative or obstructionist force". He said: "Both of us were of the view that we should be part of the solution. We want an agreement in Copenhagen."
Ramesh rejected calls for binding carbon emission-reduction targets to be placed on developing countries such as India, and reiterated the country's stance that developed countries should reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. U.S. climate-change legislation passed by the House sets the goal of a 17 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020.
Should developed countries agree to India's stance, which Chinese Foreign Ministry climate-change official Yu Qingtai earlier this month called "quite fair," India and China would have to “respond very positively," Ramesh said in an interview with Bloomberg News.
India and China are looking for developed countries to share more carbon-reducing technologies with poorer nations and help finance projects, Ramesh said. Both countries say their economic development would be unfairly hurt if they were forced to accept binding greenhouse-gas emission reduction targets.
A DEVELOPMENT ISSUE
“For us, climate change is not just an environmental issue, for us, climate change is a development issue," Ramesh said.
On August 24, Xie, a vice minister of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, said “the focus of disagreement remains on each country’s proportion of responsibility for emissions reductions, funding and technology transfer," the official China Xinhua News Agency reported.
Emerging economies, including India, have said they need access to funds and technologies such as wind turbines to meet emission curbs and sustain growth. India requires $5 billion a year between 2012 and 2017, in addition to its current investment plans, to support a transition to low-carbon energy generation, the United Nations Development Program said in its Human Development Report 2007/2008, citing research by the Energy and Resources Institute.
Ramesh said he and Xie discussed the idea of when their two countries’ carbon emissions would peak. Mid-August, China released a report from government-run think tanks estimating that the country’s emissions would peak by 2030. The report also recognized that China had surpassed the U.S. to become the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases.
The government in Beijing says it is increasing energy efficiency and promoting the use of renewable power to cut the amount of energy it consumes per unit of gross domestic product 20 percent by 2010 from 2005 levels.
India says it has one of the lowest carbon emissions per capita in the world and is responsible for 4 percent of output while the U.S. is responsible for 20 percent. The South Asian country is the fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, trailing China, the U.S. and Russia.
Developed countries must bear “historic responsibility" for industrial emissions of greenhouse gases they have produced, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on July 7. “It is the developing countries that are the worst affected by climate change."
CHINA GETS READY
Meanwhile China is considering putting climate legislation on its legislative agenda, according to a draft resolution on climate change, which has been submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), reports China Daily.
"China will draw up new laws and regulations to provide a legal basis for combating climate change," said Wang Guangtao, director of the NPC's environment and resource protection committee. The resolution shows good coordination between the government and legislative body in advance of the Copenhagen meeting, said Yang Fuqiang, director of global climate change solutions at environmental group WWF. "Once the government signs the new treaty, the NPC will ratify it," he said.
The United States is the only developed country that has not ratified the climate pact. "The former U.S. president signed the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997, but when the official delegation came back with the treaty, the Senate refused to ratify it," Yang said.
Also, once the proposed climate change laws are worked out, China will have "legally binding actions" to fight the illegal emissions, said Zhang Jianyu, China program head of the U.S.-based Environmental Defense Fund.
"China already has a bunch of laws and regulations related to climate change and environmental protection, but the climate legislation will give the forces fighting global warming more legal power," Zhang said. Existing laws and regulations related to climate change and environment protection should be revised to better combat global warming, according to the draft resolution, he said. (IDN-InDepthNews/30.08.09)
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