Looking for a climate change agreement in 2015

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Wed 3rd Sep, 2014

The negotiations for a new Climate Change Agreement in 2015 is far advanced after the first commitment period under the Kyoto protocol ended in December,2012.
France is to hold the 2015 United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change expected to come out with another "legally binding instrument" or an agreed "outcome with a legal force" on climate change which will be applicable to all parties to the UNFCCC and emitters of greenhouse gases. Should the latter outcome be announced, then Africa, and South America will have serious implications, as Mary Jane Enchill, Research Assistant from HATOF Foundation/Climate Change Resource Center, Regional Institute of Population Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, pointed out on an article published on CitiFMOnline site.

The climate change negotiation process
In 1979, the world recognized climate change as an urgent world problem and held its first Climate Change Conference meeting and issued a declaration which calls on governments to anticipate and guard against potential climate hazards.
From that time onwards, public debate on the change in atmosphere advanced in Toronto, 1988. Over 340 participants from 46 countries all recommended that a comprehensive global framework convention be adopted to protect the atmosphere.
So, for the first time in the United Nations General Assembly, Climate change issues were discussed following a proposal by Malta. With several programs and scientific bodies put in place to assess the magnitude and timing of changes, a second world climate change conference was held in Geneva, 1990 and had the United Nations General Assembly established the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to negotiate for a Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In responds to the declaration in the climate change conferences, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro and entered into force in 1994.
The UNFCCC ultimate objective is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system and food production.
So far, 196 countries have signed and ratified.
As the negotiation continued, it was recognized that developed countries are primarily responsible for the current high levels of green house gas emissions in the atmosphere based on their pre-industrial era dated back to 1990. Yet, they have greater technological and financial resources to respond to the problems that come with the effect of climate change; so in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was then adopted and came into force in 2005 as a legally binding instrument to place a heavier burden on developed nations to reduce emissions under the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities".

"Common but differentiated responsibilities" explains that though effect of Climate change is common to very country, not all economies have equal capacity to deal with its adverse effect. Therefore since the developed world contribute more to global environmental problems and yet have technological and financial capacities to deal with the problem, they are heavily compelled to reduce emissions at the same time, provide financial and technological support to the developing countries who suffer the most from climate change yet do not have the necessary capacity to meet the cost of adaptation. So the adaptation fund was established. Developing countries in the case had voluntary responsibility to commit to emissions reduction.

Though the protocol came into force in 2005, its first commitment period actually started in 2008 and ended in December 31st 2012; so for 5 years while the protocol lasted, developed countries reported to the convention on their level of emission reduced and other financial support given to developing countries to address the effects of climate change. However since the protocol ended, no legally binding instrument has yet been proposed to replace the protocol; leaving almost 8 years gap for serious and smart countries to take advantage of possible emissions to the detriment of least develop countries. Eight years because, should a negotiation be reached in Paris 2015, it will only enter into force in 2020.
Prior to the end of the protocol, there was an attempt to avoid the gap but unfortunately, the Copenhagen meeting held in 2009 could not come up with any decision to bridge the gap. Again, world leaders met in Mexico in 2010, Durban in 2011, and Doha in 2012, and in Warsaw 2013, to have a clear language and new pathways for the new Climate change agreement.
Pending a final negotiation for new legally binding instrument, world leaders will in December, 2014 meet in Lima to draft the final text. Then in Paris 2015, a new Climate Change agreement will be negotiated to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The outcome is expected to enter into force and be implemented from 2020 onwards.
Two languages are likely to emerge in the new agreement; thus a "protocol" or an "agreed outcome with a legal force". Either of which languages may be adopted has its own implications on developing countries.
A protocol is a legally binding instrument which puts stringent measures on developed countries to reduce emissions. However, developing countries in this case have voluntary and flexible commitment to make towards reducing emission. This is due to the reasons given in the Kyoto Protocol.
An outcome with a legal force means that all countries irrespective of their capabilities will share equal responsibilities and respond to emission reduction. And when this happens, it will go in favour of the developed countries because unlike the protocol, developed countries in this case will not be heavily compelled to support developing countries in emission reduction.
And with their heavy technologies and finance capabilities they will be able to deal with the effects of climate change. While developing countries, struggle to use internally generated funds to deal with the adverse effects of the climate at the expense of other developments. Developing countries can no longer fold their arms and demand developed countries to pay any historical debt.

Already, the two-week talk in Bonn in June this year has shown some red lights of a sort. Gao Feng, a senior representative of the Chinese delegation to the talks said, "Consensus was being accumulated despite various divergences,"
He said while developing countries were asking for a comprehensive and balanced reflection of mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology transfer, capability building and transparency of supports in the new deal, as well as in the "contributions", developed countries focused too much on mitigation, or emission cuts, in their viewpoints, ignoring their obligation of providing financial and technological supports to developing countries.
Now the question; are African or South American countries ready for an "agreed outcome with a legal force"?
The answer is no. Except for few countries like South Africa, many African countries are not ready for the new pathways likely to hit us because it is capital intensive and requires proper documentation. All countries are expected to pledge and prove ways to reduce emissions under what is called "Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)" to be considered in Paris.
Unfortunately whether a country has the capacity or not, they must make a commitment towards emission reduction and present Biannual Update Report in every two years to the convention. Countries will have to calculate the amount of CO2 it releases into the atmosphere and how it's reducing that.
Eleven countries have begun putting in their proposals (INDCs). And should COP 20 in Paris come up with an "outcome with a legal instrument" the plights of developing countries will get worst.

African countries case
In as much as some of us want the outcome to favour Africa for example, some African leaders do not go to the negotiation prepared. Whereas USA goes to the negotiation table with their best scientists and skilful negotiators, African scientists and academia are nowhere to be found.
Lack of finance to support Africa scientists, and the inadequate technical competence contributes to Africa's lack of climate change negotiation skills. It is about time, African governments identify young scientists, develop their skills to fit into the climate change negotiation process.
Africa as a group is not a party to the convention. They can only make submissions as individuals but cannot take decisions or negotiate as a group. The suggestion therefore is that just as the European Union is party to the convention, the Africa Union should also endeavour to become parties to the convention. Until this happens Africa will only be speaking not as a group but as individuals.

Again, Africa or South American countries should go into this negotiation with a positive mind and not the attitude of "we are not responsible for climate change" because that fact has already been established.

Source: HATOF Foundation/Climate Change Resource Center, Regional Institute of Population Studies, University of Ghana, Legon ; CitiFMOnline.com

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