Crafting cost-effective policies against climate change

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Mon 18th Aug, 2014

The Earth's Climate is changing. There is now one-fifth more carbon in the atmosphere than there was in 2000 and there few signs of global emissions falling. Climate change in Africa is having a real impact and needs urgent attention, urgent preparation and the future is now. Climate change which is the term used to describe a gradual shift in one or more climate elements from a long term norm of shifting weather conditions manifests itself in Africa in a form of global warming and climate variability. It is affecting the stability of land for different types of crops, livestock, fish and increased incidence of pest and diseases and affecting the functioning of biological diversity and ecosystems. With climate change, people are environmentally displaced, famine and food insecurity are with us, agriculture is threatened, air and water pollution are negatively checking our lives, our health is deteriorating, poverty and unsustainable development amidst natural calamities like, floods, drought, and landslides are phrases in our daily talk. The most vulnerable areas are those prone to hazards especially in Africa on account of its rain-fed agriculture and its generally low-risk reduction capacity as well as poverty. It is true we choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them. Africa's most pressing problem is in defining its destiny and how to get there. Leave alone the political and economic milable misses, Africa has failed to face its challenges and turn them into opportunities for prosperity and transformation, instead we amplify them into problems that we bend so low calling for the intervention of other people whose 'interest' may be different! Our great thoughts and mega resources should be followed by great actions geared at achieving great lives . If we continue thinking bad, we can only make things worse.

Africa should, without hesitation, get the will and courage to raise the voice to practically take action against climate change and its implications. We should all play a role in disaster preparedness and prevention or whole-heartedly work to achieve Climate neutrality through the use of renewable energy and other approaches relevant to our socio-economic situations. Let us share a common understanding that we need to set the continent on a sustainable path. We need collective efforts to address climate change, strengthen resilience and work for a sustainable future. The endemic causes of the environmental challenge are rooted in our resource hungry economy. The challenge of meshing urgent environment needs with stubborn economic realities is particularly pressing in Africa. For example, can we afford the costs of greening the market? The expense of reducing greenhouse gas emission has been a major obstacle to action against climate change over the past two decades, even to some of the rich countries. We know that most African states are energy deficient in conventional energy, have limitless potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency can strictly reside in our countries. The fundamental goal thus is how do we, as developing states with inherent structural problems, corruption and mismanagement of resources to convert this renewable energy potential into a tangible product that is accessible, affordable and adaptable. Africa's transition to a green economy thus offers opportunities for managing natural capital, further diversifying the economy, increasing resource efficiency and supporting goals of poverty reduction and sustainable socio-economic development. Tremendous potential exists for greening agriculture, fisheries, building transportation and tourism sectors.

The extremity, concentration, range and visibility of environmental problems and climate change make them important policy preferences. African leaders, aware of the continent's vulnerability, have long supported international efforts to combat global warming and climate change. Because they now have to cope with the effects of a situation they did not create with resources they do not have, global warming is a double loser for countries in Africa. The linkages between economic development and environmental protection are widely recognised today throughout the world. We can foster realistic economic growth in our countries by promoting the private sector investments in the market-driven economy, place it squarely in the middle of the search for development solutions which respect the linkages between development and environmental conservation. Business and industries can no longer take for granted that the resources needed for industrial development will always be available so that industrial growth can continue without constraints neither can it be taken for granted that the earth is able to assimilate the by-products of industrial and agricultural activities without undergoing fundamental changes in the environment. Recognition on of these physical realities is changing the way business is conducted throughout the world.

My argument is that the nature of free market prevents them from being naturally greener. Climate Change, I may say is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen. Changing economic processes by raising the cost of pollution is therefore important if global efforts to halt global warming are to succeed. One proposal is to tax GHG emissions, therefore making it cheaper to prevent them than to generate them. But 'carbon taxes' have encountered strong opposition in many countries and have been adopted by only a handful of governments. One way to put a price on pollution called 'cap and trade' scheme have proven more popular since the Kyoto protocol came into effect. Kyoto requires industrial country signatories to reduce GHGS by about 5 percent from the 1990 levels.
The agreement also established the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) which allows heavily polluting industries to, in effect, buy pollution rights from countries with low emissions by investing in green projects there. Africa can also capitalize on its low emissions to attract CDM investments and help finance green development. But to date, Africa has attracted less than 3 percent of CDM projects, owing to the absence of sophisticated financial and marketing institutions and limited administrative and management capacity. The programme has proven controversial for other reasons as well. With critics arguing that wealthy countries and businesses use the mechanism to avoid reducing their emissions and cheat on their Kyoto obligations by inflating the environmental value of their carbon offsetting projects.

It is now time to set the African agenda. We should not always be reactive to the agenda set for us. We need to lift our eyes beyond business as usual to one greater ambition of taking action to mitigate extreme weather events with multiple fronts towards a low-carbon future. To achieve the large scale transformation necessary to stablise the climate, African countries not only need to send the right policy signals and meet their climate finance commitments but also set much bolder targets. The rewards can be considerable. As well as reducing emissions, we can light rural clinics and schools, empower local businesses and invigorate economies. Universal access to clean energy can benefit people's health and advance gender equality. Many governments, businesses, community groups, women, youths, students, tradition and religious leaders should innovate and forge solutions. We need new programs for sustainable cities and climate-smart agriculture using low-external-input technology to deliver meaningful benefits. We need many initiatives working to reduce emissions while strengthening resilience. Environment protection and socio economic development are interdependent and indivisible. Simply tackling environmental awareness on to existing system will not be enough. We need a new generation of corporate strategies starting with the promise that a company can derive a substantial portion of its competitive performance in taking up clean production system and environmental conservation as a corporate social responsibility. Tomorrow's winners will be those who make the most and fastest progress in improving their eco-efficiency. The private sector therefore can play its role from an environmental perspective by providing financing for projects which are environmentally sound and sustainable assist to improve projects during the planning process through incorporation of efficient, clean technologies and other measures which provide environmental and social-economic benefits in a cost-effective manner, strengthen the capacity of project managers to do environmental impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis to minimise waste and emissions.

We do not have the luxury of time to cope with climate change since evidence is mounting that the earth is heating faster than expected. African's green development agenda may yet benefit from efforts to change the economics of climate change and global warming. Planet earth is our shared island, let is join effort to protect it. Let us go green for the common good and participate in building low carbon and resilient communities for sustainable development. Together we can run a race to win.

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