Climate Change: To be heard, Africa must speak with one voice in Bonn

Incapable of defending herself, Africa has been exposed to all kinds of climate change atrocities due to occurrences for which her contribution is a negligible proportion.Along with small island states, Africa has been a major player in the U.N. climate talks, aggressively pushing for emissions reduction targets and agreements drafted mainly by industrialized nations.

Can Africa stand on its own?
Can Africa stand on its own?


Should African nations be compensated by the rich industrialized nations for the loss and damage caused by extreme weather events intensified by climate change? OR should the burden be borne by both nations irrespective of who on the whole caused deeper emissions?

Well, this issue has for a long time created major contentions in the UNFCCC negotiations from 2009 in Copenhagen to the recent one in Bonn, Germany, 1st-11th June, 2015, in preparation for the final COP21 Paris agreement in December.

Needless to assert, the longer this contention goes on, the more difficult it becomes to achieve the intended 2⁰ Celsius goal, especially given that developed countries emissions reductions are not that ambitious. So far, only 36 countries, including the wealthy G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US) have submitted their INDCs, meaning, over 150 countries are yet to submit their commitments.

With just a couple months left before the COP21 Paris negotiations in December this year, consensus on the key elements of the new climate change agreement to be signed seems like an illusion. By this time, a draft proposal that promises responsive action for vulnerable people, such as adaptation, loss and damage, finance, capacity building, transparency and accountability should have been reached. However the negotiations have been so mired by distrust and frustrations that progress has been substantially hindered. Democratic Republic of Congo’s Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, chairman of the 48-strong least-developed countries group, lamented,

“The UN process is flawed by a complete lack of trust and confidence between rich and poor countries,” “Because of this lack of trust we have no other way of proceeding. We are not making much progress… There are so many issues. It’s a process of attrition.” “… It feels every year that we are losing out. Twenty countries contribute 80% of emissions, the rest 20%. Yet we in Africa are being asked to cut emissions. OK, we say, but help us. Give us finance, technology.”


Financing is a major issue for many developing countries in the determination of the agreement in Paris. The rich countries pledged to give $100billion per year to finance climate change initiatives in developing countries. So far, just $5.5 billion has been pledged to-date.

 Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, a leading intergovernmental think-tank of developing countries spoke for many when he said, “The developing countries are disappointed that there seems to be little hope that the $100bn will materialize. They have no idea what will be available, so they cannot plan ahead. If countries really wanted a strong deal, they would be talking about finance by now.”

The concern for developing countries is that despite the G7 leaders acknowledging that delivering climate finance is a part of their role in the global community, they continuously evade it.

The G7 did not only pledge to work to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 to help poorer nations cope with extreme weather and rising seas, they also pledged to speed up access to renewable energy in Africa to reduce energy poverty, develop their economies cleanly,  provide insurance against climate hazards for up to 400 million vulnerable people, back development of early warning systems and continue their efforts to provide and mobilize increased finance from public and private sources, and to demonstrate that they and others are well on their way to meet the $100 billion goal.

Even Obama promised $3 billion to help developing countries adapt to extreme weather.

Not forgetting, Germany announced in May that it would double its climate finance contributions to 4 billion euros ($4.49 billion) per year by 2020.

Unfortunately, albeit not surprisingly, one might be deceived that effort is actually being asserted by developed nations to help rebuild trust between them and developing nations to make the climate negotiations in Paris a success. However as predictable as their tendencies have become, all the assertions remain mere bluff intensifying frustrations and increasing the distrust, leaving doubts on the possibility of actual implementation. For instance, Australia, Japan, Russia and Canada seem to have withdrawn from tackling climate change altogether yet they are one of the major polluters.

On the other hand, countries like the US completely refuse to put anything on the table about finance. Most developed countries fear that the $100bn will become a clever accountancy plan and developing countries would see through that (considering that currently rich countries provide just 2% of what poor countries need to adapt to a changing climate). Powerful countries would be happy with a weak deal because then they wouldn’t be bound by it.

However their acknowledgement of the need to provide climate finance after 2020 was an improvement on previous positions but developing countries still urgently need a roadmap to the pledged $100 billion.

Way forward.

Have Bonn negotiations illuminated any hope to millions of people waiting for signals that this will cease to be an endless cat and mouse game?

In my opinion, until they address the financial elephant in the room as regards the developing countries, the Paris agreement will be another example of the 2009 Copenhagen negotiations.

Developed nations must put in mind that climate change is an urgent matter and for an implementable agreement to be concluded in December; developed countries must demonstrate their commitment to raise their 2020 pollution targets to the levels required by science and justice as well as provide finance and avail technology to ensure that developing countries can complete and fulfil their current climate action plans. I believe developed countries still have plenty of opportunity between now and Paris to step up to their promises and as such encourage developing nations to sign on to an emissions-cutting deal.

As Amjad Abdulla of the Maldives, chief negotiator for the 39-member Alliance of Small Island States said, “I think it’s important that we get everyone on board.”


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