Important steps taken in Durban to help developing nations protect themselves from climate impacts. More ambitious mitigation efforts by developed countries needed and implementation expedited.
Africa: To address the threat posed by climate change, Africa’s leaders have taken several decisions and resolutions urging states and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to integrate climate change adaptation at national and regional levels. AMCEN recently called upon African governments and the RECs to expedite the implementation of existing programmes and initiatives on climate change. Furthermore, the African Union recently called on member countries to strengthen the institutional framework for sustainable development and climate change needs.
Development partners: Under the Kyoto Protocol, a number of developed and transition economies committed to collectively reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 5% below 1990 levels in the first commitment period (2008 to 2012). National climate policy frameworks are emerging in developed countries, some of which establish legally binding, economy-wide emission constraints and/or long-term emission goals.
Jointly: As part of the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, 42 developed countries and 36 developing and emerging countries have pledged mitigation actions which were subsequently made part of the Cancun Agreements. At Durban, all countries agreed to launch a process to develop an agreed outcome towards a global goal – to be adopted by 2015 at the latest – for a substantial reduction in global emissions by 2050 with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties. In the meantime, the EU and 11 other countries have agreed on a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol. However, the public refusal of some key developed countries to join, together with the lack of an aggregate global mitigation target and of a clear commitment period has weakened the protocol.
What has been done to deliver on these commitments?
Africa: Africa has developed a common negotiating position on climate change. Regional frameworks of climate change programmes have been completed for all five sub-regions. 31 African least-developed countries have developed National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs) focused on urgent and immediate adaptation needs; 15 have received approval for funding. Nineteen African countries have submitted Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs). At the regional level, the ClimDev Africa Programme -- a joint initiative of the AUC, UNECA and the AfDB -- and its Secretariat, the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) have helped to improve decision making through analytical capacity, knowledge management and dissemination activities. The majority of African countries have either eliminated or significantly reduced fossil fuel consumption subsidies thereby shifting support for climate mitigation actions.
Jointly: According to UNEP estimates, pledges to reduce emissions by industrialised countries and voluntary plans of action by developing and emerging countries made to date will, under the ‘best’ scenario, cut total emissions by 16%. This is substantially lower than the 25-40% reductions below 1990 levels in 2020 required by developing countries, as recommended by scientific evidence to achieve an emission pathway consistent with the 2ºC goal.
At Durban, parties to the UNFCCC agreed to launch, in 2012, the Technology Mechanism to assist developing countries build capacity and gain access to climate friendly technologies and the Adaptation Committee to promote adaptation activities on a broader scale. Other measures include: a) setting up a registry of developing country mitigation plans (NAMAs) in 2012; b) improved rules on approaches and incentives relating to the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+); and c) some technical progress on Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) which is considered key to enhance transparency and accountability.
What results have been achieved?
Recent data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) showed that the amount of GHG in the atmosphere reached 389 parts per million in 2010, a new record. Furthermore, the growth of the buildup is accelerating. Recent projections confirm that Africa will be disproportionately affected by climate change because of overreliance on climate-sensitive sectors and weak adaptive capacity. According to the WMO, temperatures for the 2001–2010 decade in Africa averaged 0.85°C above normal. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa will be exposed to increased water stress, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% in some regions and agricultural production, including access to food, may be severely compromised.
While impacts are increasing in severity, mainstreaming climate adaptation efforts in Africa have begun. At the country level, 16 countries, assisted by development partners, are building capacity to integrate climate change into development planning. 30 countries have prepared Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs). Learning forums to share knowledge and good practices, such as the African Adaptation Programme and AfricaAdapt, have been established. Challenges remain. Inadequate availability of resources and weak capacity continue to impede implementation. Less than 10% of projects covered under NAPAs have received funding. Regional frameworks of climate change programmes will need more work before they can effectively be implemented. At the global level, while the Durban outcome is a step forward in establishing an international agreement beyond the Kyoto Protocol — one with mitigation commitments from all major emitters, including developed countries and several major developing countries — the new treaty is only expected to be agreed in 2015 and will require ratification by governments before going into force. It took several years to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
What are the future priority actions?