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CLIMATE CHANGE: ‘Perhaps We Should Just Sign’

Analysis by Servaas van den Bosch

WINDHOEK, Feb 11 2010 (IPS) - Countries are quietly signing up to the Copenhagen Accord, but commitments on emissions cuts and funding remain unclear.

Banana vendor in Nairobi: creating - and funding - adaptation strategies to protect food security is an urgent priority for Africa. Credit: Julius Mwelu/IRIN

Banana vendor in Nairobi: creating - and funding - adaptation strategies to protect food security is an urgent priority for Africa. Credit: Julius Mwelu/IRIN

“We have to decide by this Sunday whether we sign the Copenhagen Accord, or not. If we don’t, we have no access to the 30 billion dollar quick startup fund,” Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula told a gathering of businessmen in Windhoek at the end of January. “Perhaps we should just take it.’

Angula was wrong on the first point: faced with a less than enthusiastic response from the 194 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), its executive secretary, Yvo de Boer, dropped the Jan. 31 deadline long before Angula’s predicament arose.

That nobody in the Namibian government seemed to be aware of this is revealing.

The second part of Angula’s statement, however, is on the money. Why, indeed, not “just take it”? As Angula reminded his audience, the Accord is not binding, nor does it require any action from developing countries.

The rushed “letter of association”, sent out the next day by environment minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, made a vague reference to Namibia’s “abundant renewable energy sources” and its willingness to profit from “mechanisms available under the Kyoto Protocol”.

The current number of Clean Development Mechanism projects or large-scale renewable energy initiatives in Namibia (zero), however, indicates policymakers are not rushing to put in mitigation or adaptation actions in place.

Africa not in accord

Ninety-four countries – about half of those present in Copenhagen – have endorsed the Accord one way or another, including the world’s top ten emitters. But a far lower percentage of African governments have submitted, with only 15 out of 53 African countries making Accord commitments so far.

At least half of the African governments that have signed on have high forest cover or significant reforestation potential, and their vote might be inspired by the wish to see a deal on REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) materialise sooner rather than later.

Eleven of the fifteen are least developed countries (LDCs), highly dependent on development aid. Still, that number accounts for just a third of the 33 LDCs in Africa. Notably absent – albeit probably for widely diverging reasons – are Africa’s oil-producing nations and small island states.

African commitments vary from South Africa’s statement on emissions targets, to simple courtesy notes stating countries wish to be associated with the Accord, to letters from countries explaining that they are signing on only under protest.

“We note that a few areas need to be considered as we build this Accord to deliver a solid and legally binding agreement at COP16 that meets the world’s expectations for effective climate change action,” writes Malawi. It reiterates the call for a maximum 1.5 degree temperature rise, more time to develop Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions and 1.5 percent of developed countries’ GDP in climate funding.

Sierra Leone reminds the UNFCCC that the Accord was never “formally adopted” by the parties “and therefore is not an official outcome of COP15.” It also warns the UNFCCC “the Copenhagen Accord must not replace the Kyoto Protocol and should not be subsumed under the Copenhagen Accord”.


Do the pledges on the table address African countries’ concerns over funding and temperature rise? Six African countries – three LDCs – submitted their own plans for mitigation to the UNFCCC. These mostly focus on setting up climate change committees or list “green” energy initiatives that are in the pipeline.

Several others, like the Republic of Congo and Madagascar, make any actions conditional on a REDD-deal. Others reserve the right to continue their chosen high carbon development paths.

“Botswana is and will continue to be a carbon intensive economy – mainly coal-based,” notes the country’s U.N. ambassador in his letter.

Only South Africa puts numbers to its commitment, reiterating a pledge “to enable a 34 percent deviation below the ‘business as usual’ emissions growth trajectory by 2020”, a promise that already has been slammed as unrealistic by South African environmental groups.

Developed nations do little better. On Feb. 2, the U.N. admitted frankly that the commitments on the table are not enough to keep temperature rise below the agreed 2 degrees Celsius target. Greenpeace calculated that the pledges in fact will lead to a a 3-4 degree temperature rise, almost double what countries agreed to just six weeks ago.

“Supporters of the Accord have failed to make emissions pledges which are strong enough to avert dangerous climate change,” said Greenpeace climate chief Bernhard Obermayr. “The Accord’s 31 January deadline was no more than a cynical PR exercise allowing governments to recycle existing pledges and dress them up as effective action.”


Confusion also surrounds the 30 billion dollar “quick start” fund of “new and additional resources” to be made available for adaptation strategies between now and 2012.

Sierra Leone writes that it would “appreciate a breakdown of this amount to be benefited by each country” and says it’s “deeply concerned that there is no guarantee the most vulnerable countries will benefit from this fund”.
While the Accord says “LDCs, small island states and Africa” should have priority, it’s unclear how the money will be allocated, or where it will come from. An early draft of the Accord included commitments from the EU ($10.6 billion), Japan ($11 billion) and the United States ($3.6 billion), but that annex did not appear with the final text.

“I went to Copenhagen to see the drama unfold,” said a disillusioned Angula. “The Accord is not a product of actual negotiations, but a face-saving document drawn up by powerful nations.”

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