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JOHANNESBURG, Sep 21 2014 (IPS) - It is a critical time for international climate change negotiations. By December 2015, world leaders are due to decide on an international climate change agreement covering all countries that will take effect in 2020.
Going into the upcoming United Nations negotiations — the December COP 20 talks in Lima, Peru, where the agreement will be drafted, and the pivotal COP 21 next year in Paris, France, where it is due to be signed — African climate change negotiators are driving for leaders to up their commitment to climate change adaptation.
“No matter what we do, we are at a stage where we need to adapt. Adaptation should be at the centre of the deal in Paris,” South Africa’s director of international climate change, Maesela Kekana, a negotiator with the African Group of Negotiators, told IPS. “If we do not get adaptation, then it means Africa would not have got anything since the beginning.”
The African Group has proposed that a global adaptation goal should be part of the 2015 agreement.
Africa is one of the continents most vulnerable to climate change. As the world continues to warm it is likely that land temperatures in Africa will rise quicker than the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Climate change impacts would place added stress on already stretched water resources in parts of the continent and affect crop production. For instance, roughly 65 percent of maize-growing areas in Africa would experience yield losses for just one degree Celsius of warming, with impacts worsened by drought, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Coastal areas run the risk of damage from sea level rise. In Tanzania, for example, it is estimated that with sea-level rise by 2030 as much of 7,624 square kilometres of land could be lost, with up to 1.6 million people at risk of being flooded, according to researchers from the University of Southampton.
Adapting to climate change will be costly. Developed nations have pledged to mobilise 100 billion dollars a year for climate action in developing countries by 2020.
“We want to disaggregate [the 100 billion dollars] and have an adaptation target or goal for supporting adaptation,” Mali’s Seyni Nafo, a lead negotiator with the African Group of Negotiators, told IPS.
While the group hasn’t yet decided on the specific amount, it wants to ensure funds are set aside for adaptation and mainly channeled through the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations fund set up to channel climate aid to developing countries, he explained.
In the past the majority of global climate finance has gone to funding mitigation measures. Of the 30 billion dollars developed countries gave to developing countries between 2010 and 2012 for climate change action just 21 percent went into adaptation, according to a 2012 Oxfam report.
The Green Climate Fund aims to split its funding 50: 50 for mitigation and adaptation.
Germany recently pledged one billion dollars to the fund, but other developed nations are yet to make large pledges.
“As one of my African colleagues says, ‘it’s still an empty vault,’” Matthew Stilwell, an adviser on climate change negotiations and policy with the Institute of Governance and Sustainable Development, told IPS. “Developed countries’ tendency is to withhold some of the money and offer the money as part of the quid pro quo in Paris as part of the negotiations.”
Mithika Mwenda, secretary general of civil society coalition the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, welcomed the potential of the Green Climate Fund but remained sceptical.
“Based on the experience of the other existing funds, which are just shells, our fear is that we are going to have the Green Climate Fund going the way of the Adaptation Fund and the Least-Developed Countries Fund, and the others — we have celebrated them but eventually they end up a disappointment,” Mwenda told IPS.
As 2015 draws near, the urgency of dealing with human-induced climate change is becoming more apparent since the effects of climate change are already being seen.
“Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes” are being felt around the world as a result of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions, says a leaked draft report from the U.N., The New York Times reported.
The report notes that continued emissions “will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
While there are hopes for an ambitious 2015 climate agreement some civil society actors, frustrated with continued political wrangling over climate change, are not holding their breath.
“There are a lot of unfulfilled promises from the first COP to now,” Rajen Awotar, executive chairman of the nonprofit Mauritius Council for Development, Environmental Studies and Conservation, told IPS.
“The 2015 agreement: I bet we’ll see a very weakened agreement,” he said. “There will be no winner; everybody will be a loser. The biggest loser will be the climate.”
Edited by: Nalisha Adams
This story includes downloadable print-quality images -- Copyright IPS, to be used exclusively with this story.
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