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Africa Hangs its Agricultural Transformation Agenda on COP 21’s Outcome

PARIS, France, Dec 7 2015 (IPS) - A famous saying goes: To whom much is given, much is expected. This is the message that the African Development Bank (AfDB) is carrying and delivering for, and on behalf of Africa at the global conference on climate change, COP21, which opened Monday, 30th November.

“All fingers are not equal. Those who pollute more should do more in saving our planet,” said AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, who is leading his bank’s team at the climate change conference in Paris.

Adesina, a former Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, knows what climate change has done and what its implications are for Africa’s agricultural development if nothing is done to halt global warming.

“The danger that Africa will not be able to feed itself is a real one. And if we don’t have resources to adapt to climate change, Africa will not be able to unlock potential in agriculture,” said Adesina, highlighting the implications of climate change variability on Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda.

He says the bank’s message at the COP 21 was clear: a new climate deal that does not work for Africa is no deal at all.

According to Dr. Adesina, the major and historic polluters must take a fair share of responsibility not only to cut their emissions but also help the suffering adapt to climate impacts.

The AfDB’s stance resonates with a long standing position of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN)which has been pushing for a common but differentiated principle demanding historic emitters to cut emissions to keep warming below 1.5 degrees celsius and provide funding for adaptation for vulnerable countries, most of which are in Africa.

With impacts ranging from droughts and floods affecting agricultural production and water availability in the southern and Sahel regions of Africa, to shrinking rivers, a classic example being Lake Chad, African countries are hoping for a climate deal that would address these challenges both in the short and long term.

“Adaptation as you know is key for Africa but this time we are demanding a high level of adaptation equal to mitigation because we know that the two are closely linked,” Chair of the African Group of Negotiators Nagmeldin Elhassan told a high level panel discussion at the on-going climate talks in Paris.

Nagmeldin said African heads of state are expecting nothing short of a fair and just deal for the continent, a victim of circumstances it never caused.

He said adaptation would be a key issue at the COP 21 negotiating table for Africa as over the years, the African Group of Negotiators has been seeking for parity between mitigation, adaptation and provisions for enhancing means of implementation, noting the increased burden for adaptation in developing countries.

“When we speak adaptation, we link it to means of implementation as a way of getting developed countries involved to provide support,” the AGN chair said.

And the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Rhoda Peace Tumutsime puts it categorically that, “Unless we get a good deal here, that will help with the right technology, we will not be able to modernize and transform agriculture.”

The question of means of implementation is a critical component of this year’s COP. According the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa-(UNECA), climate change could stimulate developing economies into adapting sustainable development paths, through entrepreneurial opportunities, and spaces for policy makers to address equity concerns in gender and youth policies.

Dr. Carlos Lopez of UNECA argues Africa’s possible positive outcome from danger. “Despite all the negative news that is reported about Africa, there are opportunities that we can take advantage of. It is very important to get the perceptions right about Africa’s challenges and available opportunities. In all the bad news are potential areas for growth,” he said.

Dr Lopez said Africa has a massive advantage to develop differently by embracing the opportunities that climate change offers to develop sustainably.

“It is also important for us to realize that we are not going to make it using the same carbon intensive model…let’s take for example, under the 2063 agenda we have to create 122 million jobs. Following the carbon path, we will only create 54 million jobs, but what about the deficit?” he asked.

Citing various examples of opportunities among which is renewable energy owing to Africa’s natural potential of solar, the UNECA Chief is more than convinced that the continent should be part of the solution and “achieve industrialization which is cleaner, greener, without following the carbon model.”

However, the question of resources still remains. Will the climate deal offer Africa this opportunity? The next week or so will decide what and which way forward.


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