COP-21 Perspective from Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance

December 10, 2015

Cross-posted from the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance

Last week I attended the Development and Climate days : ”” adaptation conference for civil society organisations, which ran parallel to UN COP-21 conference : The event brought together adaptation practitioners to discuss practical solutions and learning experiences. I found that participants were hopeful in the discussions, fronting issues of social and climate justice, with the expectation that COP 21 could mark a turning point in climate negotiations. The link between climate change, poverty and development for better resilience could not be over emphasized in the discussions. However, the draft agreement does not seem to have captured the expectations of CSOs as anticipated as yet.

The theme of the conference was taken from an ODI study : ” the case for a low carbon development path, focusing on eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 through growth and reductions in inequality. According to ODI, climate change could draw up to 720 million people back into extreme poverty just as we approach the zero poverty goal. As a way to address the recommendation from the study, the conference focused on themes such as core transitions in energy and land use and human habitat sectors needed to achieve low-carbon and resilient development.

Most Least Development Countries (LDCs) have negligible emissions, yet they are grappling with climate change impacts, amidst extreme poverty, disease and hunger. The development path for most LDCs is not clear and to date a key issue is whether minimal or carbon free development is possible. Emissions from agriculture will be hard to curb because food needs are increasing the world over. For LDCs with underdeveloped transport systems, industries still in the making, and communities still grappling with day to day survival, it is hard to plan for a carbon free future. Present needs are the top priority.

There are good reasons for African nations and other LDCs to opt for a clean and low carbon development, by choice, not because developed countries demand it. The zero poverty, zero emissions path should be a mutual recognition of the needs for clean development, with incentives for LDCs to walk down that path. Some of these include provision of adaptation funding for less developed countries, separate from the usual development aid as a global commitment to promote a carbon free development path for all.

ODI’s report rightly notes that poverty eradication cannot be maintained without deep cuts from the big greenhouse gas emitters. Emitting countries, especially industrialized ones, need to support poverty eradication whether through domestic policy or international assistance, but should also shift their own economies towards a zero net emissions pathway. However, the draft has failed to reach agreement on responsibility for high emissions by developed countries, which is affecting LDC’s social and development needs. Plus, taking action to address climate change in accordance with evolving economic and emission trends, which will continue to evolve post-2020, has not been agreed on.

What puzzles me is the nexus between poverty and emissions. LDCs have been poor with low emissions and the rich countries have continued to grow rich with high emissions. So where do we strike the balance? Will rich countries commit to cut their emissions or will LDCs be submerged into ‘cutting emissions’ and be diverted from the development path? Who will bear the costs of mitigation and adaptation? These are questions that need to be addressed globally with fairness and justice.  If not, poverty will continue to be transferred from one generation to another and the world’s children will be most affected by the transfer of poverty.

To make it worse, protecting the rights of migrants, indigenous peoples, children, women and persons with disabilities is completely missing from the agreement. These groups, who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, will continue to sink into poverty if no changes are made to the final agreement.  I am not against low emissions development; it’s necessary and can serve poverty eradication by reducing vulnerability to climate change impacts. To make this happen, action by different countries at all levels to define equitable development paths, understand needs of LDCs, finance adaptation and mitigation technologies, introduce innovative approaches, build capacities and disseminate information is needed.

The negotiations are still underway and we expect an agreement by end of Friday 11th December 2015, but will it address the needs of LDCS and vulnerable categories that are affected by climate change impacts?

This is a blog from Tracy Kajumba, ACCRA Uganda Coordinator