ADF Today, 16 October 2010


16 October 2010
::ADF-VII produces African agreement on climate change
::Science could hold key to climate change solutions - experts
::Official says climate change causing migrations
::Africa prepares for Mexico climate talks
ADF-VII produces African agreement on climate change

By Ochieng’ Ogodo

The Seventh African Development Forum (ADF-VII) ended on Friday with unanymous agreement that climate change was a reality in Africa, and that the continent should urgently find solutions to global warming.
“Climate change is here with us and we must deal with it positively. We have been able to address important issues during this forum,” Jennifer Kargbo, deputy executive secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, told a closing press conference.
She said the forum, from October 10 to 15, had focused on the need for Africa to put together measures to address climate change, and some important suggestions had been made.
She said the forum had noted that global warming presented both challenges and opportunities for Africa, and that these should all be looked at.
In Africa, climate change has mainly manifested itself in frequent droughts and flooding which have wrecked havoc on the agriculture sector, the source of livelihoods for the majority of the continent's people.
But experts at the ADF-VII said there could be a silver lining in global warming, and this should be explored in every way possible.
“In our midst there are challenges and opportunities and we must look at them with balance,” Kargbo said.
She said the Forum had come up with a consensus document that will guide the continent in dealing with climate change on its own, and in conjunction with the partners.
“There has been lot of networking, people exchanging views and ideas. It has opened up the subject of climate change to wider publics. It has mostly been in the political corridors in the past,” she said.
Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, African Union commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture said the large turn up at the forum showed how seriously Africa was now taking climate change, and this would help harmonise positions and find solutions.
“The media should inform the publics on the issues of climate change and what African leaders are doing to deal with it,” she noted, adding: “It is a challenge for us but we have to move on. We are not giving up.”
According to Peace, Africa was facing many climate change-related challenges, including food insecurity, water stress and the rising cost of food imports.
“We will go to Cancun and look at matters that affect Africa. Africa first, the rest later,” she said, referring to the global climate summit due in Mexico in December.
She urged African leaders to take a leadership position in the ongoing global climate change negotiations.
Ally Abou Sabaa, director Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department at the African Development Bank, said many other issues outside agriculture - which normally dominates climate change discussions - were discussed at the forum, including energy and private sector participation in finding and financing solutions to global warming.
He said there was keen interest by delegates in the new issues related to climate change, noting Africa had come of age on climate change negotiations in the global arena.
“Africans are now much prepared than ten years ago. They will go there (Mexico) and make a case and see the outcome,” he said.

Science could hold key to climate change solutions - experts

By Brenda Zulu
In the face of uncertain funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation for Africa, the continent should consider cheaper science-based alternative solutions to global warming, a senior university researcher said on Friday.
Addressing a science and technology thematic cluster at the Seventh African Development Forum (ADF-VII), Prof. Sospeter Muhongo of the geology department at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, said there was need for investment in frontier sciences such as space technologies, information communication technologies, nuclear science and bio-technology to find answers to climate change.
But Muhongo said this required massive investment in human capital first to develop the scientific capacity.
In his view, this approach could be cheaper than solutions to climate change based on what is becoming increasingly illusive funding from developed nations.
“Africa needs equipment such as those for measuring salinity and global soil moisture from space; satellites since out of the 6,000 satellites in space, Africa has less than 10, and Africa has less than one scientist per 10,000 inhabitants,” he said.
Saying that man contributed the most to the destruction of the environment, Muhongo warned that half of life species could be extinct within 30 years, basing his assertion on what he called ‘historical data’.
He also noted that Sub-Saharan Africa would face serious water shortages in the next few years due to climate change, and would have neither the technical know-how nor the financial resources to build desalination plants as countries like Saudi Arabia have done.
He warned of the re-emergence of some infectious diseases on the continent due to climate change, which would also require new technologies to be developed to tackle them.
Muhongo also said African governments should involve scientists in formulating budgets for climate change, noting this would help countries zero in on the most promising scientific climate change solutions.
Prof. Bruce Hewitson of the Climate Science Application Group at the University of Cape Town in South Africa echoed Muhongo, saying Africa should ‘facilitate and motivate multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research, and create new scientific capacity.’
He said Africa should also prioritise investments in projects and programmes that delivered what societies needed the most.
In addition, he advocated for greater use of ‘existing knowledge networks and knowledge platforms’ at community levels in identifying climate change needs and solutions.
Hewitson said climate change engagement with the developed world should also be maintained, but strictly on the basis of Africa’s needs and concerns.
At national level, he noted, it was important to create an atmosphere where people were ‘free to innovate’ in the quest to find sustainable answers to climate change.

Official says climate change causing migrations

Climate change is causing growing internal population migrations and displacements in Africa, a top official of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday.
UNHCR representative to the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa, Chrysantus Ache said more and more people were on the move, escaping climate change-induced disasters such as droughts and flooding.
Speaking at the Seventh African Development Forum, he warned the situation will become critical in coming years as the impact of global warming worsens.
“We want people to understand that this impact (migration and displacement) was taking place now and that our efforts to mitigate climate change should be for today and not for tomorrow,” Ache said.
He said more and more climate change-related disasters, such as flooding and drought, were striking Africa, throwing increasing numbers of people on the move in search of new livelihoods.
He noted the migration was causing many problems, including conflicts over scarce resources, and security risks.
Ache cited the Mbororo tribe in the Congo basin which had become nomadic because of climate change-related disasters, and migrated widely within the region, even across borders.
“In some countries they (Mbororo people) are accepted but in others they are not because of security and conflict issues,” he said.
“Climate change is already undermining the livelihoods and security of many people, exacerbating income differentials and deepening inequalities. Over the last two decades the number of recorded natural disasters has doubled from some 200 to over 400 per year. Nine out of every ten natural disasters today are climate-related,” he said.
He warned that as temperatures rose further, and land became less and less productive, urbanization in Africa will also accelerate, generating additional competition for scarce resources and public services in cities.
Other experts at the forum also warned that incidences of vector-borne diseases will increase as a result of climate change, as will the cost of food and energy.
In the end, this will cause increased social and political conflicts, which on the surface will be difficult to trace to climate change, they said.

Africa prepares for Mexico climate talks

Africa's position regarding the forthcoming climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, remains the same - increased financing, technology transfer and capacity building for adaptation and risk management.
African leaders re-endorsed this position at their annual summit of the African Union (AU) in Kampala, Uganda in July.
AU chairperson President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi said all member states should continue to champion the common position at various international fora as "we prepare for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conferences of State Parties (COP16)" scheduled for December.
The Cancun conference seeks to find solutions to the rise in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising sea levels due to increased emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
The resultant climate change has devastating effects such as increased frequency and severity of droughts and floods, especially in Africa.
"Effects of climate change are there for all to see and we in Africa have to play our own role in mitigating its effects," President wa Mutharika said, adding that the continent should "go to Cancun with one strong African message."
"African governments are seeking predictable and reliable financing to fight development challenges posed by climate change," he said.
He said the continent is the worst affected by climate change because of its high levels of poverty and low capacity to adapt.
However, this is despite the fact that Africa is the least contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
"We have already experienced and felt the impacts of climate change in our countries, especially on agriculture, which is the main source of livelihood for most of our people," President wa Mutharika said, adding that crop failures and loss of livestock due to droughts and floods have had negative consequences on food security.
He said Africa, if given the right support, had the capacity to address effects of climate change and ensure that developmental gains that have been achieved in the last few years are not reversed or lost.
"The people of Africa have the will and desire to surmount the climate change and development challenges they face daily, but they lack the resources and the means necessary to do so," he noted.
While the last climate change conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark, agreed that developed countries commit themselves to jointly mobilise US$100 billion a year by 2020 and an additional US$30 billion for the period 2010-12, for adaptation and mitigation in vulnerable countries, Africa favours a different approach.
The continent wants an approach in which developing countries will be beneficiaries of technology transfer, capacity building and funding to the tune of US$200 billion a year by 2020.
Other demands by Africa include the need to cut emissions to at least 40 percent below the 1990 levels by 2020. The continent also wants deeper cuts by developed countries to reach at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Africa says new climate studies show that dangers of global temperature rises are even greater than thought just a few years ago.
For example, increased rates of glacier melting, including at Mount Kilimanjaro recorded by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, provides evidence of this effect.
As such, Africa argues that global temperature rises should be kept below 1.5 degrees instead of the proposed 2 degrees.
To ensure the African position on climate change is strongly promoted, leaders established a co-ordinating committtee last year to spearhead the process led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
The Ethiopian premier is a strong advocate of Africa speaking with one voice on climate.
While the Copenhagen summit held last year failed to reach a conclusive deal, expectation is high this time that Cop 16 will produce a deal, or at least lay the foundation for one.
Preparatory meetings held so far, such as the Bonn conference in Germany in June, indicate that countries are committed to reaching a deal on climate change. -