Tuesday, November 29, 2011

UNDP: Durban - What is at stake for Africa?

At its most fundamental, climate threatens to negate the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and hinder positive movement in the areas directly related to UNDP’s mandate. Ensuring that developing countries are best able to tackle the many dimensions of climate change is therefore core business for our organization. The mechanisms established by the Cancun Agreements provide new opportunities for countries to develop, finance and deliver climate change programming. UNDP's role will be to help them to make the most of the emerging mechanisms.

Why is the current round of climate negotiations important for Africa?

The current round of climate negotiations, known as 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will take place in Durban. It is hoped that Africa will be better represented than in the past. As a region, Africa is the least responsible for climate change but it will be most affected. The region has been speaking with one voice but is struggling to be heard. For Africa, the requirements are the same as in previous years. First, countries from the region are asking that global warming be kept below a 1.5 degrees temperature increase by the end of the century – which is almost impossible now given the current trends in emissions. Secondly, African countries are asking that developed and emerging countries (China, India, Brazil, etc.) agree to massively reduce their emissions. The third requirement is for the international community to help Africa adapt to the impact of climate change because its economies are fragile, like their agriculture which is often rain-fed.

What should be the most important message for developed countries?

Developed countries must fulfill their previous commitments. The Bali Roadmap had created opportunities in the area of technology transfers, adaptation, mitigation and financing. On financing, developed countries had estimated the needs at USD 30 billion by 2012 and 100 billion annually by 2020. But the current economic downturn has made it much more difficult to confirm these commitments. Today, some Northern countries are proposing that we should include private sector investments in these global commitments. Africa is calling for new and additional financial commitments.

What are the most important mechanisms which will be discussed in Durban?

In Cancún, one of the agreements was to establish a Green Climate Fund. Since then, a few great ideas have emerged, such as the adoption of an international currency tax to feed that fund. The Adaptation Fund will also be on the agenda, currently financed by a 2 percent levy on all carbon credits, which allow Northern countries to reduce emissions in Southern countries by purchasing emissions permits. The future of the fund will obviously be uncertain if the Kyoto Protocol is not extended. Another issue in Durban will be technology transfers, including the creation of a center and a network devoted to the issue. There is already a consensus and this point will probably constitute a real step forward in the negotiations. Durban will also see further progress on REDD, which allows developing countries to finance their reductions in carbon emissions by protecting their forests.

What is the role of UNDP and can you provide some examples of our work on the ground?

In general terms, UNDP aims to build the capacities of developing countries, particularly in the climate change negotiations. In addition, UNDP assists them in accessing the funds that are being gradually established, helping them to define strategies for developing low- carbon and climate resilient economies.

Another example is our “Boots on the Ground” programme, through which we mobilized 26 climate change focal points from UNDP in the Least Developed Countries, including 14 African countries. This initiative aims to support African decision-makers in their approach and understanding of the problem. Climate change cannot be the sole jurisdiction of Environment Ministries – all government departments must be involved. Tackling climate change involves designing policies on land use, agriculture, the economy, energy, etc. UNDP is also following countries in their application for direct access to international funds, which will allow for more flexibility and better responses to their requests. So far, international funds were available through implementing agencies. Now, we are helping them to meet the fiduciary requirements for direct access. Thus, Senegal became the first African country to identify a national agency that will have direct access to financing from the Adaptation Fund.

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