By Kofi Adu Domfeh
The vociferous “polluter must pay” campaign of climate justice activism is reaching its crescendo as the United Nations gathers the world in December to sign a legally binding agreement to reduce global carbon emissions and commit to adaptation investments in developing countries.
The new climate agreement will, however, be heavily informed by Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which, as a political and technical task, will serve as building blocks of the Paris agreement.
It should be possible for African countries to submit their INDCs by September ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Summit (COP21).
Once countries have submitted the INDCs, it should not be difficult for the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) to push forward the interest of the continent in the negotiations.
“Our negotiators are well qualified and we have plenty of expertise in the African group of negotiators including people who are in the meteorology services, hydrology, agriculture and forestry,” says Fatima Denton, Director of Special Initiatives Division in the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
But for African Civil Society, support from polluter countries in the implementation of the INDCs, once concluded, is of topmost priority to developing countries.
“Yes Africa will submit the INDCs but will they [developed countries] delivery their side of the bargain?” queried Robert Chimambo of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).
The climate impact
Climate change affects the poor of the poor, especially farmers, whose only source of income comes directly from the land, yet most have no idea of what they can do to adapt to climate change.
“Due to climate change, agriculture and food systems will be affected as climate change has a multiplier effect on already degraded natural resources and ecosystems,” observed Sindiso Ngenhya, Secretary General COMESA. “This, in turn will affect production systems in unprecedented ways, as well as the livelihoods of those that depend on them”.
He shares the aspiration that “climate change is a trade issue, climate change is a human right issue, climate change is a gender issue, climate change is an agriculture issue, climate change is an MDG issue and will be an SDG issue, and indeed climate change is a case of survival”.
According to civil society, the INDCs must be a total package that takes into account all the elements of adaptation, mitigation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building and means of implementation.
Africa’s people first agenda
At the Paris negotiations, Africa will be presenting a common front, prioritizing the interest of its people.
“The negotiators from the West are negotiating for the interest of corporations to continue to make money; corporations have no regard for people,” said Mr. Chimambo. “We’re going there trying to defend the interest of our people; the small holder farmer in Ghana, in Zambia, in DRC; that is the oneness phase of our negotiations getting into Paris”.
He added that “it is only Africa and Asia that are going in there to negotiate for the lives and livelihood of our common people”.
Mr. Chimambo, however, has hope of a turnaround for the “global common people” to demand protection of citizens against the impacts of climate change.
“The tide is turning,” he said. “Ordinary people in the West are also realizing that they are being used… nobody wants to die and people are realizing that we are all in trouble with this phenomenon”.
The quality of Africa’s negotiating positions will be a game changer if the continent is to make a difference in the talks towards a binding climate change agreement.
Veteran negotiator, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, is conscious of this and has stated that “our negotiators need more than diplomacy because the world has changed and so has the pattern of engagement”.
As African countries communicate their INDCs to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it is expected that African governments maintain their unity before the international negotiations so as to secure the best outcomes for African citizens.
“In this struggle to ensure the new climate change agreement to be concluded in Paris in 2015 is responsive to African aspirations and realities, our voices should be amplified,” said Mithika Mwenda, Secretary-General of PACJA. “We need critical mass to drive our agenda at global level. We need unity and commitment to stick on what we agree as African civil society organizations in particular and global civil organizations in general”.