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Opinions of Thursday, 5 November 2015

Columnist: Abubakari, Fariya

Ghana and the vulnerable countries calls for attention at the climate treaty

We are already facing devastating climate impacts, for example drought, sea level rise and food insecurity is very real and present dangers. If the negotiations don’t work for the most vulnerable among us – the Least Developed Countries – then they will have failed. Chair of LDCs reported during the Bonn negotiation.
Ghana and other African nations are among the lightest polluters, but analysts say they will suffer the most from climate change in their pursuit of water, food security, and sustainable development, political and economic sustainability.
A week of UN climate negotiations in Bonn closed Friday and submissions where made by the African group such as Ghana and Nigeria and LDCs such as Angola and over 100 countries worldwide including the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). Over the next three weeks, ministers are expected to discuss the text at a series of informal meetings before the final round of formal negotiations in Paris. The text reflects mixed progress across the issues under consideration.
The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are 48 nations such as Afghanistan, Burkina, Sudan, Gambia and more than half are in Africa that are especially vulnerable to climate change but have done the least to cause the problem.
During the negotiation in Bonn, the LDCs called for a need on a higher emphasis on mitigation, especially among the wealthier nations and the need for the G77 and China’s position on Loss and Damage to be reflected in the statement. Both parties recognize that deep cuts in global emissions will be required to achieve the ultimate objective of the convention and emphasized on the need for urgency to address climate change. Parties also declared their support for a 1.5°C target on climate change.
According to the least developed countries (LDCs) Group during the Bonn negotiation, developed and wealthy nations must allow their policies to reflect the magnitude and urgency of actions needed to tackle climate change, thus allowing a serious boost in ambition in this last round of climate negotiations before December Paris UN talks.
The current plans to mitigate GHG emissions do not keep us even within a temperature rise of 2°C. However from the Least Developed Countries’ perspective, it is far worse than that. For 48 of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, economic development, regional food security and ecosystems are at risk in this 2°C ‘safe zone’.
So far 35 out of 48 LDCs have submitted their INDCs and more are coming but there are fears that the current INDCs submitted are unfortunately still a race to the bottom and the level of ambition contained within the country’s climate change plans put the world on a 2.7°C pathway but the LDCs are calling for a 1.5°C as anything higher exposes the nations to irreversible changes in the climate system and also grave concerns as there is no mention in the co-chairs’ tool of how developed countries and others will support LDCs in the implementation of these INDCs and hence called for clarity as too much emphasis is on the process and communication of the INDCs rather than the actual implementation of the plans.
The LDCs also raised concerns on the countries commitment to have a legal basis such as the Kyoto Protocol and the agreement must deliver both a high level of participation and effectiveness and the process to be more transparent than is currently is for progress to be measured.
Climate Change Impact in Africa
African countries are highly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate variability and climate change owing to the high frequency and intensity of extreme climate events and the increasing risk of slow onset processes. Emerging empirical evidence from the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC (IPCC AR5) shows increased frequency of droughts, floods, rising temperatures, sea level rise, and other weather and climate events, pose major threats on populations that derive their livelihoods from these agricultural systems. For example, the droughts in the Gambia of the Sahel region in 2013, according to Yaffa, led to a decline of 39% in groundnut, 45% in maize, 64% in millet, and 50% in rice production, respectively.
In the Horn of Africa, the UNICEF reported in 2011 that 8.8 million people needed humanitarian support during the 2011 drought. According to the UNEP Report of 2009, droughts as a result of climate change have contributed to a reduction in the size and water levels of Lake Chad in West Africa by 95% in 2001, which resulted in an increased poverty due to its direct impact on fisheries and food security. Other reports indicate that flood fatalities in Africa increased by a factor of ten from 1950 to 2009, and during the decade 2000-2009 have even doubled. The understanding, prediction and early warning of extreme climate events are therefore critical to climate risk reduction and sustainable development in Africa.
Long-term global targets can serve as a guideline for policy decisions on mitigation. However, under any long-term global target, the impacts of climate change are not equally distributed over countries. The evaluation of a global target for limiting global warming needs to take into account this heterogeneity and the interests of countries that take the bigger share of impacts.
Global climate change has already shown observable effects on LDCs. For example, in Ghana, increased drought and aridification, along with rising temperatures led to a decrease in water level in the Akosombo Reservoir causing major problems in the production of hydroelectric power which pose a threat to the energy sector. In northern African countries, water resources have been affected in that the frequency of extreme events such as floods or extended droughts has increased direct consequence as there is crop loss causing starvation of human populations or livestock if alternative food sources are not available. In fact, rainfall receipts have decreased by around 15% which threatens eastern and southern African countries dependent on rain-fed agriculture.
The Finance
The finance language in the draft agreement is the greatest area of concern, as the commitments required by developed and donor countries are not made clear, with a call for scaling up mobilization of finance, rather than the finance itself. According to the Chair of the LDCs, there was no mention of the Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF), the only fund dedicated to LDCs and currently standing empty despite there being approximately 230 projects in the pipeline which does not inspire confidence and also coupled with the lack of mitigation ambition within the INDCs, the precarious climate finance flows seem to place an unreasonable and unachievable adaptation burden on the LDCs. Governments must do more in Paris, but the work does not end there. For the INDCs to succeed they must be adjusted before 2020 and reviewed in five year cycles from 2020 to ensure national actions quickly and rapidly progresses, or we all face a grim and uncertain future.
More attention should be given to Ghana and other African countries when it comes to climate finance and any other thing which will benefit the continent.
Fariya Abubakari, climate tracker for adopt a negotiator program. Email: