Monday, July 19, 2010

Will Cancun restore faith and confidence in climate change negotiations?

By Ochieng’ Ogodo

[Nairobi] December 6, 2009 was thought of as significant day that was going to grip the attention of world with focus glued to the Bella Center in Copenhagen where the United Nations Climate Change summit was taking place until December 18. The expectations were both high and low.
The roadmap to Copenhagen was mostly on haggling over the reaching of a legally binding agreement on Green House Gas emissions reduction with set targets that becomes effective when the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012 or a politically binding one.
Denmark hosting the summit had been rooting for politically binding agreement instead of legally binding protocol and wanted a plan to delay any deal to mid-2010.
This came against a backdrop where some of the western countries were reluctant for an agreement that will compel them to meet certain targets on emissions reduction and the United States refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol is case in history.
US president, Barack Obama, acknowledged on November 13, 2009 that a legally binding deal was impossible in Copenhagen. Worth noting was the fact that he had to first deal with a reluctant Senate to pass domestic laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions before he could agree to an international deal, a requirement that has stalled the talks.
Obama’s comments were received as serious blow to efforts aimed at getting meaningful agreement by the close of business on December 18 “We do not need a politically binding agreement as it will give room to big GHG emitters like the US and Canada to get away with it,” said Tove Marie Ryding of the Greenpeace
Her argument was that the 2007 report of the Inter-Panel on Climate Change by climate change scientists was clear that if the world does not act now and drastically reduce Green House Gas emissions, there will be serious socio-economic and environmental disaster that includes sea level rise, extreme climatic cycles like prolonged droughts and flooding, upsurge in disease burden, among many others.
According to the then executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Yves de Boer, the Copenhagen agreement was to include a set or package of forward looking and “politically accountable” conclusions.
These were to include a list of individual 2020 targets for industrialised countries, what major developing countries will do about growth paths and limiting emissions, what individual countries will commit to in terms of a start up funding, formula on how cost of future adaptation and mitigation will be shared and Conference of Parties decisions on capacity building, mitigation, adaptation, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and a new institutional arrangement where necessary.
GHG Emissions reduction
At this fifteenth edition of the Conferences of Parties aimed a getting consensus and agreement on reduction of GHG said to be causing global warming beyond required level was not just be the burden for the developed word but also what the developing countries can do to mitigate the situation and to adapt to adverse impacts of climate change..
Scientists in 2007 said the developed countries-the major contributors to atmospheric pollution through emission of dangerous gasses like carbon dioxide and methane-must reduce their emissions by 20-40 percent compared to 1990 when climate change movement started by 2020.
But they said thereafter that they underestimated it and that glaciers were now melting at a much faster rate; that the reduction should move up to 80 percent.
“We listen to science and when scientists say that glaciers are melting at a very fast rate; that we are moving to a tipping point where major changes may occur, we realise the urgency of getting legally binding agreement out of Copenhagen summit with clearly set targets,” said Ryding.
She said scientist are also saying that by the end of this century, if it remains business as usual, there could be sea level rise of 2 meters wiping out many small island states.
Climate change scientists and some western political establishments are also arguing that the developing countries where China is fast industrialising and currently ranked the highest polluter in the world must reduce their emissions.
Climate change reductions pundits are proposing a 13-20 percent reduction compared to Business As Usual. “The developing world can emit but not increase and move towards a greener development direction,” Ryding concurred. But the Copenhagen meeting ended up in botched-up discussion that succeeded in having no success for tangible for GHG emissions reduction and only creating huge mistrust among nations of the world, especially the developed against the developing world
Replacing the Kyoto protocol.
As we move to COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico, the search for a new legally binding deal, led by the United Nations though the US argued could not be reached in Copenhagen and that there was need for more time to hammer appropriate agreement hence the need for political binding outcome will be one of the main issues.
Those who argued that a politically binding agreement would be suicidal as it is essentially non- enforceable will be rooting for second commitment off the Kyoto Protocol in Cancun.
They argue that, save for its weak compliance mechanisms, it is the only legal global climate change agreement that has a set of rules to be relied.
“What we need is a complete legally binding agreement and ambitious targets for emissions reduction and finances for adaptation,” Paul Erik Lauridsen of CARE Denmark said. He said the developed countries must accept to reduce their emissions but the developing world must also have their targets.
The African position through the Africa Ministerial Council on Environment is that the Kyoto protocol must not be replaced but strengthened. Much haggling is expected on this at the negotiations.
Adaptation Needs
Another issue expected to dominate the proceedings is the financing of adaptation by the developed north in the global south being pushed by the developing word who have contributed very little to the global warming but are the most vulnerable and worst hit by impacts of climate change.
They argue that the purpose of adaptation financing and availing of appropriate technology to the developing nations by the developed world is not to lift them out poverty but protect the poor against effects of climate change caused by the industrialised countries as they developed over the years.
Green peace’s Ryding says its estimated that adaptation will cost about US$ 150 billion annually but the developing world are demanding an agreement out of Copenhagen for about US$ 200 billion annually for adaptation. China and India that are emerging economies are more for technological transfers from the west for green development to adapt rather than financial assistance.
The developing world position is that the developed world should pay up for global warming since they made their wealth out of industrial pollution.
Twenty percent of global emissions are from destruction of tropical forests and their protection is being considered one of the major solutions to tackling climate change. But forest, because of their life supporting services, has many people depending on them and removing them all over suddenly would lead to serious socio-economic disasters.
The issue is expected to also feature prominently at the conference, especially who shod benefit from the money coming out of forest protection; will it be the central government or the indigenous people who have been living in the forest for centuries.
Massive attendance
The Copenhagen meeting had a massive attendance estimated at over 15,000 delegates that included President Obama of the USA. More than 20,000 NGOs registered for the summit while accreditation for journalists was in excess 5,000. It is not yet clear whether Cancun will draw such a huge crowd but it will definitely be an important summit expected mostly to restore faith and confidence in climate change negotiations

**Ochieng’ Ogodo is a Nairobi journalist and the Sub-Saharan Africa News Editor for .He is the English-speaking Africa and Middle East region winner for the 2008 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. He can be reached at or

Agriculture: Need for paradigm shift in Africa

By Ochieng’ Ogodo

[Nairobi] Application of knowledge and appropriate technology is critical for increased agricultural productivity for the rural poor in the developing world, especially Africa, Emanuel Tambi, Economist, Senior Policy Officer, Rural Economy Division at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa has said.

This should be the new paradigm shift in agricultural growth in the developing world, especially in Africa, where majority of the rural poor depend on it as source livelihood and somewhat economic empowerment.

“In order to successfully meet challenges of globalization, developing countries, in general, and Africa, in particular, must place science and technology at the heart of their development policy,” he said.

He, however, recognized that, as continent with countries having primarily agriculture economies, Africa is confronted with limited human and material resources in scientific and technological fields, and therefore has problem incorporating science and technology into its development policies.

It is for this that his department is currently working with Regional Economic Communities, members states, research institutes such as International Livestock Research Institute and IFPRI, civil society organisations as well as development partners to move forward the agenda for research and technology.

Professor Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, IFPRI’s director for International Service for National Agricultural Research Division said in many parts of the developing world, mostly Africa, agriculture plays an important role in national development in terms of employment and national wealth creation.

The pervasive poverty in many parts of these countries cannot be tackled sufficiently without paying attention to production and market development for agricultural products.

To cope with the demand factors and emerging global issues, actors in the food and agriculture value chain need to innovate to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

“The good news is that there has been steady progress in African agriculture over the last few years with growth rates increasing from 2 percent per annum in the 1990s to about 5 percent in the 2000s,” he told the forum.

But to sustain this, Okyere stated, there is need for extraction of economic, ecosystem and social value from knowledge which involves putting ideas, knowledge and technology to work in a manner that brings about a significant improvement in performance.

A lot of knowledge, he explained, already exist and can be used to improve the livelihoods of the smallholder farmer in the rural settings where more than 50 percent depend on agriculture.

But there are no proper linkages for knowledge mobility from institutions of learning, research and different actors to get innovation to work to advance food and agriculture and this call for new approaches to capacity building.

The first stage of capacity building development, he pointed out, should be at the universities or institutions of higher learning to make them innovate and become efficient.

“It has been demonstrated that students retain 90 percent of concept or method if they teach others, 75 percent if they practice by doing, 50 percent if they are involved in a discussion but only five percent through lectures,” he said.

Scientists and students should talk to farmers and see how best they could infuse their [farmers] indigenous knowledge with those in formal educational systems and pass it on for accelerated agricultural production in the developing world.

The next level of capacity building is that of farmers to make them adopt new knowledge and technologies as well as improve on the existing ethnic agricultural knowledge to step up agricultural growth for food and poverty reduction.

Okyere also said for knowledge to be generated and used effectively for innovation in agricultural development there must be innovators in organizations, institutions, technologies and policies that are involved in the process.

Joachim Von Braun, Director of IFPRI challenged Africa and the rest of the developing world to develop their basic science, build practical technical education programmes on agriculture at higher institutions of learning and tap into existing indigenous knowledge to improve agricultural production for food security and wealth creation for the rural poor.

“Agriculture is a major source of employment in the developing world and also a vital source of food for majority of rural populations,” said Braun

Yet agricultural education and research is not being felt on the ground because of lack direct connection between scientists, students and the smallholder farmer who needs knowledge to adopt innovative methods of farming for increased yields.

Most agriculture students, he explained, do have practical experience and thus the big gap between knowledge and innovation and reality on the ground in the end. Africa, he told meting should make agriculture part of its higher education technical programme as one of the means in innovatively addressing food insecurity and poverty reduction in rural settings.

It should be part of the learning process right from secondary education level and Africa should also build up its basic science and not keep knocking on the doors of the western institutions for solutions.

Africa and the developing world must build their own biological, physical and chemistry sciences and use that knowledge at all levels of food and agricultural systems,” said Braun.

**Ochieng’ Ogodo is a Nairobi journalist and the Sub-Saharan Africa News Editor for .He is the English-speaking Africa and Middle East region winner for the 2008 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. He can be reached at or