At a conference to agree a unified position for African countries ahead of the UN climate change summit in Paris, France, this December, negotiators said they will demand that global warming must be kept below two degrees Celsius to protect Africa from extreme weather. They passed a joint strategy for the negotiations, saying that a future deal must recognise indigenous knowledge about the environment, and include technology support to help the continent adapt to changing temperatures.
“If the outcomes are not favourable for us, if [negotiators] think they will get a raw deal, they should threaten a walkout as the only way to change the balance of forces in Paris.”
Patrick Bond, University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa
The UN’s draft text for the Paris deal states that the conference aims to agree on how to keep global temperature rise to below 1.5 to two degrees Celsius.
“If the outcomes are not favourable for us, if [negotiators] think they will get a raw deal, they should threaten a walkout as the only way to change the balance of forces in Paris,” said Patrick Bond, a global governance researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, who attended the meeting in Tanzania.
The conference, which took place on 3-5 September, heard that a two degree Celsius rise in global temperature could slash African GDP (gross domestic product) by 4.7 per cent, mostly because of agricultural losses, while adaptation could cost at least five to ten per cent of GDP on top of that. A higher temperature rise could leave 128 million Africans hungry and 108 million at risk of floods as sea levels rise, scientists at the event said.
Countries at the UN’s COP 21 conference in Paris aim to avoid such a scenario by agreeing a binding deal to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But countries may not do so because of the high associated cost.
If it is clear that a deal is likely to be adopted with a global warming limit that is nowhere near to two degrees Celsius, African leaders are prepared to refuse to negotiate further, the conference concluded.
For some at the conference, such a tough stance was seen as crucial for Africa’s future prosperity. Charles Jonga, the director of Zimbabwe’s Campfire Association, which aims to protect natural assets and indigenous knowledge, said he was concerned about industrialised countries’ poor track record with other climate initiatives, such as the UN’s REDD+ programme, which is meant to cut emissions from forests.
Jonga said the reluctance of industrialised nations to fund REDD+ initiatives hinders Africa’s development. “There should be a balance between the small economies and huge economies” in terms of what they can contribute to climate change mitigation, he said.
In their strategy African leaders have also agreed to ask other countries at COP 21 to pay more attention to indigenous knowledge. John Kioli, chairman of national civil society network the Kenya Climate Change Working Group, pointed out that Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions when it comes to climate change, yet the continent has had little chance to contribute local expertise to mitigation efforts. “It is fair to recognise Africa has a rich indigenous knowledge,” he said. “We’ve had our own way of conserving our environment and my question is: how would this knowledge be taken on board when addressing climate around the globe?”
In Arusha, African leaders also promised to incorporate more climate research into their decision-making, and raise public awareness of climate change.