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2011-07-22 | News

Climate conventions should consider early onset of climate change in Africa

Press release from Environmental Economics Policy Forum for Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 2011-07-20

Though climate change is a global problem, it affects countries differently because of lack of resources to cope and immense poverty. In addition, many least developed countries (LDCs) live in regions where severe weather is anticipated to hit the most. The universality of the problem calls for a global effort to tackle the issue of climate change. In this regard, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was formed over a decade ago and required industrialized countries to take the lead in modifying longer term trends in emissions. Since the UNFCCC, there have been many subsequent negotiations. What were the implications of these negotiations, provisions, and achievements for Africa and Ethiopia? And what should future climate change negotiations include for Africa?

Dr. Adane Tuffa, together with co-authors Dr. Zenebe Gebreegziabher, Dr. Alemu Mekonnen
and Dr. Assefa Seyoum, critically reviews and documents the main climate conventions and
results achieved to date, mainly from African perspective, in a way that provides a
comprehensive understanding of the climate conventions and make Africa better informed for
future climate negotiations. “The question of mitigation is no remedy for what is happening
already,” said the authors, “Africa needs financial assistance to cope with the current climate-
related problems.”
The UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994 with the objective of stabilizing atmospheric

concentrations of GHGs (green house gases) at the level that would prevent “dangerous” human
interference with the climate system. This convention is based on the principles of equity and
“common but differentiated responsibility”, which required industrialized countries to take the
lead in modifying longer-term trends in emissions. Since then, various negotiations and
agreements on climate change took place including the renowned Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen
Accord, and Cancun Agreements. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted on the third Conference of
the Parties (COP 3) in 1997 but entered into force only in 2005 due to disagreements among the
negotiating parties. Unlike the convention the Protocol commits developed countries (Annex I
Parties) to individual and legally binding targets to limit or reduce their GHG emissions. These
targets add up to a total cut of at least 5.2 percent from 1990 levels in the commitment period
2008-2012. The Protocol also makes financial provisions to help developing countries in their
mitigation efforts and adapt to climate change, and provides “mechanisms” through which
Annex I Parties fulfill their emission reduction commitments.
Despite these agreements, studies indicate that it may be difficult for Annex I Parties to meet
their collective emission reduction commitments and financial pledges for developing countries.
Major negotiations for further commitments after the end of the current commitment period
started in 2007. After two years of negotiations, running up to the Copenhagen Conference held
in 2009, it was expected that the parties would agree on emission cuts after 2012. However, it
was not possible to strike a deal on a legally binding long-term emission reduction agreement at
the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties. Instead, the Copenhagen Conference resulted only in a political agreement known as the Copenhagen Accord, which was negotiated by a group of
roughly 25 countries, including all of the world’s major economies.

Key elements of the Copenhagen Accord include: a long-term goal of limiting climate change to
no more than 2 degree Celsius; a system of pledge-and-review for both developed and
developing country mitigation commitments or actions; and significant new financial resources.
However, the conference only “took note of it” rather than adopting it because of objections from
a small group of countries. Although many exerted several criticisms against the Accord, it is the first agreement to make quantified financial pledge and explicitly acknowledge the special
circumstances of Africa in the face of climate change.  
The Accord is believed to have paved the way for the relatively productive negotiations in
Cancun even though the Cancun Agreement focused on matters that were not core to
Copenhagen (such as deforestation and technology) and left many elements of the Kyoto track
negotiations (such as further commitments for developed countries after 2012 and GHG peaking
year). According to the authors, inadequacy of the emission cut pledges and lack of hard figures
for financial pledges weaken the agreements.  
Whatever the outcome of the next conference in Durban, South Africa in November-December
2011, Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular is counting the costs of climate change. There
are studies that show climate change in Africa is no longer a thing of tomorrow; it is the question
of today. But the later the action on emission cuts, the higher will these burdens be and the
higher the financial needs for adaptation than for mitigation.
Given these realities, the only option available to Africa is to strengthen its negotiating position
in the current and future climate negotiations in order to persuade developed countries to commit
themselves to deeper emission cuts and provide financial assistance to developing countries in
general and Africa in particular. On the other hand, developed countries have the moral
obligation to compensate Africa for the costs being incurred and provide financial assistance for
adaptation and mitigation.
Africa should negotiate for the provision of new Special Climate Impact Fund for Africa in
future negotiations to compensate for the losses being incurred as a result of the early onset of
climate change in Africa. Acquiring more adaptation fund than mitigation could prove more
practical since the impacts of climate change are already a reality in the continent. Secondly,
future negotiations should consider making cases for countries that face extreme circumstances
due to climate change in order to get a fair share of all the pledges for mitigation and adaption.
Thirdly, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is designed to enable developed
countries reduce their emissions through sustainable development projects in developing
countries, should include activities that are relevant in Africa and match countries’ development
priorities, which include food and energy security. 

The research received funding from Sida (the Swedish International Development Cooperation
Agency) and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) through the Ethiopian
Development Research Institute (EDRI).

Time and place for public presentation:
09:00 am on Wednesday 20 July 2011 in Jupiter International Hotel, Cazanchis area, Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia.

Title of the research:
Climate Conventions and Africa/Ethiopia
More information:
Contact Adane Tuffa, telephone +251 (0) 913178226 , email   
Zenebe GebreEgziabher, telephone +251 (0) 11 553 86 32, email  
Alemu Mekonnen, telephone +251 (0) 11 553 86 32, email
Assefa Seyoum, telephone +251(0) 911310750, email  

Press officer:
Tsehay A. Hailemichael, telephone +251 (0) 11 553 86 32, email