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Africa takes charge at climate talks

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Africa has changed “the ball game” after a week of vassalage, by demanding an ambitious second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, effective action under the Bali Action Plan and scaled-up “start-up” finance ahead of the high-level international ministerial segment of the United Nations climate talks later this week.

The decision to change tack came after the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (Amcen) convened an emergency meeting at the weekend, and decided they would not continue to “chase the ball” when it was apparent developed nations had failed to provide “environment leadership”.

The African group, chaired by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, said the latest science showing severe threats to African food security; developments in the negotiations; and a strategy to ensure the outcomes of the Durban climate conference was comprehensive enough to protect Africans from the worst effects of climate change.

The African Common Position on Climate Change, which was agreed in September in Bamako, Mali, highlights key positions that Amcen is advancing at the wobbly COP 17 negotiations.

Mpanu-Mpanu told journalists at a Press conference that Africa would be hit first and hardest by global climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The continent has contributed the least to climate change, and is among the least equipped to adapt to its adverse effects.

More than 1 billion Africans, and millions of others living in small islands, least developed and other vulnerable countries will bear the potentially catastrophic effects of land loss, food and water shortage, crop reduction, and flooding, he said.

He also said mitigation and adaptation measures in Africa should be in full conformity with the principles and provisions of UN and the Kyoto Protocol.

As a result, the ministers said the UN climate talks should produce two outcomes in line with the Bali Roadmap, regarding an agreed outcome on long-term cooperative action to enhance the implementation of the convention, and an amendment of the Kyoto Protocol regarding further mitigation commitments for a second commitment period from 2013 to 2017 under the Kyoto Protocol.

“Developed country parties to the Kyoto Protocol must honour their commitments through ambitious mitigation commitments for a second and subsequent commitment periods.

They must reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 40% during the second commitment period from 2013 to 2017 and by at least 95% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, as an equitable and appropriate contribution,” Mpanu-Mpanu said.

“We stress the urgency of agreeing a second commitment period in Durban and of elaborating measures to avoid a gap between commitment periods.

We call on developing countries to ensure the environmental integrity of their emission reduction commitments, and to guarantee an equitable and appropriate level of domestic emission reductions, by closing existing loopholes, limiting the use of carbon markets and project-based mechanisms to 10% of their commitments, and ensuring additional carbon credits.”

The African ministers’ call come as the UN climate talks enter their final week, which could see the highly politicised debates make or break the elusive deal following the refusal by the United States to sign and Canada’s sentiments that the Kyoto Protocol “is dead”.

With the arrival of high-profile politicians today, the negotiations are expected to move a gear up in an effort to either extend the Kyoto Protocol or strike another middle ground deal as the “Durban Accord” looks hard to pin down.

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