HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsClimate change doubles cost of growth

Climate change doubles cost of growth


We are fast approaching the opening of the Rio+20 conference that will allow governments to take stock of past efforts, as well as look to the future.

And with business-as-usual making the ground under our feet tremor now more than ever before, with billions of people still in abject poverty and with environmental depletion and greenhouse emissions at an all-time high, one cannot help but conclude that this is not what we all want.

As the only steward of Mother Earth, the human race needs to double up its efforts. While arriving at the concept of sustainable development was a critical breakthrough in the 1970s and 1980s and while putting in place the policy frameworks that would drive sustainable development was a laudable achievement in the 1990s and early 2000s, acting to get the world onto a truly sustainable pathway has now become an urgent imperative.

Like I indicated in my last instalment, according to the United Nations, still over 3 billion people live on less than $2,50 per day; still over 1 billion people have no access to clean water; still some 2,4 billion people have no access to reliable, safe energy; and still some

1,2 billion people suffer from chronic hunger. Clearly, this situation is morally unacceptable.

To worsen matters, we have realised that climate change and its impacts will exacerbate the suffering of the millions of Zimbabweans and billions of people globally that make up these painful statistics.

In fact, climate change has the potential to undo many of the development gains that have been made, including in the context of the Millennium Development Goals. Yet still greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

Yes, sustainable development now needs a decisive breakthrough. but this time a breakthrough in action! The time for concept development is past. The urgency of action is now.

Africa must trigger the sustainability transformation now, and a critical component of that is the energy revolution that needs to both address emissions and power the worlds move into a sustainable future.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) executive director Christiana Figueres says as a daughter of a revolutionary, she does not advocate for an armed revolution, but the kind that occurred around information technology in the past 20 years.

She avers that momentum for both the sustainability and the energy revolutions is building -and this can be seen in emerging policies and in growing investment trends. Some key emerging policies include both climate change and renewable energy policies as follows:

Almost all countries have climate change policies in place that deal with both adaptation to the impacts of climate change, as well as with emission reductions or mitigation. They are there to be built upon.

All developed countries have specific mitigation pledges to 2020

49 developing countries including Zimbabwe have mitigation pledges to 2020

And 118 countries now have renewable energy policies in place. In terms of investment trends, UNFCCC says the transformation is slowly becoming visible.

And four months since the floundering COP 17 last December, Figueres believes time will show that the Durban conference was the most encompassing and furthest reaching gathering in the history of the climate change negotiations. Figueres added in terms of mitigation, Durban accomplished three crucial outcomes, with increasing levels of ambition:

It achieved a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, starting in January 2013, thereby ensuring the continuity of the legal system and of the Kyoto rules.

lUnder the Convention, Durban cemented mitigation plans of all industrialised nations plus 49 developing countries. The sum of those countries accounts for 80% of global emissions, so a higher level of participation than under the Kyoto Protocol, but this participation will be voluntary (although rigorously measured) from now until 2020.

lGovernments know there must be more certainty than that which is offered by voluntary action, so in Durban they also decided to embark on a future legal framework that will cover all nations of the world, to be negotiated by 2015, and go into effect by 2020. Universal participation in legally grounded mitigation targets is a remarkable departure from the past and is Durbans major gift.

A strategy as ambitious as the above must be effectively supported and responsibly guided. Countries therefore in Durban further established the infrastructure to support poor nations. Perhaps most importantly, in Durban there was a realisation that the level of mitigation ambition needed to be raised beyond that which is on the table.

Current emission reduction pledges account for only 60% of what is needed to stabilise temperature rise to below 2˚C, let alone the 1,5˚C that is needed to keep vulnerable communities safe.

The outcomes from Durban should make a significant contribution towards a more sustainable future if and only if all pledges, aspirations and plans are fully implemented.

Considering the scale of the transformation necessary for the sustainability revolution, it is clear that poor countries cannot deliver on their own.

Between now and 2015, the climate policymaking process in poor countries, Zimbabwe included, needs encouragement through concrete action that moves us closer to the energy revolution that we need. Besides, the outcomes from Durban should make a significant contribution towards a more sustainable future if progressive firms take the lead and committed civil society remains engaged.

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