HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsThe Paris Agreement, NDCs, missed opportunities and forgotten voices

The Paris Agreement, NDCs, missed opportunities and forgotten voices

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THE United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) conference, which was supposed to be held in Glasgow this December looks set to be postponed, due to COVID-9.

BY PETER MAKWANYA

The COP26 edition would have been significant, in kick-starting the implementation phase of the historic Paris Agreement, placing emphasis on the nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

The NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Agreement (COP21), designed to realise the achievement of long-term low carbon emission goals.

Striking a balance between anthropogenic by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases (GHGs) as long-term mitigations, remains the ambitious nature of the NDCs.

Instead of fostering inclusive pathways towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development, the NDCs strategies have created communication gaps, pitfalls and roadblocks, thereby sidelining the marginal and forgotten voices of those who draw their livelihoods from the forests.

The development of two-way communication strategies for the NDCs to shift attitudes and behaviours towards climate change is a good approach which largely remains a myth due to associated technicalities in implementation.

Vulnerable communities, which are the targeted audiences for climate change discourse rely on forest resources for survival and continue to be marginalised yet they are supposed to be actively involved and realise environmental and economic benefits accruing from the long-term mitigations and support adaptations.

For these reasons, the ambitious nature of the NDCs will contribute to the missing of lifetime opportunities due to its exclusionary nature, communication massaging and glossing.

These ingredients of sustainable communication strategies have gone wrong and are taken for granted.

Instead of making the two-way communication processes bottom-up and horizontal networks they should be, those tasked with disseminating information still rely on the top-down approach when engaging communities, thereby leaving important stakeholders behind.

The bottom-up, horizontal networks together with interactive communication tools based on the communities’ needs and worldview, would help to close communication gaps caused by hierarchy and structural issues.

This would enable the voiceless and the marginalised to communicate critical and strategic information at the same level while mobilising others in order to realise resilience and achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The tone set by the historic Paris Agreement, with regards to the NDCs to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and support adaptation to climate change impacts, will have its impetus tested during the implementation stage.

In Africa, the climate action strategies designed to deliver it from the climate impacts and crises, have a benevolent and prescriptive tone from the developed world and international donor communities.

In this regard, before the implementation processes even start, ownership is already removed from the African participants, either by commission or omission due to the presence of the piper’s tune playing in the background.

With regards to its prolonged and entrenched vulnerable status, Africa appears to have been commodified, pocketed and swallowed by the rich polluting nations.

Regrettably, even among Africans themselves voices of the marginalised and vulnerable communities continue to be sidelined, stifled and forgotten thereby burying information critical to mitigation efforts.

Therefore, the ability to showcase their indigenous knowledge systems (IKS), innovations and resilience has been continuously backgrounded even in their own countries.

While the NDCs provide the right tonic for emission reduction and resilience, they do not seem to be communicated in holistic, empowering and heritage ways in order for Africa to come up with its own designs to produce its own goods and services, as products of low-carbon economies ensuring sufficient reduction of greenhouse gases.

Furthermore, the vulnerable communities in the marginal areas of Africa, are not aware of the inherent carbon inequalities between the rich and poor nations. These carbon inequalities have been acknowledged by Oxfam in its new report of 2020, when it talks of, “Confronting Carbon Inequality” basing on the research conducted by the Stockholm Environmental Institute.

According to this report, if the carbon emission output for the rich and polluting nations is pegged at 10% compared to the poor countries overall carbon budget of 4%, and yet they are the most affected by climate change impacts, surely the rich nations should tone down their carbon emissions.

This would be important in ensuring African and other developing countries focus on the agony and burden of dealing with their own baggage of deforestation, land degradation, wildfires and overpopulation.

Compounding the African carbon budget problem is the fact that, quite a number of its leaders seem to be missing the opportunity by celebrating the discovery of fossil fuel deposits in their countries.

By so doing they are certifying investments in accelerating carbon emissions, missing benefits of green technology, sidelining their own communities from active participation in green recovery through perpetuating climate injustices.

In doing so, they are also going against the Paris Agreement which they are part to as Conference of Parties.

In this regard, the NDCs should demonstrate local and national interests while conforming to global requirements but without stifling voices of the vulnerable local communities.

By stifling their voices they will be making these needy communities invest in perpetual silence and inaction.

Due to the ambitious nature of targets and periodic reporting systems, developing countries are submitting themselves as books for marking.

In short, they are placing emphasis on reporting rather than taking action on the ground, forgetting their own communities of poverty-stricken people which need to turn the NDCs into opportunities which will transform their lives.

An analysis of the wide-ranging discourses of the NDCs reveals that the terms ambition, economy-wide emission reduction targets, pre-industrial levels remain obscure and have never been sufficiently explained.

To date, it is also not clear, if targets 2 and 1,5 degrees’ have been realised. There is also the likelihood that the 2 degrees’ benchmark can increase while the 1,5 degrees may never be achieved.

Finally, the Paris Agreement is just a set of pledges to abide by, leaving countries with room to manoeuvre in the absence of a strong conviction, will and legally-binding instruments to enforce them.

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