Today, about 150 world leaders are expected to commence talks aimed at delivering a new legally binding global agreement on climate change to prevent the world from warming by more than two degrees by 2100 — which is the catastrophic point when sea-level rises are accompanied by food shortages and pressure on humans and animals reaches unsustainable levels — where mother earth virtually gives up on us.
WHAT IS COP 21?
Serious political discussions on Climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where the ‘Rio Convention’ included the adoption of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC which entered into force on 21 March 1994, now has a near-universal membership of 195 parties.
The main objective of the annual Conference of Parties (COP) is to review the Convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995 and significant meetings since then have included COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced, COP15 in Copenhagen where an agreement to success Kyoto Protocol was unfortunately not realized and COP17 in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.
So as stated earlier COP21, which starts today will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve an agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.
WILL A DEAL REACHED WORK?
Uncertain, but what is clear is that this conference has the best chance yet of making a real difference. Over 183 countries covering 95 per cent of the world’s emissions or greenhouse gases have already submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UN — which are targets for how much they are going to reduce emissions or by over the next few years. These voluntary agreements are a key difference to the Kyoto Protocol in that they are set by countries themselves, rather than someone else telling them what to do. It’s hoped this will make them more likely to participate and stick to the plan. China has agreed, for example, for emissions to peak at 2030 and the EU will cut emissions by 40 per cent of 1990 levels. Another key part of the summit will be developing a financial plan to help developing nations invest in renewable energy so they bypass the whole step of becoming high emitters as they develop. This might not be a very bold step but Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christinia Figueres insists the INDCs mark the start of a trajectory to improve on in future. “With the full implementation of the climate change plans that we have on the table, we will be at a temperature increase that is anywhere between 2.7 and 3.5 depending on what you’re counting and what your methodology and assumptions are,” she said. “That is fundamental progress so we’re no longer at four, five or six degrees increase. We’re in the bandwidth of 2.7 to 3.5 degrees — a very, very important sign of progress of policy, of technology and of capital shifts.”
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
So why should a yearly gathering of World Leaders for a possible talk shop, be of any concern to you? Ghana is vulnerable to climate change in at least three areas that are crucial for the country’s long-term economic development, even though the country and the African Continent in general contribute very little to it.
- First, agriculture is a major sector of the economy. It accounts for about a third of national income and export earnings and employs almost two thirds of the workforce. Small scale farmers who depend on rain for their crops account for 80% of the nation’s household agricultural production and are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. It is projected that the yield of maize would decrease to 6.9% in the year 2020. So in effect, food sources for many will be affected increasing poverty and possibly reverse the country’s strides in reducing extreme poverty and worsening the inequality gap.
- Again, hydropower provides about two-thirds of total electricity supply in Ghana. This Hydropower generation could seriously be affected by climate change leading about 60% reduction in available water in all basins by 2020. Recent erratic power supply has revealed the country’s vulnerability to fluctuations in the energy sector. Regardless of the planned diversification, hydropower is expected to remain a major energy source over the coming decades and this certainly raises concerns about the effect of climate change on river flows and generation capacity. So if the water body’s dry-up there will be more “Dumsor” and the alternative of thermal energy is more expensive.
- Moreover, Ghana has a huge infrastructure deficit, particularly roads in the rural areas, and many households have poor access to markets and public services. Ten percent of the government’s budget is already allocated to maintaining roads, and so if climate change damages road surfaces it could further widen the infrastructure gap. In 2007, for example floods demonstrated clearly how climate change undermines development investments with being affected 317000 people affected, 1000 km of roads destroyed, 210 schools and 45 health facilities damaged, 630 drinking water facilities damaged or contaminated, to address the situation, in the interim required it all an emergency funding of about US$25 Million.
- 3% of the population within the coastal zone is at risk as a result of inundation and shoreline recession and this population is mainly within the east coast. In the east coast, the erosion of the shores may be occurring at an average rate of 3 m per year. A total of 1,110 km2 of land along the coast will be lost if nothing is done to protect them. Most of the affected areas are within the east coast. The areas east of the Volta River estuary are particularly vulnerable.
- There will be rise in soil moisture content of sandy and silty soils along the coastal zone. These soils when subjected to vibrations will liquefy. The structures founded on these soils could thus be at risk of collapse during earthquakes. The rising water table as a result of sea-level rise will increase the risk of earthquake hazards. The highest risk zone is the Accra area.
- To Crown it all, It is estimated that 80% of the disasters in Ghana are climate related –flooding,drought pests,diseases outbreak, wind storms and extreme weather events contribute to climate change and the nation which is struggling to put it act together will be losing about 2-5 percent of its GDP by 2100. This (2%) is how much ‘Dumsor” cost the nation in 2014 and yes the 5 % is exactly the amount Gold from all the mines contributes to GDP.
This certainly is one of the cases, where a country or a continent which is not the actual cause of the problem becomes the major recipient of the devastating effects.
AFRICA’s COMMON STANCE AT COP 21
- Developed countries need to fulfil their pledge of providing $100 billion annually by 2020 to support climate action in developing countries. Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, has been poorly served by climate finance. The majority of finance has been earmarked for small-scale projects rather than national programmes. In 2013, $291 million was approved for projects in Sub-Saharan Arica through eight separate adaptation funds. So far, Africa has received just 4% of global climate change finance, much of which has gone to mitigation (Ways to reduce the emissions, the continent contributes very little to), as against adaptation (Ways to help those heavily affected cope and resist climate change).
- Given the importance of adaptation for Africa and the existing adaptation finance gap, an Africa-specific and dedicated mechanism to support adaptation in Africa is critical. The establishment of an Africa Adaptation Initiative will address the existing financing gap while ensuring consistency and effectiveness in coordinating various ongoing initiatives.
- Urgent increase in Technology transfer and capacity building.
By: Raymond Acquah/citifmonline.com