The Common African Position

by Samuli Sinisalo

By the end of the week, we will know what Durban will deliver. Durban is an African COP, and Africa will have a key role in determining the outcome. A united Africa is a strong force in the negotiations, as the rest of the developing world is likely not to challenge them. What is good for Africa, is good for the developing world.

In September the African Ministerial conference convened in Bamako, and issued a declaration with the key messages for the Durban negotiations. This three page document is really significant – if Africa stays true to it and pushes the goals together.

First, the Bamako declaration highlights the Millennium Development Goals, and how climate change puts further challenges on achieving them. They have not been extensively discussed in the UNFCCC in the past, but they might be in the future. Second, Africa wants the UNFCCC to maintain its status as the forum where climate decisions, based on science, are taken. The declaration also includes the principles of historic responsibility and common but differentiated responsibilities.

More specifically, the African ministers declared they want two separate outcomes from the negotiation tracks. On Kyoto Protocol, the wanted an amendment to Kyoto Protocol for a legally binding second commitment period from 2013 to 2017, with ambitious targets that keep the Annex 1 countries on track for 40% cuts by 2020 and 95% by 2050. In the second commitment period, market mechanisms could only count for 10% of the national emission reductions – rest would have to be domestic action. On the LCA track, the non-Kyoto Annex 1 Parties should take on comparable emission reduction objectives.

Further the Ministers wish to operationalize the Cancun institutions on adaptation, technology transfer and finance – all under the supervision of the COP. The Green Climate Fund should additionally have its own legal personality. On finance, they were concerned the private sector and about the division of funds between adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation needs are increasing by the minute, but private funds steer away, as relocating coastal communities is not as profitable as generating renewable electricity. The concern about fast start finance already seems futile, as the developed countries pledges are already falling short and there is no remedy in sight.

Last, but not least, I want to highlight the part of the Bamako Declaration which calls for maintaining a firewall between the developed countries legally binding mitigation commitments and developing countries nationally appropriate mitigation actions. The latter are conditional on financial support from the developed world. This has been the cornerstone of the UNFCCC for nearly two decades, but is now challenged in Durban as even some developing countries, including China, are ready to negotiate on this.

Some of the African countries are expected to diverge from the common position in the name of short term national gains. The last days will show whether Africa stands united until the end. Will they crumble? What will they compromise?

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