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Africa Hopes for a Fair and Just Climate Deal Instead of ‘Dead Aid’

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By Friday Phiri | IDN-InDepthNews Analysis


VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe (IDN) - Just as climate change has been getting popular in development discourse over the past two decades, so has been climate financing, which refers to local, national or transnational funding, drawn from public, private and/or alternative sources.

Climate finance is critical to addressing climate change because large-scale investments are required to significantly reduce emissions (mitigation), and for adaptation (coping with adverse effects).

Several funding portfolios have been established with the major one on the scene being the Green Climate Fund (GCF) specifically established as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties. The funding portfolios run into billions of dollars.

But are the funds achieving the intended objective? African Development Bank (AfDB) representative in Zimbabwe, Mary Manneko Monyau, does not think so.

“Africa is shortchanged by the lack of sufficient climate financing. Much more needs to be done to increase Africa’s access to climate finance,” she said during her keynote address at the Fifth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA V) in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, from October 28-30, 2015.

With complicated processes involved to access climate financing, there are fears from the African group that the funds could be turning into another story of ‘Dead Aid’ for Africa – as described by Zambian economist, Dambisa Moyo’s analysis of development aid to Africa criticizing the approach which scarcely involves Africa’s officials on what to be done and ends up achieving very little.

“In recent years we have seen a plethora of these financing mechanisms but not benefiting much to Africa,” observed Dr. Joseph Kabyemera, Coordinator of the ClimDev Africa special Fund, an initiative of the African Development Bank.

Dr. Kabyemera believes Africa must harness its own home grown climate-financing initiatives instead of continuing to rely on foreign resources that may never materialize.

“We as Africans must change our outlook. For a long time, we have not had our own instrument for financing, domestically, regionally and continentally. We have to harness our own resources instead of waiting for other people to do it for us,” Dr. Kabyemera said. He pointed out that most funds that have been established are mitigation related – a component that Africa is less interested in, not just because of the continent’s adaptation bias but also due to the complicated processes involved in accessing the funds.

And continuing with the theme of Africa’s independence, Washington Zhakata, Director of the Climate Change Management at Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate believes the continent’s options are only possible with a unified voice.

Multi-billion dollar portfolios

“We need options. Annex one parties (to the Convention – developed nations) have been announcing billions of dollars in successive conferences but little is coming out it. If the developed countries remain adamant, we need to start looking at alternative ways. For example, we in Zimbabwe have been saying let us start pricing our minerals right and speaking with one voice . . . that is the only way to move forward,” said Zhakata.

However, Dr. Fatima Denton, Coordinator of the Africa Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), argues for Africa’s opportunities amid forced mitigation by the powers that be.

“The simple answer is yes, mitigation is being forced on Africa,” said Dr. Denton. “We’ve seen a dilution of some of the sacred principles . . . there is a strong current that everybody must mitigate. But we have to play catch up. We have to embrace mitigation by identifying opportunities for our own growth,” she said.

As debate at boardroom level rages on, the realities of climate change for the poor are getting clearer and more menacing by each passing day as 45-year old Heaviness Munsanje of Hang’umba Village in Pemba would testify.

With little knowledge that there are multi-billion dollar climate financing portfolios set up in the name of the poor and vulnerable communities, Munsanje and several others are left to struggle on their own.

Providing for her child’s food requirements has not been easy this year after she suffered crop failure due to drought. Struggling to keep up with her own special dietary requirements due to her HIV positive status, Munsanje hopes the 2015/16 farming season will be different to avoid what she has gone through.

“Apart from the poor rainfall, I was not well during much of the farming season. I have had to beg and sometimes do pieces of work for additional food over the past three months”, said Munsanje, describing the government relief programme as a timely intervention.

Munsanje is but one of thousands of people across the country earmarked for relief support to cope with food shortages. Such situations have become common in recent years as droughts have become frequent and intense – a phenomenon that scientists link to global warming causing climate change.

“There is evidence of temperature rise over the past three decades as well as frequency and severity of floods and droughts over the last sixty years,” says Dr Joseph Kanyanga, Zambia’s lead Author at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Dr. Kanyanga, who is also the Deputy Director at Zambia’s Meteorological Department told delegates at the CCDA V that “These are some of the pointers to the changing climate”, which he said at local level, are discerned through length of rainfall and general changes to weather patterns affecting both social and economic activities.

And Dr. Opha Pauline Dube of the University of Botswana stressed the argument that Africa is the most vulnerable because it is the poorest and therefore has the least ability to cope with devastating changes.

Common but differentiated responsibility

“Africa leads in poverty and its natural resource dependency economies make matters worse,” said Dr. Dube, further highlighting: “African cities are set to suffer the most due to increased urbanisation.”

With this background and glaring realities as highlighted above, Africa has continued pushing for adaptation and the tone would not be different at the upcoming climate talks COP21 in Paris, France in December.

It is not ethical for one-sixth of humanity to go to bed hungry every night, whilst the rest celebrate huge appetite for consumable goods,” says Fatima Denton of ACPC, adding that time had come for Africa to stand and take up its place in the ‘new world order’.

She said: “It is a new order that suggests that one of our most sacred capitals, our natural capital, cannot be subjected to further reckless exploitation without a renewal process. Africa demands the sacred principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ to be given a central place at the Paris negotiations.”

Over the years, based on past experiences, Africa has allegedly failed to influence negotiations at successive climate change conferences due to lack of a unified voice.

It is this cancer that the Climdev-Africa programme, an initiative of the African Union Commission (AUC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) has been trying to heal.

One way of doing this has been organising the Climate Change and Development in Africa conferences – a platform for stakeholder engagement and consolidating Africa’s development agenda in the changing climate.

This year’s CCDA was organised under the theme: Africa Climate Change and Sustainable Development: What is at stake at Paris and beyond.

“For Africa, climate change has massive consequences; the continent contributes the least to greenhouse gases but tends to be the most vulnerable to its consequences . . . it is a threat to human survival in Africa,” Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwean Vice President, told delegates.

Mnangagwa said the realities of climate change are not far-fetched citing the energy crisis that his country and Zambia are currently facing caused by low water levels at the Kariba dam on which the two southern Africa countries have their largest Hydro-power generation plants.

“Africa is already grappling with recurring droughts due to climate change. Currently, Zimbabwe and Zambia would attest to this through power shortages caused by low water levels in the Zambezi river that feeds into our hydro-power generation,” he said.

And summing up Africa’s message to COP 21, and the need for a fair and just deal, Dr. Denton said: “Indeed, today is symbolised by a confident youth that is demanding a new and fair treaty, not merely one that regulates global emissions, but a social contract that will hold current generations responsible, not for what they did, but especially for what they are not doing. The price of inaction is as grave as the recklessness of continuing to pollute the earth as we continue to condemn our women and children to a lifelong exercise of searching for food, fuel and water.”

But even as climate financing is turning into ‘Dead Aid’, Heaviness Munsanje of Pemba district, and millions of other vulnerable groups are seeking for practical solutions that will see them grow enough for their families whether it rains or not. [IDN-InDepthNews – 06 November 2015]

Writer’s previous IDN article: Affordable Technology is Crucial for Smallholders to Address Climate Change

Photo: Opening session of Fifth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA V)

2015 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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