The negotiations for a
new Climate Change Agreement in 2015 is far advanced after the first commitment
period under the Kyoto protocol ended in December,2012.
France is to hold the
2015 United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change expected to come out
with another “legally binding instrument” or an agreed “outcome with a legal
force” on climate change which will be applicable to all parties to the UNFCCC
and emitters of greenhouse gases. Should the latter outcome be announced, then
Africa, including Ghana will have serious implications.
Before I explain,
let me throw more light on the climate change negotiation process for your
In 1979, the
world recognized climate change as an urgent world problem and held its first Climate
Change Conference meeting and
issued a declaration which calls on governments to anticipate and guard against
potential climate hazards.
From that time
onward, public debate on the change in atmosphere advanced in Toronto, 1988. Over
340 participants from 46 countries all recommended that a comprehensive global framework convention be adopted
to protect the atmosphere.
So, for the first time in the United Nations General
Assembly, Climate change issues were discussed following a proposal by Malta. With
several programmes and scientific bodies put in place to assess the magnitude
and timing of changes, a second world climate change conference was held in
Geneva, 1990 and had the United Nations General Assembly established the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to
negotiate for a Framework Convention on Climate Change.
In responds to the declaration in the climate change
conferences, the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
was adopted in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro and entered into force in 1994.
UNFCCC ultimate objective is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the
atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the
climate system and food production.
So far, 196 countries including Ghana have signed and
ratified. Ghana signed the UNFCCC in 1994 and had it ratified
by parliament of Ghana in September 6, 1995.
the negotiation continued, it was recognized that developed countries are
primarily responsible for the current high levels of green house gas emissions
in the atmosphere based on their pre-industrial era dated back to 1990. Yet, they
have greater technological and financial resources to respond to the problems
that come with the effect of climate change; so in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was then adopted and came into force in 2005 as a
legally binding instrument to place a heavier burden on
developed nations to reduce emissions under the principle of "common but
"Common but differentiated
responsibilities” explains that though effect of Climate change is common to
very country, not all economies have equal capacity to deal with its adverse
since the developed world contribute more to global environmental problems and
yet have technological and financial capacities to deal with the problem, they are
heavily compelled to reduce emissions at the same time, provide financial and technological
support to the developing countries who suffer the most from climate change yet
do not have the necessary capacity to meet the cost of adaptation. So the
adaptation fund was established. Developing countries in the case had voluntary
responsibility to commit to emissions reduction.
Though the protocol
came into force in 2005, its first commitment period actually started in 2008 and
ended in December 31, 2012; so for 5 years while the protocol lasted, developed
countries reported to the convention on their level of emission reduced and other
financial support given to developing countries to address the effects of
However since the protocol
ended, no legally binding instrument has yet been proposed to replace the
protocol; living almost 8 years gap for serious and smart countries to take
advantage of possible emissions to the detriment of least develop countries. I
say eight years because, should a negotiation be reached in Paris 2015, it will
only enter into force in 2020.
Prior to the end of the
protocol, there was an attempt to avoid the gap but unfortunately, the
Copenhagen meeting held in 2009 could not come up with any decision to bridge
the gap. Again, world leaders met in Mexico in 2010, Durban in 2011, and Doha
in 2012, and in Warsaw 2013, to have a clear language and new pathways for the
new Climate change agreement.
Pending a final
negotiation for new legally binding instrument, world leaders will in December,
2014 meet in Lima to draft the final text. Then in Paris 2015, a new Climate Change
agreement will be negotiated to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The outcome is
expected to enter into force and be implemented from 2020 onward.
Two languages are
likely to emerge in the new agreement; thus a “protocol” or an “agreed outcome
with a legal force”. Either of which languages may be adopted has its own implications
on African countries including Ghana. I will explain.
A protocol is a legally
binding instrument which puts stringent measures on developed countries to
reduce emissions. However, developing countries in this case have voluntary and
flexible commitment to make towards reducing emission. This is due to the reasons
given in the Kyoto Protocol.
An outcome with a legal
force means that all countries irrespective of their capabilities will share equal
responsibilities and respond to emission reduction. And when this happens, it will
go in favour of the developed countries because unlike the protocol, developed
countries in this case will not be heavily compelled to support developing countries
in emission reduction.
And with their heavy
technologies and finance capabilities they will be able to deal with the effects
of climate change. While developing countries, struggle to use internally
generated funds to deal with the adverse effects of the climate at the expense
of other developments.
Developing countries can no longer fold their arms and
demand developed countries to pay any historical debt.
Already, the two-week
talk in Bonn in June this year has shown some red lights of a sort. Gao Feng, a
senior representative of the Chinese delegation to the talks said,
"Consensus was being accumulated despite various divergences,"
“He said while
developing countries were asking for a comprehensive and balanced reflection of
mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology transfer, capability building and
transparency of supports in the new deal, as well as in the
"contributions", developed countries focused too much on mitigation,
or emission cuts, in their viewpoints, ignoring their obligation of providing
financial and technological supports to developing countries”.
Now the question; is Africa ready
for an “agreed outcome with a legal force”?
Answer is no, in my opinion. Except for few countries like South Africa, many African
countries including Ghana are not ready for the new pathways likely to hit us
because it is capital intensive and requires proper documentation. All countries
are expected to pledge and prove ways to reduce emissions under what is called
“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)” to be considered in
whether a country has the capacity or not, they must make a commitment towards
emission reduction and present Biannual Update Report in every two years to the
will have to calculate the amount of CO2 it releases into the atmosphere and
how it’s reducing that.
countries have begun putting in their proposals (INDCs). But as it stands now, Ghana
has not proposed anything. And should
COP 20 in Paris come up with an “outcome with a legal instrument” the plights
of developing countries including Ghana will worsen.
as much as some of us want the outcome to favour Africa, some African leaders do
not go to the negotiation prepared. Whereas USA goes to the negotiation table
with their best scientists and skilful negotiators, our scientists and academia
are nowhere to be found.
of finance to support Africa scientists, and the inadequate technical
competence contributes to Africa’s lack of climate change negotiation skills.
It is about time, African governments identify young scientists, develop their
skills to fit into the climate change negotiation process.
as a group is not a party to the convention. They can only make submissions as
individuals but cannot take decisions or negotiate as a group.
therefore is that just as the European Union is party to the convention, the Africa
Union should also endeavour to become parties to the convention. Until this
happens Africa will only be speaking not as a group but as individuals.
Africa should go into this negotiation with a positive mind and not the
attitude of “we are not responsible for climate change” because that fact has
already been established.