Climate Change Action Africa
African environmental experts meet in South Africa in August to strategise on a continental position to incorporate climate change adaptation programmes in national development policies.
The Climate Change Action Africa 2007 conference will be hosted by the International Quality and Productivity Centre (IQPC) in Midrand from 28 to 30 August.
Speakers will be drawn from the private sector, government departments and civil society from across the continent.
The conference will be held under the theme “Adaptation Policies and Strategies for Sustainable Development in Africa” and is expected to provide insights into climate change adaptation policies and strategies from the African continent as well as identifying the long term effects and impact of climate change in Africa.
Participants will, among other issues, examine measures being taken by industries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and debate the potential of alternative energy sources such as bio-fuels.
They will also consider ways of linking national and international climate change policies, with focus on building capacity for future challenges.
Other issues to be presented will include a case study on the BASIC project, a two-year European Union-funded project that aims to link national and international climate policy by strengthening the institutional capacity of Brazil, China, India and South Africa on climate change.
The project enhances the four countries’ ability to undertake analytical work to determine climate change actions best suited to their national circumstances, interests and priorities.
Jackie van der Westhuizen, senior project manager with IQPC, said Africa is paying the price for the evils it least contributed in committing.
“Ironically, Africa is the continent that will be hardest hit by the effects of climate change, yet have contributed least to pollution levels due to the relatively small part it has played in the global production of greenhouse gases,” said van der Westhuizen.
Adaptation is dependent on the various countries’ adaptive capacities towards extreme environmental events that result from climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has indicated that the floods of February 2000 in southern Africa exposed the vast differences in adaptive capacities between and among countries with regards to responding to natural disasters. The floods mainly affected Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Adaptive capacity was influenced largely by the ability to communicate potential risks to vulnerable communities and the ability to react as a result of perceived risks.
South Africa has a National Climate Change Response Strategy drafted by its Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism in 2004.
The strategy highlights the importance of adaptation to climate change because of the country’s vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change.
In its climate change programme launched in 2000, Namibia has placed greater emphasis on adaptation actions needed to prevent or reduce the negative effects.
It would be interesting to note how far these and other African countries have gone in drafting, adopting and implementing national adaptation strategies.
It is also important that nations take climate change as no longer just an environmental issue. As the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan argued in 2006, climate change “is an all-encompassing threat.”
His successor, Ban Ki-moon, has taken climate change as one of his priorities and has voiced his support for adaptation strategies.
“Adequate, large-scale adaptation measures have the potential to alleviate some of the worst consequences outlined in the report, if Governments take action without delay,” he said in a statement at the release of the IPCC Climate Change 2007 report in Brussels in April 2007.
However, the calls for adaptation strategies should not be taken to substitute the on-going climate change mitigation efforts.
The conference in South Africa comes hard on the heels of the worldwide Live Earth concerts that were held on 7 July 2007 to raise awareness on climate change.
The concerts were held in Johannesburg, Hamburg, London, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo under the theme “The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis.”
It will also come just over a month after a meeting held from 11 to 13 July in Kigali, Rwanda, intended to discuss and harmonise Africa’s position on climate change.
The position will be presented at the eighth Conference of Parties (COP 8) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Madrid, Spain scheduled for 3 to 14 September.
Mukundi Mutasa — SANF 07 No 35, July 2007