The African Group and Durban: The United African Position at UN Climate Talks

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be held in Durban, South Africa, between 28 November and 9 December 2011, represents a critical moment in the international climate change negotiations. Continue reading “The African Group and Durban: The United African Position at UN Climate Talks”

PACJA letter to Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt

Prime Minister of Sweden

Rosenbad 4

SE-103 33 Stockholm

Sweden

26 November 2009

Dear Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt,

I write to applaud the important leadership role played by Sweden and the European Union ever since the negotiations on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change commenced in 1991 and in particular, the EU’s historical support for the Kyoto Protocol, and its recent commitment to unconditionally cut its emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. Sweden’s commitments to emission reductions and to development are well known and provide an important inspiration to others.

It is therefore with regret that I write to express my growing concern that the international climate negotiations remain paralysed in large part due to the unwillingness of industrialised countries to commit to deep enough greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, or to sufficient levels of long-term funding and technology transfer to address the scale of this global challenge and enable adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.

With every day that passes, the intensifying impacts of climate change illustrate the need to seal a fair and effective deal in Copenhagen. And yet, the climate negotiations continue to center on that which is politically viable versus what science demands and humanity needs. The low level of commitments reflected in the latest proposals by industrialised countries leaves me with a great sense of forbidding for my continent and for the Earth.

The success of the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen depends on the role that Sweden plays as Presidency of the European Union in ensuring the EU and its member states  reduce their own excessive energy consumption, commit themselves to mandatory emission reduction targets and help to finance poorer countries’ move away from fossil fuels. Only then is there a real chance to forge the global deal that prevents climate catastrophe for once and for all.

Climate change is threatening the balance of life everywhere on Earth. But nowhere else in the world have we seen greater impacts than on the African continent. Here, the poorest and most vulnerable to climate change now stand on the frontline of a battle to which they have in no way contributed.

The people of Africa are suffering now; they are dying now.  In local communities throughout my own country in Kenya, our women and children face a myriad of stark survival challenges including poverty, inequality, underdevelopment, and unsustainable livelihoods. Over ten million Kenyans are now at risk of starvation, largely because climate change is sapping our water resources, destroying our fertile land, and spreading water-borne diseases on already over-burdened health systems.

My continent is slipping rapidly into a climate change-induced chaos. But this is a chaos not of Africa’s making. It is one due to the rich world’s historical emissions and current high-energy consumption levels.  Not only are industrialised countries responsible for global warming given their huge historical and present emissions. But as well, they owe their current prosperity to decades of overuse of our common atmospheric space.

Honouring these historical responsibilities is not only right; it is the essential basis of a fair and just solution to climate change. Unfortunately, the European Union and other industrialised countries are still a long way from acknowledging the extent of their climate debts, or recognising the need to reduce them, or of finding ways to effectively and fairly address their responsibilities.

With climate crises looming large throughout the developing world, anything less than a just and equitable agreement at COP15 will be as catastrophic as the climate change impacts that my continent is now struggling to deal with. We are called on to measure our ambition against the scale of the task, not the political barriers we must overcome to achieve it. We must evaluate our leadership against the task to be undertaken, not the actions of others. The European Union’s ambition must be raised even further. The time to do this is now.

Therefore, I call upon the EU to agree in Copenhagen to:

Copenhagen outcomes. Commit to fulfill its legally binding commitment to undertake a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol commencing in 2013. The United States’ continuing unwillingness to sign the Kyoto Protocol must not be a pretext for other countries to refuse to fulfill their obligations in international law. An outcome for the United States must be found under the Convention, as agreed in the Bali Action Plan. Sweden is called on to lead the fight to save the Kyoto Protocol, and ensure all countries particularly in the EU, honor their obligations in international law.

Mitigation. Cut its domestic emissions by much higher levels than your current conditional offer. The worlds’ largest polluters must reduce their emissions without “offsetting” the burden to developing countries. To minimize the risk of catastrophic tipping points, provide development space for developing countries and share the remaining atmospheric space fairly, the European Union and other developed countries are called on to cut your aggregate domestic emissions by 50% by 2017.

Adaptation. Compensate Africa for climate-related harms and damages. It is the historical emissions of the European nations and the other industrialized countries that are harming Africa. Those countries that have contributed most to causing climate change must compensate those affected for actual harms and damages, and for lost opportunities for our development;

Finance. Ensure financing for the full incremental costs of mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer. Polluters and not the poor should pay for the costs of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Africa did little to cause climate change, yet we bear the adverse effects. Developed countries spent trillions to stabilize their financial system. They must stand ready to make at least 5% of their GDP available to stabilize the Earth’s atmosphere and address the devastating impacts of their historical emissions on Africa and other developing countries.

Technology transfer. Transfer technologies to developing countries to enable us to mitigate and adapt. These must be accessible, affordable and adaptable. We need an emergency mobilization to place technologies in every village and town if we are to curb emissions within the next decade while bettering people’s lives. Just as a Marshall Plan supported Europe to recover from a great misfortune, an even greater effort is required to prevent further misfortune visiting Africa.

Accountable institutions. Ensure that institutions are effective and accountable to all countries – including those of Africa – under the Conference of Parties. We must move beyond the donor-driven approaches of the past towards a true partnership. Institutions must include new and enhanced mechanisms for finance, technology transfer and adaptation. They must be directly accountable to all countries, including the countries of Africa.

A shared vision to keep Africa safe. Agree a shared vision of keeping Africa and other vulnerable places safe. Africa will warm around 1.5 times the global average. A global goal of below “2 degrees” is literally a death sentence to millions of Africans. I call on you to embrace global goals for finance, technology, adaptation and mitigation that will keep temperatures on the African continent well below 1.5C, while enabling us to address the inevitable suffering and devastation even this level of warming will cause. Anything less threatens untold suffering, and massive violations of our fundamental freedoms and human rights.

The world looks to Sweden, to the European Union and to its Member States to usher in a new era of enlightened leadership and responsibility. We need the readiness of all industrialised nations to depart from the patterns of behaviour that deepen inequality and endanger the stability of the climate system. But more than anything, now we need Sweden’s steadfast commitment to ensure that Copenhagen is a key turning point for climate justice – a major milestone on the journey towards safeguarding the Earth’s climate system and ensuring a future in which the rights and aspirations of all people can be realized.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Wangari Maathai