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.

African countries, united in the talks as the African Group, intend to use this opportunity to chart a course towards holistic outcomes that curb the growing threat posed by climate change to the African continent, implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, and advance the interests and aspirations of all African countries and peoples.

The UN talks continue under the UN Convention on Climate Change and are based on the ‘Bali Roadmap’ agreed in 2007. The key elements are: cutting emissions (‘mitigation’); preparing for and responding to climate impacts(‘adaptation’); compensating loses and paying for action (‘finance’); sharing and transferring technology and capacity building. These were agreed in tandem with negotiations over a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (the existing system of binding emission targets).

This note details the African Group perspective on some of the key issues on the table in Durban including:

  1. The severe threat climate change poses to Africa and its food security
  2. Addressing the ‘mitigation gap’
  3. Addressing the ‘finance gap’
  4. Building a strong legal architecture to support a global approach

The African Group of Negotiators is committed to outcomes on all of the issues in the negotiations, not just those listed here. For further information, interviews, briefings or quotes on these topics or others from representatives of African nations at the Durban Climate Summit please contact: Seyni Nafo, +27738235823, [email protected]   

For the official documents outlining the African Group of Negotiators’ common position please see:

1. The Situation in Africa

 Africa continues to face numerous severe negative impacts arising from the adverse effects of climate change. Such impacts are hampering Africa’s efforts to attain its development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

Therefore adaptation is an essential priority for the African Group and there is an urgent need for immediate and adequate support for the implementation of adaptation measures and actions through the provision of grant-based public resources.

The African Group proposes that adaptation activities should be funded at full cost through a direct and simplified process that is accountable and open to countries. Agreement on the funding of adaptation activities should come as one part of a balanced package on all issues to implement the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.

There is an urgent need to avoid further loss and damage arising from the adverse effects of climate change on Africa. To do so developed countries must reduce their emissions in line with the most recent science in order to limit the global average temperature increase to well below 1.5°C.

2. Emissions

The African Group enters Durban deeply concerned that the inadequate mitigation pledges, notably by developed countries under the Cancun outcomes, risk an increase in global average temperature of greater than 2°C – and possibly as much as 5°C.[1] Such temperature increases will have catastrophic impacts worldwide, and particularly for Africa due to its high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and low adaptive capacity.

Of further concern is that the mitigation pledges by developed countries amount to less than the voluntary mitigation pledges by developing countries.[2] In Durban the African Group will stress that developed countries must show leadership by raising their level of ambition to the scale required by science and equity.

The African Group will affirm in the negotiations that equity includes the right to equitable sharing of atmospheric space and resources, taking into account the cumulative historical responsibility and use of such resources by developed countries. The fact that cumulative emissions in Africa remain extremely low means Africa’s share of global emissions will need to grow to meet its social and economic development needs.

The African Group’s position is that developed countries must recognise ambitious mitigation commitments for a second and subsequent commitment periods of the Kyoto Protocol. Developed countries must reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2017 and by at least 95% cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. To ensure the environmental integrity of these targets offsets should be limited to 10% and existing loopholes should be closed.

The Group stresses the urgency of agreeing a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in Durban and of elaborating measures to avoid a gap between commitment periods.

3. Finance

The Durban talks must find agreement on the scale of public resources to be provided by developed countries from 2013, building on short-term finance commitments and reaching a scale adequate to meet the needs developing countries in 2020 and beyond.

The African Group is concerned by the insufficient transparency and slow disbursement of the financial resources pledged by developed countries as “fast start” finance for the period 2010-2012, particularly as analysis suggests that a small proportion of these resources are “new and additional”. To address this the African Group proposes a common reporting format for finance pledges.

The African Group is focused on ensuring direct access for all developing countries; and equitable allocation through geographical and needs based criteria; a balance between adaptation and mitigation; and grant-based funding for adaptation activities. The Group continues to emphasize that public finance should be the main source of funding to ensure the sustainability, predictability and adequacy of funding, bearing in mind that private and market finance can play a complementary role.

The African Group’s position is that developed countries should provide scaled up financial support based on an assessed scale of contributions that constitutes at least 1.5% of the gross domestic product of developed countries.

  4. Legal Architecture

The African Group understands that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol constitutes the fundamental global legal framework on climate change and that all actions or measures related to climate change must be in full conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention, in particular those of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

The Group expects that the Durban talks will produce two outcomes in line with the Bali Roadmap:

  1. An agreed outcome on long-term cooperative action to enhance the implementation of the Convention;
  2. An amendment to Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol regarding further mitigation commitments of Annex I Parties for a second commitment period from 2013 to 2017 under the Kyoto Protocol.

The United States (which is not party to the Kyoto Protocol) should undertake legally binding commitments under the Convention that are comparable in magnitude and effort and are measurable, reportable and verifiable with regard to mitigation efforts and the provision of financial and technological resources.

In Durban, the African Group will work so a firewall is maintained between the mitigation commitments of developed countries that are legally binding in nature and the appropriate voluntary mitigation actions by developing countries.

The African Group expects a balanced outcome at the end of the negotiations in Durban, including a legally binding outcome on the scale of emission reductions to be undertaken by developed countries through a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, and a legally binding outcome on the various pillars of the Bali Action Plan in accordance with the Bali Roadmap.

[2] See, sei-international.org/news-and-media/2022

The African Group is the group of 53 African countries represented in the UN climate change negotiations. It is currently chaired by Mr. Tosi Mpanu Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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