UN climate agreement fell short of expectations

Monday, December 16th, 2019 22:42 |
United Nations. Photo/Courtesy

The United Nations meeting on climate change ended on Sunday in Madrid, Spain with a compromise deal on the key question of increasing the global response to curbing carbon.

After two extra days and nights of negotiations, delegates to the UN Climate Summit reached an agreement that all countries will need to put new climate pledges on the table by the time of the next conference in Glasgow next year.

But the agreement fell short of expectations that the summit would finalise the rulebook for the Paris Accord of 2015, which enjoins nations to limit global temperatures to below two degrees Celsius.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his disappointment at the outcome of the two weeks and two extra days and nights of negotiations as the delegates from almost 200 nations sought a battle plan to tackle global warming.

While the priorities were a call to climate action, mitigation efforts and adaptation, the underlying issue underpinning the negotiations was finance.

Some groups asked for more financing to move forward with climate action plans, including resources for technology transfer and capacity building. A UN study estimates that Africa would alone need climate adaptation finance of around $50 billion (Sh5 trillion) annually by 2050.

Many African countries have not received the climate finance promised by wealthy nations and whatever was made available through international bodies was very difficult to access.

What was at stake during COP25 for Kenya and other African countries severely hit by the climate change crisis? Africa accounts for less than four per cent of the global carbon emissions, but the continent is the most vulnerable in terms of the impact of climate change.

While most of the world works to significantly reduce their carbon footprint, in Africa the focus is on finding ways to cope with increasing climate-related disasters and achieving economic development with minimum carbon emissions.

According to climate specialist Richard Washington, Africa is more vulnerable than any other region to the world’s changing weather patterns.  African society is very closely coupled with the climate system; hundreds of millions of people depend on rainfall to grow their food.

The African climate system is controlled by an extremely complex mix of large-scale, largely understudied weather systems. The degree of expected climate change in Africa is large, with projected decreases in rainfall.

Kenya must draw lessons from the climate talks and seriously take note of expert caution that Africa could be walking into a catastrophe. 

The capacity for adaptation to climate change is low; poverty equates to reduced choice at the individual level while governance has generally failed to prioritise and act on climate change.

Kenya has taken some steps to respond to the climate emergency that has increased the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, causing loss of lives, diminished livelihoods, reduced crop and livestock production, and damaged infrastructure.

The government has developed a five-year National Climate Action Plan to guide the mainstreaming of adaptation and mitigation actions into sector functions of the national and county governments.

All stakeholders must be urgently engaged in these actions since the climate crisis is posing a major threat to the country’s development agenda. [email protected]

More on News