The dialogue intended to serve as a timely public forum for debating the goals and challenges for Africa’s climate negotiators at the upcoming UNFCCC COP17 in Durban.
The dialogue featured inputs by leading climate change experts from around the world and particularly the Global South, was a pre-COP17 brainstorming session that brought together African constituencies, the diplomatic corps, academia, NGOs, including diaspora communities, provincial and local government officials, traditional institutions, research organisations/networks, thought leaders and the media.
After the perceived failures of COP15 in Copenhagen and COP16 in Cancún to address the substantive issues of a climate deal, the world is now looking to Durban to ensure an equitable and effective agreement is reached, with the opportunity ripe at ‘Africa’s COP’ for Africa’s negotiators to secure a deal that will benefit the entire developing world. The role of the Global South within this dynamic is critical: the BASIC group may be the lynchpin in hammering out the final deal, as it did during Copenhagen. Without effective participation by the Africa Group and BASIC, the world could see the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expire without any replacement measures agreed.
KEY POINTS ON GLOBAL SOUTH INTERESTS
While Brazil, China, India and South Africa have specific national self-interests in respect of their achievment of national developmental goals and sometimes their interests do not converge (such as on carbon emissions), there is a number of areas that could be better pulled together at the negotiations:
Coordinating domestic developmental agenda goals; promoting green initiatives as a bargaining chip in the negotiations; strengthening a common position regarding multilateral negotiations. However, there are country specificities that must be born in mind. India has particularly strong interests in outcomes that will boost its focus on technology including in the areas of technology, services and environment. China would prefer an outcome that would allow developing countries to continue accelerating industrial development while making gradual adjustments/adaptation and, therefore, has a low appetite for drastic emissions targets. It is aware that its emissions standings limit its bargaining power outside the G77+China group. Brazil has particular interests in respect of a balance between a varied energy mix, agriculture and environmental protection as these present the best opportunities for government to sell whatever deal is reached domestically. South Africa is unequivocal about the need for a legally binding global agreement with clear targets for reduction of emissions, funding, technology and so forth. It is the only BRICS member that represents a region per se and this both enables it to enhance the legitimacy of it positions and constraints in respect of flexibility required for successful negotiations.
KEY POINTS ON THE AFRICA POSITION
The African Position has been in gestation over a long period of time. It has gradually improved, taking up issues discussed within Africa and in the global south forums like the G77+China each year. While it is morally sound being democratically arrived at in a largely egalitarian process of inter-state negotiations, it presents some practical challenges during negotiations, not least being flexibility and maintaining unity within the African Group during negotiations due to different national circumstances and the pressures from outside. Amongst the myriad issues it that must be addressed, it needs to take on broad concerns around commodification of resources, including the expansion of agri-business on the basis of a green marketing ticket and growing purchase of large pieces of arable land by external players. It needs to have a built ways of decentralising decision-making by allowing regional deans or such sub-components to manage the common positions together with the centre and nation states as is currently the case. There is also a need to develop realistic ‘quick-win’ documents identifying on the basis of the analysis of the specific exigencies of a round of negotiations specific areas that Africa can use to reach specific levels of agreement in this complex and gradual process of building agreements block by block. To increase the legitimacy of the African Common Position, there is a need for a serious public engagement with the people on the ground on what negotiators are doing on their behalf. An agreement that favours the positive discrimination of small-scale farmers should be seen as an important pillar of the position, but African civil society should see itself as game-changers rather than spectators and naysayers on the sidelines by engaging government and business on issues relating to pro-poor agenda. Sustainable development and the Rio Agenda should be the centre piece of the position going into 2012 where there will be review of the Rio Agenda twenty years on.
A combination of national self-interests and a shift of focus caused by the global economic crisis and the Euro debt crisis have resulted in a low political will to make decisive progress towards the desired deal. Yet, the crises may also become catalysts for innovation and positive changes provided Africa and the Global South identify specific chips for bargaining a higher level of ambition on the part of countries worst affected by the crisis. The concerns of women and youth should remain central to the negotiations and, especially the positions of BRICS and Africa. Lastly, the South and Africa need to think seriously about their own finance mechanisms targeting the poor and vulnerable countries.