The following post was written by AWF Program Design Officer for Europe Danny McGahey. Danny was part of an AWF delegation that attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 17th Conference of Parties (UNFCCC COP 17), in Durban, South Africa.
Returning home from Durban we hear the news that negotiations were extended by two days in order to secure agreement for the “Durban platform for advanced action” on climate change. This commitment to secure renewed consensus among all parties is a positive sign that countries are aware of the seriousness of the issues at stake. Over the course of the UNFCCC COP 17 we have reflected on what these discussions might mean for the African continent, it’s people and it’s wildlife.
The AWF delegation at the 2011 Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. From left: Kathleen Fitzgerald, Harry van der Linde, Helen Gichohi, Danny McGahey, Andrea Athanas (front).
Essentially, under the Durban platform all countries have agreed to negotiate a multilateral agreement by 2015 to be operational by 2020. This was in return for the commitment of the EU and several other developed countries to extend the Kyoto protocol by five to eight years. It is welcome news that there is still hope in reaching a multilateral agreement, but with the science suggesting that emissions must be curbed by 2017 at the latest to avoid runaway climate change, this could be too late for many of the most vulnerable wildlife and people.
Throughout the COP AWF has been emphasizing the urgency of the situation. At the CIFOR Forest Day 5 AWF President Helen Gichohi through her keynote address stressed the reduced adaptive capacity of many African ecosystems following the loss of key habitats or refugia. Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems are already being impacted by an increase in extreme climatic events such as droughts and floods. At the same time Africa's forests are being lost at four times the global average releasing a significant amount of carbon into the atmosphere.
Some positive progress has also emerged from discussions on REDD+ at Durban, particularly over the measurement of baseline emissions levels. These are important developments for AWF as we continue to work with forest-dependent people to develop REDD+ certified projects across Africa. Financing the required forest conservation to achieve reduced emissions from deforestation remains an issue, however. Private finance will be essential and at the COP the private sector reiterated the need for governments to provide the right policy signals. Establishing a regulatory market will be essential for REDD to move from a marginal investment to mainstream.
Danny is AWF’s Program Design Officer for Europe. He has a strong background in issues concerning conservation, people, livestock and the environment, and community governance.
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