By David Singh
BAMAKO, 19 September: Last Friday over 50 African Ministers of the Environment attending the Fourth Special Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) adopted a declaration endorsing an ‘African Common Position’ as the basis for negotiations by African States at the next round of UN Climate Change negotiations (COP17) to be held in Durban, South Africa starting 17 November.
The development of the Africa Common Position is being guided by agreement that a legally binding pact on emissions reduction is required under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); that the Kyoto Protocol needs leadership; and that developed countries should provide this leadership by ensuring that there is no gap between the first (2008-2012) and second commitment periods (2012-2016) of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; these amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012 - the first commitment period.
According to the UNFCCC, developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of emissions in the atmosphere due to more than 150 years of industrial activity. The Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” There are, however, objections from some key industrialized countries that see both the Protocol and its proposed second period as ineffective.
The so-called Bamako Declaration adopted on Friday at the AMCEN meeting, states that the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol still constitute the fundamental global framework on climate change and requires full and effective implementation. It also states that climate negotiations must produce two outcomes: the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention; and a second period of mitigation commitments for Annex 1 Parties under the Protocol - these parties include Europe, the former eastern bloc, Australia, Japan New Zealand and the United States.
A decision on strengthening the environment pillar of the sustainable development framework invited the international community to support the African Union’s recommendation to strengthen and transform UNEP into an international specialized institution for the environment based in Nairobi Kenya.
AMCEN was established in December 1985, following a conference of African ministers of environment held in Cairo, Egypt. Its mandate is to provide advocacy for environmental protection in Africa; to ensure that basic human needs are met adequately and in a sustainable manner; to ensure that social and economic development is realized at all levels; and to ensure that agricultural activities and practices meet the food security needs of the region.