November 30, 2012
The Chair of the African Group of Negotiators has told delegates from the continent that whatever Africa will take out from the ongoing UN climate negotiations will depend on both their grasp of the issues as well as effective presence at working sessions.
Mr. Dlamini Emmanuel, who has expressed cautious optimism at the outcome of the ongoing UN climate conference in Qatar, says previous instances when some delegates treated trips for these talks as holiday breaks, have cost the continent its own fair share of the bargain.
In a meeting with Dr. Fatima Denton, the Coordinator the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) and other officials from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the chief negotiator said what Africa brings home from Doha would depend on a clear mastery of the issues by the negotiators.
“As we move towards the Ministerial level, it is clear that our delegates need a better grasp of the issues, and not just the position that other partners hold on those issues, but why they hold them”, he said.
His comments follow concerns by many African activists that the continent is lagging behind in the negotiations with some of its key demands to be delivered in Doha, laying in doubt.
This is not the first time delegates are facing accusations of this kind. Even at previous COP meetings delegates have repeatedly been accused of not participating enough, instead spending much of their time shopping and touring host cities.
“You see, if we are not present during the discussions; or, if we do not show a clear understanding of the issues, we would neither be able to lead them nor infuse our position into the final documents of the Conference”, he said.
He admitted the existence of some capacity gaps among new delegates but said the lead negotiators could ably represent the continent, despite the ever-changing rough world of climate negotiations.
Earlier, Emmanuel warned that any future agreement coming out from Doha should be more than just a “mitigation deal”.
African agencies like the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) are concerned that failure by Africa to cut a meaningful share in the outcome of the talks, directly increases the continent’s vulnerability to the harsh impacts climate change.
Key on the agenda of the African group is the green climate fund to help countries implement adaptation and mitigation measures but also extension of the commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol that mainly conditions wealthy nations to emission reduction targets.
Chebet Maikut who is coordinating Uganda’s negotiation team admits existing knowledge gaps among delegates mainly as a result of frequent changes of the teams by governments.
“Like for the case of Uganda we keep having new people on board and sometimes this slows the process because they spend some time trying to understand not only the different positions but also the processes of the negotiations” he observed.
“The good thing is that the team always has experienced people who help guide the process but as you may see, this affects their overall input in the talks because they have to balance between participation and guiding the relatively new colleagues” he added.
Dr. Fatima Denton, who has managed several climate change programs across Africa and a veteran of COP negotiations, said that she understands the nature of challenges that negotiators often face and assured the African Group of ACPC’s willingness to continue providing technical assistance.