Thursday, December 13, 2007

Different responsibilities for climate change

We must all act with a greater sense of urgency. We have different responsibilities for the past; and we should all take common responsibility for the future. South Africa stands ready.
These are the words of Environmental Affairs minister van Schalkwyk speaking at the United Nations climate-change conference in Bali. For full story see link to Mail & Guardian online.

What exactly is South Africa standing ready for? Here is a synopsis:

1. Ready to receive adaptation funding. South Africa played a key role in the creation of a $500 million per year Adaptation Fund. The fund will be financed by a 2% tax on CDM projects. For more see article in Herald Tribune. How much will flow to South Africa and the rest of Africa is as yet unclear. As sub-Saharan Africa is very vulnerable to climate change this looks like a positive development.

2. Ready to leapfrog into low-carbon growth: the new multilateral climate regime should galvanise deep reductions in harmful emissions for developed countries, and enable developing countries to leap-frog to a low carbon-intensity growth path. How is this leap frogging envisaged to work? In an earlier statement by the minister it was said that
...on the part of developing countries, building on our existing contributions, a range of measurable actions could be undertaken. In addition to participation in up-scaled clean development mechanism (CDM) activities, this could include sustainable development policies and measures (SD PAMS), or reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD).

Based on historical trends, the CDM did not favour Africa. Only 2.6% of the 850 CDM projects worldwide were in Africa. But the Bali talks brought some hope that this will change. South Africa, with very high per capita greenhouse emissions and inefficient power stations certainly can do better in engaging with the CDM.

SD PAMs is a proposal that goes beyond the CDM. The rationale is explained in an earlier submission to the UNFCCC as follows:
The experience of the CDM to date, however, suggests that projects that produce large amounts of emission reductions, such as those targeting F-gases, often have little tangible benefit for local sustainable development, while other projects that have direct benefits for local communities may deliver fewer CERs and are accompanied by high transaction costs. Thus, although sustainable development is one of the two purposes of the CDM, and of a key concern to developing countries, the CDM only provides monetary incentives for the other, GHG reduction, purpose.

How this will work in practice remains to be seen. This becomes more difficult when markets start trading in uniform emission reduction credits.

According to the IUCN, the prospect for jointly achieving climate and conservation objectives by reducing emissions from deforestation and ecosystem degradation (REDD) has attracted significant interest within the environmental community. The Guardian reports with optimism that deforestation will for the first time be seriously included in the agenda for future negotations on a post Kyoto multilateral climate regime.

The contours of a climate roadmap for South Africa seems to emerge: continued adaptation while receiving credits for cleaning up our act and restoring our ecosystems. This strategy does suppose that developed nations start paying for adaptation and accept stricter caps on carbon in future. With Australia on board all eyes are on the US, again.

Back to the opening statement. How much responsibility we really share is another question. That is probably why it is called different reponsibilities. We take the responsibility of receiving well, you take the responsibility of giving well.

Or maybe we should seriously think about adding a bit more carrots, sticks and sermons ourselves?

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