Statement by Achim Steiner to the Committee of African Heads of States on Climate Change

Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, 29 June 2011 - Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your meeting here today comes some six months before the UN climate convention meeting in Durban, South Africa.

And just under 12 months before Rio+20-20 years after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 that established the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which in turn spawned in 1997 the Kyoto Protocol, the world's first greenhouse gas emission reduction treaty.

In terms of Durban, the political landscape is far more challenging than it was in the run up to the Copenhagen climate meeting of 2009.

Some of the euphoria and perhaps confidence has calmed.

In some parts of the world the science of climate change has in some political and media circles been put on the back foot sowing seeds of doubt in the mind of the public.

And while the UN climate convention meeting in Cancun at the end of 2010 did repair and restore the negotiating framework after Copenhagen-which was no mean feat-we are still far from the international agreements needed to decisively address climate change and keep a global temperature rise within the 2 degree C or even 1.5 degree C limit.

An estimate of that gap has been made by UNEP and climate collaborating centres world-wide.

It shows that with the highest ambitions of nations and supporting policies, emissions would be reduced to around 49Gt over the coming years. But that still leaves a gap of 5Gt that needs to urgently bridged.

5Gt is equivalent to the annual global emissions from all of the world's car, buses, and transport in 2005.

There is a sense that while recent discussions, most notably in Bonn, Germany only a few weeks ago did make progress, big gaps remain between the pace of political and practical progress and the pace of climate change.

There is uncertainty too over the Kyoto Protocol particularly if we take into account the declaration made by Russia, Japan and Canada at the recent G8 meeting.

Small wonder that some negotiators and governments, in Africa but also beyond must be wondering how much can realistically be achieved in Durban.

Privately, some are also wondering whether real engagement should be postponed in favour of Rio+20 in June next year.

I would suggest that this would be a mistake.

There remains a great deal that can and must be achieved in Durban as a way of moving the climate negotiations forward and also in empowering a mood of greater confidence on broad cooperative agreements in Rio.

Perhaps the time has come to question the old adage that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

Let us focus on what can be agreed, rather than paralyzing or postponing the entire process.

And let us look at complimentary measures that tackle not only climate change but broad development issues such as human health and food security, some of which could be addressed within but also in parallel to the formal negotiations.

Because in a world of rising greenhouse gas emissions, in which a region like Africa is perhaps amongst the most vulnerable, every option needs exploring especially if it offers multiple opportunities and at low costs or even cost savings.


As a result of the pledges made pre and post Copenhagen, and the formalizing of those in the Cancun Agreements, developed economies agreed $30 billion in fast start funding as part of an overall $100 billion package.

Part of the diplomacy surrounding Durban must address pledges and promises into fully met financial flows.

Cancun gave the green light to the Green Fund to assist developing economies-progress here could be among the litmus tests for Durban.

There is broad support for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD or REDD+).

UNEP, in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization and the UN Development Programme with support from countries such as Norway, have been readying developing countries including several in Africa for REDD.

Conserving carbon stocks in forests offers multiple benefits in line with the broader Green Economy initiative including conservation of biodiversity to securing water supplies and generating jobs in natural resource management.

A voluntary carbon market in REDD credits is already emerging and according to some estimates voluntary-credit transactions totaled 131.2 million tons in 2010, a rise of 34 percent from the previous year.

The market may grow to 400 million tons by 2012 and 800 million by 2015, studies suggest.

Durban represents an opportunity to move the issue of a formal REDD carbon market forward.


Africa has been clearly identified as requiring assistance in terms of a large-scale, predictably and sufficiently funded, adaptation programme.

There has certainly been convergence on the need for a strong adaptation framework, which has to address the concerns of vulnerable countries, particularly those in Africa.

What is lacking is clarity on the types of adaptation actions to be implemented. However, using existing National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) as a starting point may help to achieve more clarity on the types of actions that need to be implemented.

This would be a first step towards ensuring timely and realistic adaptation across the African region which has the largest number of Least Developed Countries (NAPAs have been developed mainly for LDCs).

Meanwhile UNEP is working with the World Meteorological Organization and through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to try and provide greater precision on likely national impacts of climate change.

  • This meets a request from African Ministers in charge of the environment so as to assist in climate-proofing economies and as key to improved investment choices in a climate constrained world where the certainties of the past in terms of rainfall to sea levels may be overturned.

Mitigation Actions

Fast tracking National Appropriate Mitigation Actions offer enormous potential, not least in Africa.

In many ways they can act as catalysts and provide what one might term blue-prints for investors in how a nation views its development path in terms of clean energy to sustainable agriculture.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol offers one important instrument for assisting in achieving mitigation actions alongside assisting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in terms of poverty and energy access.

With exception of say countries like South Africa and some north African countries, penetration of the CDM has lagged behind Asia and Latin America.

The situation is improving: A survey by UNEP's Risoe Energy Centre indicates that carbon credit flows to Africa from all current schemes will eventually be worth just under $300 million.

Africa-wide, some 260 CDM projects could be up and running or in the pipeline by 2012 triggering close to $1 billion in carbon credits.

Durban can address reform of the CDM while also providing solutions on how to maintain and accelerate its positive impacts beyond the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

Meanwhile UNEP is also sharing experience on climate finance-especially through the UNEP Finance Initiative, the Sustainable Energy Finance Alliance and the Bilateral Finance Working Group- focusing on the role of public finance in leveraging private investment.

This is being shared with the Transitional Committee and emphasizing the importance of "readiness" for finance by, for example focusing not only on the financial resources but also on the conditions to absorb and use them.

And we have embarked on a major initiative on supporting countries to undertake their Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs) focusing on both adaptation and mitigation technologies.

We are also assisting to spearhead with partners a Global Adaptation Network with a key focus on Africa.

These initiatives will be important to create a solid foundation in Africa for the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) as proposed by the Cancun Agreement.

National public policies can have a major impact here too. UNEP's annual assessment of clean energy investments will be published later next week in collaboration with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The sharp increase in investments in wind and geothermal in Kenya will be spotlighted which, in part have been triggered by that country's decision to establish a feed-in tariff.

Complementary Measures

Actions to support the uptake of renewables can also focus on addressing 'peverse subsidizes'-an issues that has often been discussed in for a such as the G8 and G20, and one area that could be part of a broad cooperative package in Rio next year.

Fossil fuel subsides account for as much as $600 billion or more a year in government spending world-wide including developing economies.

Some countries, such as Indonesia and India, are already moving on these which will in turn free up funds for other priorities while making renewables more competitive.

They are making more targeted provisions for the vulnerable as opposed to a blanket subsidy which evidence shows tends to benefit the well-off and the industry rather than the poor.

And what about action on so called non-C02 pollutants?

A few weeks ago in Bonn, UNEP and the WMO launched the Integrated Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone Assessment.

Black carbon is a form of particulate air pollution most often produced from biomass burning, cooking with solid fuels and diesel engines.

Tropospheric or ground-level ozone is formed from methane emissions from sources such as rubbish tips, paddy fields and coal mines.

The major advantage of actions here are many. Interestingly and unlike C02 that can stay in the atmosphere for centuries, these non C02 pollutants are short-lived pollutants so the benefits can be almost immediate.

Major findings/conclusions from curbing these pollutants include:

  • Close to 2.5 million deaths avoided annually

  • Avoided crop damage equal to up to four per cent of the annual global maize, wheat, soya and rice production

  • A minimizing of disruption to rainfalls patterns in Asia but also Africa

  • A chance to keep a global temperature rise to below 2 degrees C over the short to medium-term

  • But not an alibi for action on C02, but again a complimentary measure with some of the actions possible under regional air quality agreements for example

Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,

The Rio Earth Summit of 1992 provided some of the key instruments for tackling emerging challenges, many of which are becoming ever more real and sobering as the years ensue.

Rio+20 offers an opportunity to evolve these and the sustainable development agenda onto an ever more implemented footing.

But there is a great deal to be done between now and June 2012, starting here in Malabo and running through and beyond Durban later in the year.

Climate change may be ever more sobering in terms of the science and the likely impacts especially in respect to Africa, but there is also a mood on this Continent to engage on the opportunities decisive action represents.

And a growing awareness here and across the globe that there are far more choices and room for maneuver than were available in 1992.

Choices and actions that in turn can assist in generating a positive outcome in South Africa on the road to forward-looking and broad cooperative agreements across the full suite of sustainability issues in June next year.


Thank you


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