THE UNEP 13th GOVERNING COUNCIL MEETING IN NAIROBI
CEI Correspondent: Robert Mburia, Kenya
The Nairobi Declaration
Climate Emergency Institute attended and participated in the UNEP GMGSF-13 (13th Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum) held in Nairobi, Kenya from February 18th to February 19th, 2012. This meeting was a preparatory gathering for the 12th session of the GC/GMEF (Governing Council/ Global Ministerial Environment Forum), which was held from 20th to 22nd February 2012, also in Nairobi.
This meeting was held in advance of the Rio 20+ Summit on sustainable development in Brazil. The strengthening and upgrade of UNEP institutional structure, as well as its capacity in terms of coverage and funding so as to adequately handle the various global environmental challenges, was identified as a major drive in achieving the sustainable development goals, as well as handling the elusive environmental issues. This is clearly outlined in the zero draft where the UNEP is to be upgraded into a specialized agency.
The need for accountability and transparency was reiterated by most of the major groups that participated at the local and national levels, which called for an Ombudsperson for Future Generations. The zero draft draws heavily on environmental issues. Nonetheless it lacks specific standards and well articulated strategies on who does what, when should “what” be accomplished and how “what” is to be accomplished.
The strengthening of the IFSD (Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development) was echoed well ahead of the Rio +20 on sustainable development. Underpinned by Principle 10 was the role of civil society involvement in sustainable development: involvement in the sustainable development forums and capacity building by UNEP to put into operation the principle guidelines as outlined in the Bali convention.
The NGOs called for collaboration between government and civil societies in implementation and enforcement of environmental laws in the local, regional and international levels by the strengthening of access to justice. On the international front, MEAs (Multilateral Environmental Agreements) and governments can be heartened so as to open up to public participation in the compliance, to the extent that the citizens can call for reviews of this process by independent bodies.
There were problems in the socio-environmental and economic sectors that needed to be addressed. The Rio 20+ gives a unique opportunity for major reforms to be carried out. If such radical and immediate reforms are not carried out, (in which zero carbon emissions are passed and governments as well as other relevant areas actively participate and propagate green economy principles) then Rio 20+ will be a failure. Unfortunately, neither Rio +20 nor the zero draft provides enough enthusiasm for these reforms, and both lack specific address of issues of social equity and justice.
The least that Rio 20+ should offer is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound) objectives. The specific issues touching on the zero draft identifies were overseen by both the IEG (Independent Evaluation Group) and the IFSD.
The major groups identified 4 broad issues of concern:
Implementing Rio Principle 10 and the Bali Guidelines – whatever IEG and CSD structures emerge from Rio + 20 should incorporate P10 in their substance and modus operandi.
Rio + 20 needs to launch a global convention and encourage regional P10 conventions.
Rio + 20 should commit to supporting the Bali Guidelines.
P10 should be integrated into the international forum, including the international dispute settlement processes.
The groups also offered several specific recommendations:
A specialized agency on environment based on UNEP and a SD Council.
Commitments that are sufficient, and for accountability, not just in terms of paragraph 128, but also more broadly.
Representation of the interests of future generations at all levels of government.(as through an ombudsperson with a strong mandate)
Climate change action -apart from just waiting for the UNFCCC 2020- is essential if the Rio +20 Summit is going to be a success. The zero draft lacks provisions for facilitating climate action leadership as well as the required ambition. It is important to note that even if climate change were halted now, Africa, particularly sub Saharan Africa- would need immediate assistance in adapting to the effects of climate change already experienced.
Unless radical measures and strategies are adopted at Rio 20+, there will be no substantive progress on the goals after Rio 20+. This is because governments, as well as corporations, and local and international communities are presently being weakened economically, socially and politically by the effects of climate change. Without ambitious and concrete measures, strengthening of the UNEP structural framework, and without upgrading UNEP to this status, this branch of the UN will remain helpless in combating the now pressing environmental issues.
Climate Emergency Institute retains the position that climate change is a present and future reality and will continue to reverse, oppose, and challenge every effort directed at sustainable development. Unless emergency proactive and radical strategies are adopted that involve zero carbon emissions and building community resilience against climate change, the development will continue at levels which will deteriorate catastrophically to irreversible depths.
Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities
Robert Mburia, Kenya
The present styles of living are way beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity. Ecosystem degradation is rampant in almost all regions of the world. The FAO concurs that habitants and ecosystems in Africa currently face threats from several factors such as deforestation, land degradation, and massive reliance on the earth’s biomass for energy needs such as fuel, charcoal and firewood.
The Rio+20 Zero Draft acknowledges that there have been serious setbacks in the development already gained in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, owing to multiple and interrelated factors such as food insecurity, climate change and biodiversity loss. The draft further acknowledges that the future predictions of these disasters are likely to aggravate the already worsening situation, and that urgent responses must be taken (11). It is widely acknowledged that human population growth and economic activities are the leading causes of the negative changes observed in the earth’s biomes (WHO, 2005).
Agriculture contributes significantly to climate change in both positive and negative ways. However, agriculture offers a unique opportunity to draw up the carbon levels that are presently in the atmosphere. Could this be a key in combating climate change at all levels of growth and development?
Climate change: Development and Ecosystems
The UNEP (2009) rightly observed that,
‘Science has established that global climate change increases the frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters such as floods, fires, and droughts, and causes ecosystem degradation. This in turn reduces the resilience of ecosystems and human societies against the impacts of climate change and the increased risk of disasters. Ecosystem degradation compromises the carbon sequestration ability of natural systems, and may turn these systems from carbon sinks to sources, thus exacerbating the downward spiral. Unwise use of ecosystems by human beings aggravates this vicious cycle’.
The UNEP further notes that climate change increases the risks of climate related disasters which contribute to loss of lives and property as well as reducing the resilience of vulnerable ecosystems and communities. There is a need to marry economic development and growth with ecosystems integrity. The site www.sustainablescale.org observes that changes made in the ecosystems have resulted in socioeconomic development, but such gains have come along with ecosystems service degradation putting present and future generations at a great risks. It is worth noting that some of the changes already observed in the ecosystems are irreversible.
Fig 1. ; Levels of carbon emissions over the past years; Source: NOAA, 2011
NOAA (2012) put together a list of major global disasters that took place over time which have been related to climate change. It should be noted that disasters have increased in frequency as well as in magnitudes: claiming more lives, and destroying property, as well as massive destruction of biodiversity and other vital ecosystems.
Rank Event When Occurred
(2011 global weather Climate events: source; NOAA 2012. )
1 East Africa's on going Drought
2 Thailand - Flooding in July–October
3 Eastern Australia Flooding December 2010 - February 2011 (Austral Summer)
4 Consecutive La Niña Events Throughout 2011
5 Brazil Flash Floods 6th -12th January
6 Tropical Storm Washi (Sendong) 16th - 17th December
7 Arctic Sea Ice Extent Throughout 2011
8 Colombia Rainfall March–May
9 Mexico Drought Throughout 2011
10 European Drought September–November
The interlink-ages between environmental changes and communities’ wellbeing, and socioeconomic growth are complex. While some are direct, other causal factors are indirect, and temporal and spatial factors play big roles in enhancing these changes. WHO (2005) gives classic examples on how climate change can cause stress on coral reefs, coastal ecosystems and agriculture, leading to malnutrition, stunted child development, and increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, among other diseases. Deforestation can lead to alterations in infectious disease patterns whereby the vectors’ breeding patterns are affected over time. There is a direct link between climate change and forest loss, whereby climate change may lead to forest loss and vice versa.
There is a growing awareness that a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is the surest way to go. However, this has to be put in place with much policy and institutional infrastructure to bring about the necessary compliance as well as capacity to achieve this, knowing that a green economy is not an end in itself but a means to achieve desired goals. Carbon emissions and other short term climate change forces need to be reduced to zero levels, and vulnerable communities empowered to recover their resilience as well as adapting to the changes in their habitants. Perhaps in a bid to satisfy human desires fewer considerations have been given to ecosystem services and the rights of animals and micro organisms have been greatly violated.
Hauser et al (2009) concurs that there is a great chance that during this century the planet could experience a higher constant rate of climate change than has been experienced in the last 10,000 years. With the data collected from the surface temperature records, high resolution proxy data, climate models and other areas, there has been a consistent prediction of the magnitude and structure of large scale natural climate variability over the last 1,000 years.
Impacts of climate change in Africa
Africa faces many intertwined problems: conflicts, corrupt governments, weak institutions, high poverty ratios, diseases, high illiteracy levels, etc. IPCC (2007) indicated that the steady changes in climate have the most intense impacts on agriculture and least intense impacts on the manufacturing industries. Africa depends highly on rain fed agriculture, and according to the World Bank (2010), Africa is extremely vulnerable to climate change.
The UN Human development report 2007/2008 singles out climate change as the most challenging phenomenon that inhibits development in the 21st century. The report shows that poor countries will be the worst hit during the initial stages due to their low resilience; in the latter times even the richest of the countries could crumble under these catastrophic impacts.
Marchiori, Maystadt and Schumacher (2010) in their study on climate change and migration in sub Saharan Africa, underpinned the fact that in some Saharan countries there is as high as 90% reliance on rain fed agriculture and thus the slightest climate change sees massive impacts in terms of employment, food security and poverty in these countries. For several decades Africa has been relying on food aid from developed countries and food self reliance seems an elusive dream.
The FAO identifies the link between climate change and sustainable development as follows: climate change is an impediment to development, and sustainable development is a key to mitigation and adaptation. The FAO notes that dealing with climate change exclusively may be too expensive, and that such undertakings must be integrated into development agendas.
Africa’s large public irrigation schemes are greatly affected by poor governance structures as well as insecure land tenure systems that discourage farmers’ investments and engender exploitation by government agencies. This is linked to the low cost recovery, poor performance, low water use efficiency, poor crop yields, low water yields, low water productivity and very poor sustainability; representative of many irrigation schemes.
Climate Change and Civil Conflicts in Africa
PNAS in their research showed that climate change could increase the likelihood of civil war in Sub- Saharan Africa by over 50% within the next 20 years.
Source: University of California- Berkley as cited in Maclay (2009)
The study found a strong link between global warming and recent conflicts in sub Saharan Africa. This was further attributed to the fact that over 70% of the population in this region depends mainly on agriculture with crops that are highly sensitive to the climate changes. With climate change, there are massive crop failures and loss of livelihoods, all which commonly lead to the taking up of arms. In this scenario, climate change is seen as a catalyst in sparking and fuelling civil conflicts.
Data collected for the period of 1980-2002 showed that civil war was more likely in hotter years than usual average temperature years in some countries. With an increase of approximately 1 degree Celsius or higher, conflicts would increase across the continent by nearly 50% (Maclay, 2009). Such findings present a doomed future for African nation unless radical steps are taken to:
1. Curb climate change
2. Build the capacity of these communities in terms of resilience as well as adaptation
3. Provide structures for mitigation
It is clear that huge controversial debates regarding climate change as well as its impacts exist. What is evident is the fact that climate change is real as documented by the UNEP (2010), the IPCC (2007), and the NOAA (2011), among others. Climate change is the average changes in the overall weather conditions over a long period of time. Unless such understanding is taken into considerations endless debates will continue.
On the other hand Ned and Zeller (2011) have developed a paper that seeks to show that anthropogenic factors (human induced factors) significantly account for the present levels of climate change. In 1824 Joseph Fourer conducted experiments that led to the conclusion that green house gasses absorb and retain heat, leading to global warming.
PLoS ONE conducted a research study that showed a reduction in malaria incidences in eastern Africa in the last 10 years due to climate change. However, other researchers conducted in Tanzania around the same period of time in the Ngorongoro area showed a significant increased in the malaria transition rates.
Climate change issue is food security issue
FAO (2010) 925 million people do not have enough to eat and 98% of these are in the developing countries.
Women make up slightly more than 50% of the global population but account for over 60% of the world’s hungry people (FAO, 2010).
655 of the world’s hungry people live in 7 countries: India, China, DRC Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia (FAO 2010).
Over 70% of the world’s underweight are children are aged 5 years and below, and over 50% of these are in south east Asia(UNICEF, 2006), while 10.9 million children in developing countries die every year owing to malnutrition and disease related factors (UNICEF 2007).
Fig 3; food prices sky-rocketing as food insecurity increases; FAO (2012)
The FAO (2008) indicated that climate change will impacts all the segments of food security which are classified as food availability, food utilization, food accessibility and food system stability. The FAO further indicated that human health, livelihood, assets, food production and distribution channels will be significantly affected by the changes experienced in the climate. This is because of the close interrelationships between most of the life systems. For example, hunger or lack of food may cause a person or community to be more prone to diseases by reducing their immune system, while at the same time exposing them to poverty because they will not have the energy needed to work in farms and other places. This phenomenon is likely to hit hard and first those communities that are vulnerable and already food insecure, like most of the countries in sub Saharan Africa.
The FAO, in their 2008 report, indicated the way of mitigating climate change was through a reduction of green house gasses, storing carbon in the short term, and curbing carbon emissions. However, this is risky (and at the same time expensive), owing to the fact the developed countries have more evolved mechanisms of coping with climate change for now, whereas developing countries lack the capacity to handle climate related issues.
Agriculture and Climate Change
Current agriculture patterns, food production, and distribution play major roles in the emission of green house gasses (World Future Council). This is mainly due to: deforestation; biodiversity loss; soil erosion; salinisation of soils; water pollution; and ocean acidification.
Agriculture, apart from producing carbon dioxide, methane gas and nitrous oxide to levels which are significantly high, also alters the Earth’s land cover, which in part changes the ability of the land to absorb or reflect heat, leading to radioactive forcing. However, organic agriculture is a major boost in reducing carbon emissions.
Consequently agriculture plays a highly significant role in reducing the carbon in the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis that uses up carbon in the air and produces oxygen. Agriculture is a real opportunity for curbing climate change, and the challenges posed by agriculture can be solved in many ways. Energy productions which produce carbon fail in this manner. The greatest challenge the world now faces is high levels of carbon in the atmosphere leading to global warming.
Agro forestry presents unique opportunities for curbing climate change. However, this must be distinguished from just “tree planting” practices which maybe expensive and risky. Farmers in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso grow trees (in addition to farming) by nurturing trees that grow freely in their farms alongside sorghum and other plants. It should be noted that government policies play a great role in achieving this venture. Governments that allow farmers to own trees in their farms will see them nurture and take care of these trees. Trees provide shade, increase production through enabling soils to hold water and reducing heat, raising the water table, act as wind breakers, provide mulch raising soil fertility, and provide firewood, among other services. This offers a unique opportunity for organic agriculture.
The fact that the interactions between plants, roots and micro organisms found in the soil are important factors in controlling nutrient cycles- and hence ecosystem productivity and carbon sequestering in the soil-opens a whole new way of investing in easier methods of removing carbon from the atmosphere alongside other efforts.
Severe drought experience in the horn of African countries (specifically Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti) was greatly attributed to the global climate change where rainfall came in very small quantities, leading to massive crop failures, and loss of livestock, wildlife, and biodiversity, as well as loss of human lives.
Climate change is not solely to blame for most of the problems facing the planet now. Scientists noted that the La Nina was the worst system that hit the horn of Africa in over 60 years. Usually climate change acts as a catalyst to already bad situations, whereby dry spells become drier and prolonged. Due to poor governance or fragile ecosystems or poverty, famines and droughts overcome communities’ resilience and coping abilities.
Photograph: Sayyid Azim/AP
The NOAA ranked 2011 as the warmest year, but further results from the same organizations show that February of 2012 was the hottest month. This comes as the IPCC noted in their fourth assessment report that even if carbon/ green house gas emission was halted now, the impacts would still linger for about 30 years before any restoration changes would begin to be felt. The world is now committed to climate change, ozone layer depletion and other environmental issues that threaten life in the planet earth.
The need presently is not just to bring green gas emissions to zero, but to find innovative ways of removing the massive carbon gas in the atmosphere before it is too late.
NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Global Analysis for Annual 2011, published online December 2011, retrieved on March 26, 2012
NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Global Analysis for Annual 2011, published online December 2011, retrieved on March 26, 2012
Source: FAO news release, 14 September 2010. As cited in WFP, 2012 at http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats
The State of the World's Children, UNICEF, 2007 as cited in WFP (2012) at http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats
Hauser et al, (2009) The Effects of climate change on US ecosystems, synthesis and assessment product 4.3, www.usda.gov/oce/global_change/sap_2007_FinalReport.htm
IPCC (2007) Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Core Writing Team, Pachauri, R.K. and Reisinger, A. (Eds.) IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland.
UNEP (2009) http://www.unep.org/climatechange/Introduction.aspx
World Bank (2010) Development and climate change: stepping up support to developing countries, progress report, World Bank group.
Luca Marchiori, Jean-François Maystadt and Ingmar Schumacher (2010) Another Inconvenient Truth: Climate change and migration in sub-Saharan Africa, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Centro Studi Luca d’Agliano, LdA and the Venice, International University, VIU
Ned N. & Zeller, K. (2011) Watts Up With That? Unified Theory of Climate, http://www.wcrp-climate.org/conference2011/posters/C7/C7_Nikolov_M15A.pdf
FAO (2010) Know Your World: Facts About Hunger and Poverty, http://www.thp.org/learn_more/issues/know_your_world_facts_about_hunger_and_poverty
Outcomes: Workshop for Sharing
Lessons in Africa on Climate Change Adaptation
April 2-5, 2012
CEI participated in the
Workshop on Sharing Lessons in Africa on Climate Change Adaptation, organized by UNEP/ UNDP/ CC‐DARE * in Nairobi, 2-5 April 2012.
The workshop recognized that
1. Africa has a number of climate change challenges, along with the social and economic impacts of HIV/AIDS, on gender and disadvantaged groups in the communities, which hamper the achievement of poverty reduction strategies.
2. Recent climate change studies suggest that exposure to climate change disasters and risks will increase significantly.
3. Many climate change problems could in one way or another be monitored and remedial actions can be taken.
The conviction of the workshop proceedings was that vulnerability in sub Saharan Africa is expected to increase as climate change impacts reduce peoples’ livelihoods, assets and impinges upon their food security.
The workshop made the following recommendations, among others:
1. Considering the initiative taken by the CC‐DARE in financing climate change adaptation interventions; we hereby recommend the multilateral and bilateral partners to continue and up scale supporting CC‐DARE to bail African countries out of the climate change trap.
2. Considering lessons obtained from CC‐DARE in bringing remarkable impact with catalytic financing on climate change adaptation, African Governments are recommended to mainstream climate change adaptation into policies, plans and programmes, and to make budgetary allocations for implementation of climate change adaptation interventions in their national budgets.
3. Based on remarkable progress registered by CC‐DARE in building capacities of communities in adapting the effects of climate change, it is recommended that CC‐DARE and other development partners widen their scope in intervening in the areas of climate change development, curriculum development, research and innovation.
4. It is observed that CC‐DARE has played a catalytic role in enhancing the adaptive capacity of grass root communities as well as in indicating the necessary policy interventions. African Governments are therefore recommended to sustain this role.
5. It is recommended that the model of CC‐DARE needs to be replicated in the designing of bigger projects in order to bring effective and efficient results.
6. Climate change is presenting different scenarios, therefore governments are recommended to regularly review their National Adaptation Programme of Actions (NAPAs) to include emerging issues for effective interventions.
7. Based on the various and diverse experiences shared by the participating countries in the workshop, CC‐DARE Team is to identify and select best practices/approaches in climate change adaptation and communicate them for further scaling up.
8. CC‐DARE took an initiative to create a network for information sharing on climate change adaptation in Maputo and Kampala in 2011, CC‐DARE, national governments and indeed any other interested partners are to advance the operation of this initiative. 9. Project coordinators should do thorough consultation with key stakeholders and opinion leaders as the media, parliamentarians, etc.
10. Project coordinators should tailor information and create awareness towards specific target groups for them to take actions and ensure sustainability and ownership.
*United Nations Environmental Programme, United Nations Development Programme, Climate Change Adaptation and Development Initiative
Recommendations by the Nairobi workshop on sharing lessons in Africa on climate change adaptation held from 2nd to 5th April, 2012.
Papers and Presentations
International Science Conferences
IMPACTS WORLD 2013 Conference, International conference on climate effects
Potsdam Climate Impacts institute June 2013
Committed unavoidable global warming and Northern hemisphere Food Security
Implications to 2100. Abstract , Poster presentation
European Geophysical Union Assembly Vienna April 2013.
Is the world in a state of global climate change planetary emergency?
Abstract, poster presentation
CLIMATE EMERGENCY INSTITUTE
The health and human rights approach to climate change
AGU Dec 2014