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Parties, observers hail Africa Day event at COP17

By Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
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DURBAN, South Africa, December 9, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Parties and observers today hailed the Africa Day event at the Durban climate change conference (COP17) as one of the most successful aspect of the yearly parley.

The event was held at the Africa Pavilion where two weeks of conferences and discussions culminated a high-level roundtable discussion on the development first agenda and financing for climate change.

The roundtable discussion was led by a select panel of informed policymakers and respected development practitioners, according to the Information and Communication Service (ICS) of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The panel included H.E Mr. Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia; Dr. Jean Ping, Chairman, African Union Commission; Mr. Adboulie Janneh, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ECA; Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Director-General of UNIDO; Mr. Trevor Andrew Manuel, Co-chair of the Technical Committee of the Green Climate Fund; Dr. Donald Kaberuka, President of AfDB; and Lord Nicholas Stern of the Grantham Institute, London

Echoing AUC chairman, Jean Ping's introductory remarks, Lord Stern praised what he called Africa's constant strife to speak with one voice at recent COPs, saying that the approach has been so successful and effective that the European Union had adopted it at COP17 in South Africa.

Prime Minister Zenawi who is also the official spokesman of African leaders on climate change issues noted with satisfaction a regional approach adopted by African leaders in seeking solutions to the challenges posed by climate change. In this regard, he pointed to three priority projects which he said, will have to be tackled by the region as a whole.

The projects are the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, the Lake Chad Sustainable Development Support Programme, and the Africa Green Belt Project.

The Executive Secretary of ECA, Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, further stressed the importance of concerted action, especially as concerns climate change whose effects know no boundaries and reiterated ECA's readiness to continue working with other partners to foster regional development initiatives.

On the specific aspects climate financing, Mr. Janneh tabled a number of proposals relating to innovative internal resource mobilisation for the fight against climate change impacts in Africa.

Other panelists emphasised the need for decisions taken at COP17 to reflect the foundations laid in Cancun. Lord Nicholas Stern in particular, stressed the need for Africa to bring on board the private sector to compliment public resources needed for climate change.

At policy level, he advised that Africa continues to view development, adaptation and mitigation as part of the same whole – a powerful singular and combined strategy to combat climate change.

It also became clear that as Africa forges ahead with the formulation of its climate change policies, there will be need to strengthen governmental and non-governmental networks to enable them better streamline the implementation of the policy option chosen; to improve the viability of capital markets' capacities in order to be able to handle risk more efficiently; and to build a critical mass of experts who can inspire investors' confidence via good example.

Finally, there was an overarching emphasis on the need for political will in Africa to spearhead development, not only for Africa, but moreso to lead as an example to the rest of the world.

On the negotiations proper, the chair of the African negotiating team, Mr. Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, today told a news conference in Durban that the least that the group expects from Durban remains a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol and the inauguration of a Green Climate Fund.

Even as other Parties were thought to have lowered their expectations on the eve of the end of the conference, Mpanu-Mpanu, insisted that "the minimum expectation of the Africa Group is to leave here with a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, one which has legally-binding dimensions, not merely political ones."

On the commitment period, he sounded worried but firm: "I believe that African minds should really try to get to the bottom of this very complicated EU ratification process, which, it seems, is beyond the comprehension of everybody else but Europeans," he said.

The African Group hoped, he said, to be able "to get to the bottom of the complicated, very sophisticated EU process that makes it impossible for them to go into a legally-binding second commitment period", he added, referring to the current stage of the negotiations.

Even as he insisted that the African Group also wanted to see the Green Climate Fund launched in Durban, he noted that “... but at this stage we don't even have a shell."