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The Challenge:

As the world’s poorest and most rainfall-dependent region, sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to the threats of climate change. Already living in fragile environments, agricultural producers are highly sensitive to even minor fluctuations in climate. Climate models suggest that arid and semi-arid areas may increase by 60-90 million hectares by 2090. Southern Africa faces particularly acute threats, with rain-fed farming yields halving by 2020 according to the IPCC. Agricultural revenues will fall, impacting on economies, while threatening to increase the frequency of episodes of extreme food insecurity. There are also real dangers that changed climate patterns will become drivers for insecurity and conflict: models, for example, project a possible 70% decline in sorghum yields in northern Sudan against a backdrop of long-term environmental degradation and conflict.

Key Commitments:

United Nation (UN) members endorsed the Framework Convention on Climate Change at the June 1992 Rio Summit, where measures to stabilise greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were agreed. However it set no mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries, nor detailed enforcement mechanisms, and so was considered legally non-binding. Since 1995 the parties to the convention have met annually in Conferences of the Parties (COP). The first principle update (or ‘protocol’) was signed in Kyoto in 1997 (ratified in 2005), established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce emissions collectively by 5.2% between 2008-2012 compared to 1990 levels. In December 2007 the 13th COP adopted the Bali Action Plan as a road map for the negotiation process towards a post-2012 climate change agreement, identifying 5 topics to be addressed. The Copenhagen Accord, the outcome of the 2009 COP 15, failed in its objective of defining legally binding limits to emissions. It was agreed by 5 nations (US, India, China, Brazil and South Africa), with remaining COP members taking note. Financing commitments were made by developed countries, including $30bn for developing countries between 2010-2012, a longer term goal of mobilizing $100bn a year by 2020, and the establishment of the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund.”

The EU has sought to be a climate change leader. After adopting a 2°C limit for dangerous climate change, it committed in October 2009 to a 30% emissions reduction by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels) on the condition that other countries followed with their own comparable commitments. In December 2009, the EU made available EUR 2.4 billion annually for 2010-2012 for adaptation and mitigation financing, with a special emphasis on vulnerable and least developed countries.

The G8 and G20 have made a number of references. In Evian, G8 leaders agreed to develop operational regional climate centres in Africa, while the focus of the Gleneagles G8 statement and Plan of Action broadened to include issues of energy efficiency, clean technology and (to a lesser extent) support for adaptation. These themes continued in the 2007 Heilingdamm Growth and Responsibility in the World Economy declaration and the 2008 Hokkaido Declaration of Leaders Meeting of Major Economies on Energy Security and Climate Change, with a focus on continued support for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In preparation for COP15 in Copenhagen, the 2009 L’Aquila Declaration of The Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate committed to identify a global emissions goal for 2050 prior to the UN summit. G20 meetings, including the have focused particularly on climate change and energy security, while the September 2009 Pittsburg Summit also called on its finance ministers to prepare a range of climate financing options.

Declarations made by the AU have focused particularly on climate change adaptation, identified as a key activity in the 2001 NEPAD Declaration, and reiterated in subsequent Assemblies. These have been closely linked to sector strategies such as agriculture and water and sanitation, with additional focus – illustrated in the 2009 13th Assembly (Sirte) - on ensuring that Africa’s position is promoted in international climate negotiations.