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Africa: Climate Talks Background, 2
Oct 27, 2011 (111027)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"Running from 28 November to 9 December, [the Durban
conference] will be at least a theoretical chance to restore
faith in the glacial progress towards agreement on an
effective way to slow the human contribution to climate
change," notes a commentator in the Guardian for October 24.
But rich countries and developing countries are deeply
divided. And media attention and public pressure are
flagging, particularly in the United States which remains
the principal obstacle to progress.
A Nielsen poll in August (see below) showed particularly low
levels of concern about climate change in the United States,
compared to other countries surveyed, as well as declines in
concern in China. Although the poll is of consumers rather
than a random survey of populations, the comparative results
are striking, and correspond with the generally negative
political climate in the United States on climate change,
despite repeated confirmation of the seriousness of the
crisis by scientific studies and the frequency of "extreme
Major changes in public consciousness on neglected issues
are possible (witness the changes in world and U.S. opinion on
HIV/AIDS following the Durban HIV/AIDS conference in the
year 2000. As yet, however, a parallel outcome based on
widespread activist mobilization following this year's
climate change conference shows little sign of emerging,
despite efforts by some activist groups.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a selection of excerpts
from recent articles, with links to the full text of each,
including links to two action campaigns, one in South Africa
and one in the United States; several overview articles; and
several sources on South Africa's climate change policy,
including release of a new Climate Change Response White
Paper this month.
Two other AfricaFocus Bulletins released today also deal
with climate change issues. One, sent out by e-mail and
available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/clim1110.php, has
excerpts from a new international report highlighting two
priority actions that national governments can take on
climate change, namely removing subsidies on fossil fuels
and imposing new charges on international aviation and
shipping fuel. The other, at http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/dur1110a.php, contains the
most clearly written roundup I have found of issues in
the talks preceding Durban, from the always well-informed
Third World Network.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on issues of the
environment and climate change, visit
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
"Global Concern for Climate Change Dips Amid Other
Environmental and Economic Concerns"
August 29, 2011
http://blog.nielsen.com / direct URL:
Nielsen poll of consumers in 51 countries
Today, less than half of Americans (48%) say they are
concerned about climate change, which contrasts sharply with
reported concern in Latin America (90%), Middle East/Africa
(80%), Asia Pacific (72%), and Europe (68%). Among the 21
percent of Americans who are decidedly not concerned, 63
percent indicated they believe natural variation - and not
people - causes climate change/global warming.
"During this period, Nielsen's Global Online Consumer
Confidence Survey found heightened American consumer concern
around the economy, rising gas prices, and debt," said Todd
Hale, SVP Consumer & Shopper Insights, Nielsen U.S. "With
financial concerns still on the minds of many Americans,
they're indicating less and less concern about climate
change and other environmental issues."
In China, concern about climate change/global warming is
higher than in the U.S., but dropped 17 percent in the last
two years from 77 percent in 2009 to 64 percent in 2011.
Meanwhile, concern in India has gradually risen in the past
four years, and with 86 percent of Indians currently
worried, it remains one of the markets most concerned about
climate change in the world."
Links to Action Campaigns
(1) We Have Faith, Act Now for Climate Justice
Faith leaders - representing all faiths - from South Africa
and abroad will have a strong presence at COP17, supported
by a huge body of young people from throughout Africa who
will join in the "We have Faith - Act Now for Climate
- Commit to a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement
and to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol to
ensure the survival of coming generations.
- Set clear short and long term targets for carbon emission
reductions that keep average global temperature increases
well below 1.5 degrees centigrade, and to support solutions
that contribute to healing the earth.
- Ensure there is adequate finance for adaptation in Africa.
Such finance should come from historically polluting nations
in recognition of their ecological debt and be additional to
existing development aid, governed inclusively and equitably
under the United Nations.
Southern Africa Faith Communities' Environment Institute
http://safcei.org / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/3kyh4zx
(2) ActionAid USA and partners
The Stand with Africa campaign calls for a just and
ambitious US position in upcoming climate summit in Durban,
South Africa, starting in November 2011.
Dear President Obama:
The impacts of climate change no longer just await us in the
future; they are with us today. In the United States, we
have been affected by tornadoes, severe floods, droughts,
wild fires, and heat waves. The Horn of Africa is
experiencing the worst drought in over 60 years. We call on
you to show bold leadership and address an urgent crisis--
the climate crisis--that is disproportionately affecting
people living in poverty--particularly people who have the
least capacity to adapt to changing climates and who have
done least to cause the climate crisis.
The upcoming climate summit in Durban, South Africa, in
November 2011, represents a major opportunity for you to
stand with the worlds' poor and to take bold steps to
address the climate crisis. We call on you to commit in
- Support calls to stop temperatures from rising. The US
administration should work to ensure that global
temperatures do not rise more than a 1.5 degree Celsius
above preindustrial level - the threshold beyond which
irreversible, catastrophic damages may occur. Additionally,
the US should lay out a clear plan for how it will meet and
exceed its current emission reduction target.
- Announce substantial new and additional funding to help
communities adapt to the changing climate and reduce
emissions. The United States must show its support for
innovative mechanisms to generate public funding to help the
world's poor confront climate change. Possible mechanisms to
generate the needed finance include the use of levies in the
shipping and aviation sectors, a tax on speculative
financial transactions, and use of Special Drawing Rights.
- Deliver the funds through a democratic and equitable
Green Climate Fund. The Green Climate Fund should be
operationalized in a way that ensures full community and
civil society participation in all layers of decision making
and independence in management and government from
international financial institutions such as the World Bank.
(1) Durban May Be Last Chance to Stabilise Climate Under Two
By Stephen Leahy
The window to limit global warming to less than two degrees
C is closing so fast it can be measured in months, a new
scientific analysis revealed Sunday.
Without putting the brakes on carbon emissions very soon,
large parts of Africa, most of Russia and northern China
will be two degrees C warmer in less than 10 years. Canada
and Alaska will soon follow, the regional study shows.
"If one is sincerely committed to limit global temperature
increase to below two degrees C ... (governments) committing
to a global peak emission level and peak year makes sense
from a science perspective," said Joeri Rogelj of the
Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich, who
headed the analysis published Sunday in the journal Nature
Governments will be meeting in Durban, South Africa starting
Nov. 28 to launch the next round of climate treaty
negotiations, which so far have failed to ensure their goal
of less than a two-degree C increase will be achieved.
IPS asked Rogelj if government delegates in Durban ought to
set a specific year by which global emissions will peak and
then decline to ensure the two-degree C target will be met.
"Committing to such targets would ensure that we embark
globally on a technologically and economically feasible lowemission
path," Rogelj said.
Rogelj and a group of leading experts show in this state-ofthe
-art analysis that to have a 66-percent or better
probability of staying below two degrees C this century,
global carbon emissions must peak before 2020.
(2) Alex Kirby, "Will the Kyoto Protocol Survive the Durban
Climate Talks," Guardian, October 24, 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk / direct URL:
Running from 28 November to 9 December, [the Durban
conference] will be at least a theoretical chance to restore
faith in the glacial progress towards agreement on an
effective way to slow the human contribution to climate
There are three main stumbling blocks. One is whether to try
to resuscitate the international climate treaty, the Kyoto
Protocol, whose first phase expires in 2012.
The developing countries want to keep the Protocol, the only
legally binding agreement requiring the rich world to make
necessary (but far from sufficient) cuts in emissions of
The US has refused to ratify the Protocol, saying it won't
accept constraints that do not apply to the world's other
principal greenhouse polluter, China. And China, like other
developing countries, is exempt from Kyoto's provisions.
The European Union and other industrialised countries say
the US will never ratify Kyoto, and that therefore the world
should let it die and work instead on some new and as yet
undefined way to reduce emissions.
Then there's money. Both mitigation and adaptation (reducing
emissions, and learning to live with the consequences of
those you cannot avoid) are expensive, and the developing
world says the rich are not keeping their promises to help
them to pay to pollute less.
The third problem is really stark: how do you reduce
emissions far and fast enough? Kyoto requires developed
countries to cut theirs collectively to around 5% below what
they were in 1990. Most climate scientists say what's needed
is cuts of 80-90% below 1990 by the middle of this century.
(3) Lisa Friedman, "Nations Heading to Durban Climate Talks
Remain Deeply Divided," New York Times, October 10, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com / direct URL:
The 1997 treaty requires carbon emission cuts from
industrialized countries, and the first phase of the
agreement ends in 2012. Developing countries are adamant
that a second commitment period is non-negotiable. Moreover,
they insist any follow-up should closely hew to the original
agreement: Wealthy countries must agree unilaterally to cut
steeper emissions, and poorer ones would cut carbon
voluntarily after financial assistance from the rich.
"Much as some rich countries like to repeat that discussing
scenarios that they oppose is not 'realistic' or
'practical,' they must recognize that there is no point in
insisting on a solution outside of the Kyoto Protocol when
132 parties have strongly declared that they can only accept
a second commitment period as a meaningful outcome," Jorge
ArgÃ¼ello of Argentina, speaking for the G-77 group of
developing countries, said in a statement.
Wealthy countries have vowed to deliver $100 billion
annually by 2020 for poor and vulnerable nations to adapt to
climate impacts and develop low-carbon economies. Countries
have been in the process of establishing the architecture of
a Green Climate Fund, agreed to at last year's climate
summit in Cancun, Mexico, to distribute a portion of that
money. But last week, the focus turned to the dollars
themselves, and from where they would come.
Developing countries are largely insistent that the money
come from public coffers in the United States, European
countries, Australia, Japan and other wealthy nations. Many
argue that the money essentially is compensation to poor
countries for the environmental harm industrialized ones
caused by emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for
decades. That's not, however, the way the United States and
others see it -- and they insist developing countries should
have no say in where the money they get comes from.
On South Africa's Climate Plans
(1) Link to National Climate Change Response White Paper
(2) Patrick Bond, "The Durban Climate Summit: Climate
Justice versus Market Narratives," Institute for Social
Studies, The Hague, 30 June 2011
Too long and dense to excerpt here. Offers a detailed
critique of South Africa's climate policies, as well as the
South African government's role in international
negotiations. Written before the most recent white paper.
(3) Andreas Spath, "SA's climate change plan"
http://www.news24.com / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/44okd4q
[Brief excerpts only. For full text, see link above]
I'm usually very critical of our government's commitment to
solving environmental problems, but there are some very
positive aspects to the white paper. For starters, it
unambiguously defines the administration's understanding of
global warming by acknowledging that:
- climate change is already a measurable reality;
- climate change is primarily due to an increase in the
concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere as
a result of human activities;
- climate change is a major threat to the continent and our
- South Africa, with its energy-intensive economy powered by
fossil fuels, is "a relatively significant contributor to
global climate change"; and that
- climate change can only be halted by international
It then goes on to spell out SA's vision of a transition to
a "climate-resilient and lower-carbon economy and society"
which is to be achieved by a combination of adaptation and
Within two years, carbon budgets detailing desired
reductions of emissions from high-emission economic sectors
and companies will be established, and these sectors and
companies will then have to provide plans on how they will
cut back their GHG outputs in line with their carbon budget.
A number of economic instruments, including carbon taxes,
incentives and emission trading schemes will also be
While the white paper may be full of good intentions, what
government is actually busy doing is quite a different
matter. It seems to me that if they were truly committed to
a greener economy and society, they would not be considering
a trillion rand nuclear energy programme, with all its
environmental, human health and financial risks, and they
would certainly not be building more giant coal-fired
electricity plants like Kusile in Mpumalanga and Medupi in
(4) South Africa Enacts CO2 Emissions Cap as UN Climate
Negotiators to Converge on Durban
By Andrew Burger | October 19th, 2011
[Slightly abridged: full text at http://www.triplepundit.com
/ direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/3t7ah7m]
The South African government will enact an emissions cap and
new energy industry regulations in an effort to spur
development of alternative, clean and renewable energy and
mitigate climate change. The new regulations will penalize
heavy polluters that don't comply with greenhouse gas
emission limits with fines.
The new plan was adopted by the South African cabinet of
President Jacob Zuma Tuesday in advance of UN Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) representatives from
around the world converging on the South African coastal
city of Durban later this year in what's set to be the most
important round of UN efforts to hammer out a successor or
alternative to the 1992 Kyoto Protocol since the UNFCCC's
2009 Conference of Parties (COP) gathering in Copenhagen in
Gearing Up for the UN Climate Change Gathering
Due to be implemented over the next two years, the South
African government intends to set emissions reductions goals
and limits with the key companies in the nation's
electricity, fuels, mining and transport industries,
according to a Reuters news report. The intention is that
these will enable South Africa to achieve its stated goal of
reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 34 percent by 2020
and 42 percent by 2025.
South Africa is blessed with a wealth of potential renewable
energy resources. It's also a nation of people that
generally place a high value on innovation, technical
expertise, self-sufficiency and nature. Unfortunately, much
of this wealth - in terms of both renewable energy and human
resources - is being suppressed.
Shifting, inconsistent government market and industry
policies and regulations, along with persistent opposition
from its state-owned power monopoly, continue to conspire
and hold South Africa back from realizing the tremendous
benefits available by genuinely committing itself to
enacting strong renewable energy development policies and
climate change action plans.
The Coal Monopoly, Government & Renewable Energy
Think "Big Oil" and the fossil industry wield undue
influence and power over elected officials in the US? The
situation may be even worse in South Africa, where the
nation's power and energy sector - and all the investment
and jobs that go along with it - is controlled by Eskom,
South Africa's state-owned national electric utility.
Similarly, the fuels industry is dominated by state-owned
Eskom has essentially held the entire nation's electricity
supply hostage as it strives to protect its privileged
monopoly position by thwarting renewable energy development
and climate change action plans before they can even hatch.
The state-owned electric utility holds monopoly power over
the entire country's electrical power sector. Virtually
entirely reliant on coal as power source, the state-owned
utility's ties across the coal power industry value chain,
from mining to shipping and distribution, run long and deep.
Successive South African governments have publicly embraced
the idea of enacting a policy and regulatory framework that
would spur and foster development of alternative, clean and
renewable energy markets, industry and commercial
With chronically severe unemployment and under-employment
persistently quoted as being in the neighborhood of 25
percent, you'd think South Africa government representatives
would all be on-board and plenty well motivated to see such
an initiative through to success. Unfortunately, it hasn't
turned out that way.
Lack of Clear, Consistent, Fully Fledged Commitment
South Africa had invested only $125 million in clean energy
as of 2009, placing it 17th out of 20 G-20 nations,
according to the Pew Charitable Trust's 2010 "G-20 Clean
Energy Factbook." That's despite successive South African
governments dating back to 2003 proclaiming their commitment
to promoting and fostering clean and renewable energy
development and climate change mitigation efforts
"The clean energy sector may benefit from South Africa's
commitment to cut global warming pollution 34 percent from
its current 2020 trajectory," Pew project researchers noted
in the report. "Still, clean energy investments in South
Africa remain insignificant. There is insufficient reliable
data on installed capacity within the country, and it has
thus been excluded from this profile."
In 2009, the South African government enacted a renewable
energy tariff that's intended to serve as the linchpin of a
broader national goal of generating 10,000 gigawatt-hours
(GWh) of renewable electrical power by 2013.
The Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff (REFIT) continues to be
challenged and stymied in the courts by opposition and has
yet to make a significant impact, however.
The next year, the South African government enacted the
"Integrated Resource Plan of 2010," thereby setting a goal
of producing 17.8 GW of electricity from renewable sources
by 2030. That amounts to less than 10 percent of projected
2030 national electricity demand production, a decidedly
unambitious goal for a nation that has tremendous potential
across the clean energy landscape, be it wind, solar,
marine, biogas, waste-to-energy, or just about any other
clean, renewable resource.
According to Reegle's Clean Energy Information online
database service South Africa's government has established
the following renewable energy targets:
- Solar Photovoltaic: 14% of electricity supply by 2050.
- Solar Thermal Electric: 43TWh (terawatt-hours) by 2030.
- Wind Energy: between to 'modest' to 'abundant' prospects.
- Hydropower: 4700 MW.
- Biomass: In the longer term, around 9 to 16% of energy
- Landfill gas: 7.2 to 10.8 TWh of electricity generation by
- Waves and other categories: 33 TWh per year by 2050.
(5) Bobby Peek, "Power to the People" Red Pepper, September
[brief excerpts below]
The facts and figures tell a sad and depressing story.
- 42 per cent of Africa's greenhouse gases are emitted by
South Africa. So you would think that South Africa is a
fairly developed nation with good employment rates. Not so.
- 41 per cent of South Africa's potential workforce is
employed, according to Advorp Holding's chief executive
- 16 per cent is the total amount of energy consumed by
South Africa's residents.
- 44 per cent of South Africa's energy is used by 36
companies. Industry, mining, agriculture and commerce use
more than 70 per cent of all energy produced.
- 11 per cent of South Africa's energy is used by one
company, the Australian multinational BHP Billiton.
- 9.7 billion South African Rand was the loss that Eskom,
the South African power utility, made because of the
provision of cheap electricity to BHP Billiton, according to
Eskom's annual report, March 2010.
South Africans have to start challenging this political
greenwash and start working on systems that give them
independence from big power producers such as Eskom. This
would mean getting small local municipalities to start
thinking of local energy development for their own needs. It
would mean calling for better housing so that in winter
people do not lose energy through leaking roofs and poorly
constructed state homes. It would mean that individual
households get access to affordable energy and don't have to
pay up to seven times more for their electricity than
industry does. And it would mean ensuring that industry pays
the real price of energy and doesn't continue to get the
cheapest electricity in the world at the expense of the
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