Climate Story Jeffrey Gogo
When the UN climate change conference opened in Katowice, Poland, on December 2, news that the year 2018 was on course to be the fourth warmest on record made for an uncomfortable background to the annual negotiations.
The State of the Climate report, published by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) last week, said during the first 10 months of this year, global temperatures averaged 1°C above the levels between 1850-1900.
It said that the 20 hottest years on record have been in the last 22 years. The four years to 2018 make up for the top four warmest since scientists began keeping records. At this rate, the WMO warned that global temperatures could rise by between 3 to 5°C by end of Century.
This is exactly what the negotiators at Katowice, including Zimbabwe’s team of negotiators led by the country’s climate change director Washington Zhakata, will seek to prevent from happening.
That means bringing the talks, which look like going off track, back on the rails, by eliminating issues around distrust between the so-called rich countries and so-called poor countries, something that has often proved to stall progress in the past.
One doesn’t necessarily have to look far back into history to see how these differences have played-out on the global stage. There is still no global consensus on how the Paris Agreement on climate change will be implemented, three years after the accord was adopted and ratified by almost every government on Earth.
Katowice is particularly crucial because countries must reach agreement on a work programme for the implementation of the Paris commitments at this meeting. Earlier attempts haven’t yielded much positive outcomes. The UN understands that: “This requires the singular most important ingredient: trust between all countries,” the global agency said on its website on November 29.
“Among the many elements that need to be ironed out is the financing of climate action worldwide. Because the clock is ticking on climate change, the world cannot afford to waste more time: we must collectively agree on a bold, decisive, ambitious and accountable way forward,” it detailed.
So, the temperature warning from the WMO is not only an uncomfortable backdrop, but a precise and timely reminder of the urgency of the task at hand. Climate action could no longer be deferred to the future.
In its statement, the UN claimed to have mobilised at least $70 billion of the $100 billion pledged by wealthy countries to help fund climate adaptation in the developing world.
Time for action is now
Past climate conferences don’t appear to support this position as the issue of climate finance has evolved into one of the most emotive subjects at the negotiations – that not enough commitment and money was being directed towards helping countries in Africa cope with climate change, a global problem not of their making.
Earlier this month, Zimbabwe released its position paper to the Katowice talks.
The paper stresses out several key issues that would be acceptable to the country for a successful outcome, but hammers strongly on three subjects of poignant interest – climate change adaptation, mitigation and finance.
Among other things, lead climate negotiator Washington Zhakata urged members of the Zimbabwean team of negotiators to “resist” any attempts to smuggle in concepts that are foreign to the true spirit of the Paris Agreement by negotiators from other countries (read developed countries).
He spoke of the need to keep negotiations in lane, as championed by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change while hitting hard on the necessity of transparency, accountability, technological support and availability of climate funding in the implementation of the Paris accord.
Mr Zhakata touched on loss and damage, but stressed more how Africa’s development will not be hindered nor burdened by unreasonable demands on measured natural resource exploitation by those sitting pretty in wealthy western nations.
His statement generally reflects the thinking among much of Africa – that the time for action is now, not some place in the future. Katowice will be considered a success if it achieves the goal of agreeing the Paris rule book in absolute terms.
And if it can get parties to agree to deeper commitments in line with what the science demands.
“We are not on track to meet climate change targets and rein in temperature increases,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “Greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues we may see temperature increases 3-5C by the end of the century,” he said.
“It is worth repeating once again that we are the first generation to fully understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it,” said Mr Taalas.
God is faithful.