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Last week, Africa’s lawmakers met in Nairobi for a crucial conference on climate change. The gathering was important because political intervention that has been lacking since the problem arose is necessary.

For the Pan African MPs, the meeting was necessary since the continent needs to find a common voice before the next global conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. During the December meeting, the world is expected to come up with another framework deal to curb carbon emissions responsible for global warming.

The current framework, Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012 and countries are looking in to a stricter system to save the planet from devastation.

The African parliamentarians conference is not the first high-profile climate change meet the country has hosted. In 2006, Kenya hosted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that was expected to yield some results in terms of mitigation and adaptation, especially for developing nations. During that summit Kenya and other developing nations were and are still angling over money in the Global Environmental Facility, a fund by rich countries to help poor nations that operate under the same premises as International Monetary Fund —only this is focused on environmental matters.

The argument has always been that rich nations need to pay for their polluting ways and the harm to poor countries. It is the same argument — the ‘rich must pay up’— that was advanced. But, even as Kenya and the rest Africa calls for rich nations to ‘clean up their mess’, the truth is action must start from within.

Looking at the need to curb emissions as ‘not our problem’ has made Africa more vulnerable like a herd of sheep that stands at the banks of a raging river and hopes not to drown.

For the last ten years, various scientific reports have been released showing Africa will bear the brunt of climate change. But the continent has done little to adapt and mitigate the effects.

President Kibaki admitted Kenya, like many other African countries, has no policies to reduce carbon emissions or support clean technology.

Africa should stop playing victims because the damage is already being done. Africa’s forest cover — one of the important aspects in emission reduction — has reduced significantly. The continent accounts for 17 per cent of the global forest cover.

This is the chance for Africa to make climate change a political issue and make laws that recognise the continent must act, even as global efforts abound.

In addition, there are opportunities that Africa should grab. It should encourage rich countries to transfer clean technology in what is referred to as Clean Mechanism Development.

The other opportunity is in carbon trading mainly achievable through creating ‘sinks’ in forests. African countries can then sell the credits to a developed nation. The deal Africa is pushing to cut in Copenhagen should not be about money alone.

It should include more visible clean technology transfer undertakings and a better-developed carbon trading system. If it pegs its adaptation and mitigation wings on aid money, the devastation will be worse.

The continent must be prepared to answer the question: What have you done on your part? Positive action must be local before we seek international intervention.