BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
Contrary to what has pertained in all previous 16 climate change conferences held so far, Africa is playing a lead role in the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) climate change conference currently ongoing in Durban, South Africa.
Although it is not certain if Africa has been given greater visibility this time round because it is hosting the annual event, the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), a statement issued November 28, 2011, says, will lead as many as six of the eight thematic roundtable discussions within the Africa Pavilion at COP17.
An Africa Day has also been scheduled for 8 December 2011, the eve of the close of COP 17, to raise the profile of African climate change and development issues and demonstrate African ownership of its agenda on climate change and development.
According to the statement, the event will be marked by high-level dialogues, thematic discussions and informal meetings.
The ‘Africa Day’ will thus be a substantive event that creates an enabling environment for a proactive and positive discourse and debate that seeks to advance the development agenda of the continent in the context of climate change and follows the stated role of the various actors: “Informed policies and practices in Africa that take full account of climate change risks and opportunities at all levels”.
Commenting on Africa’s lead role in as many as six thematic round tables, Mr. Youba Sokona, Coordinator of ECA’s newly established African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), said the series of roundtables and side-events that will address a range of climate change and development issues pertinent to Africa, will significantly enhance the place of ECA as a key player on climate change issues in Africa.
Mr. Sokona, who represents ECA on the joint AUC/ECA/AfDB COP17 Steering Committee and also chairs the technical subcommittee, praised the decision to organise eight roundtable discussions and an Africa Day event, observing that the activities will mark a significant shift from the way Africa has often participated at different COPs.
Speaking to the Information and Communication Service of ECA on the eve of the inaugural session of COP17, he said “It is very significant that the ECA took the lead in the design of both the concept of the African Pavilion, the Africa Day event and especially the scheduling of roundtable discussions which run from 1-8 December, 2011,” adding, “The Commission will surely come away with its image confirmed as a leading think-tank on climate change in Africa.”
“But most all, ACPC’s participation in the planning of the Pavilion and these roundtables will help test how outputs from the just-ended Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA) could be implemented at country-level in Africa, in that more policymakers will join the debate in Durban”, Mr. Sokona explained.
He said “The roundtables will also provide prime opportunities for policy makers, practitioners and researchers to deepen their understanding of how to integrate climate change issues into development strategies, exchange successful approaches and practical examples, and provide an opportunity for future cooperation around each of the thematic areas.”
According to the statement from the Information and Communication Services of ECA in Durban, the roundtables will bring together senior representatives from national governments, the private sector, civil society organisations, research institutions, as well as from international development agencies, with each panelist bringing experience and know-how to the discussion by addressing specific questions that apply to their particular area of expertise.
Themes to be discussed include Climate change adaptation in Africa; REDD+, forests and development across Africa; Climate change information and water resources for Africa; Agriculture and food security across Africa; Low carbon development and energy access for Africa; and Climate change vulnerability and disaster risk management.
Each roundtable will last for two hours and will begin with opening remarks by the chair. To set the general context for discussions, each panel member will be asked to discuss and share his/her perspectives (in less than 10 minutes) on a given question that corresponds with his/her expertise and experience, according to the organisers.