22 January 2008
Norway is to step up its development assistance to South Africa in order to boost the country’s response to the threats posed by climate change.
Work on carbon capture technologies, action against deforestation, the scaling up of Clean Development Mechanism projects in Africa, technology transfer and further emission cuts topped the agenda as Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg passed through Cape Town on Friday.
With some countries projected to see reductions in agricultural productivity of as much as 50 percent by 2020 due to climate change, Norway is to step up development assistance to poorer countries “considerably”, Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg was speaking to reporters at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens during a stopover on his way to evaluate a joint Norwegian-United States scientific study in Antarctica.
Because of the “tremendous challenges” posed by climate change to developing countries, Norway would be providing about US$400-million to environmental programmes this year, he said.
Stoltenberg said it was the rich world that had created climate change, and it was thus the rich world that had to shoulder the main responsibility for solving – through adaptation and mitigation – the problems caused by changing weather patterns.
Stoltenberg was joined at the press conference by South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk.
While industrialised countries must lead the way cuts in carbon emissions, the extent of the problem is such that there also needs to be reductions in emissions by developing countries, particularly by the larger, fast-growing economies in the developing world, the ministers agreed.
The “historical dimension” of climate change – which points to the proportionate responsibility of highly industrialised countries over past decades for greenhouse gas emissions – cannot be ignored, Van Schalkwyk said.
Van Schalkwyk added that the work of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown that climate change “is happening now” and will get far worse unless greenhouse gas emissions are substantially reduced.
The environment minister pointed to the United States, which he said has not been engaged in the full multilateral process, in particular through its absence from the almost defunct Kyoto protocol.
Developing countries are expecting the US – which up to now has been the world’s greatest emitter of greenhouse gases – to make a “quantum leap” to the point where it accepts internationally agreed and binding targets towards cuts in carbon emissions.
Urging the US to take its fair share of responsibility for causing climate change, Van Schalkwyk said this would be his message to the world’s largest economy when he participates in the US-hosted meeting of major economies on energy security and climate change at the end of January.
The minister also urged US President George Bush to signal a turning point in the US’s attitude toward climate change and carbon emission reductions when he makes his State of the Union address on 28 January.
South Africa and the developing world expect the US to show “comparable effort” when it comes to planned carbon emission reduction targets of between 25 percent and 40 percent, Van Schalkwyk said.
Regarding fast-growing economic powerhouse China, Van Schalkwyk said it has been less difficult for the global community to get China to participate in multilateral discussions on greenhouse gas reductions than it was to get the US involved.
The IPCC says that the world has seen a 70 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from 1970 to 2004, with a further increase ranging from 25 percent to 90 percent projected by 2030, relative to the levels at the end of the 20th century.
Scientific research has shown that South Africa and the continent as a whole will become much drier, with major implications for maize production, which is “not good news for a developing country”, with Africa in particular dependent upon maize as a staple food, Van Schalkwyk said.
Earlier, Stoltenberg, citing the recently released and well-received report on the economics of climate change by British economist Nicholas Stern, warned that it was the world’s poorest countries that stood to be hardest hit by climate change.
The more than 40 percent of Africa’s population who live in poverty – and who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods – would face enormous challenges related to famine and infectious diseases, Stoltenberg said.
Key findings from the IPCC’s fourth assessment report show that about 200-million Africans – a quarter of the continent’s population – are at risk of water stress, while the spread of the malaria zone is expected to include South Africa by the end of the century.
And the ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa, could disappear by 2020, Stoltenberg warned.
According to the IPCC report, global temperatures this century are expected to exceed the rise observed in the last century, with Africa projected to see temperatures increasing by between three percent and four percent compared with the period from 1980 to 1999.
While less warming will be seen in equatorial and coastal regions, dramatic rises in temperature are expected between 2070 and 2099: up to nine degrees centigrade for north Africa in the June to August months, and up to seven degrees for southern Africa in the September to November months.
The impacts of these changes will be far-reaching, with wheat production likely to disappear in Africa by 2080, says the IPCC report, while southern Africa will experience “notable” reductions in maize production.
But people should not lose faith in the human capacity for action.
The Norwegian prime minister pointed to the huge potential for climate change mitigation through the capture of carbon emissions from power stations and large industrial sites, combined with efforts against deforestation.
Norway announced at the recent multilateral meeting on a post-Kyoto agreement in Bali that it would be spending about US$500-million a year to prevent deforestation.
Preventing the release of carbon dioxide from deforestation would go a long way toward mitigation of climate change, and combined with modern carbon capture and storage methods – technology which Norway is developing in earnest – could reduce emissions drastically.
By some estimates, deforestation and industrial emissions account for almost half of total emissions, Stoltenberg said.
Another key weapon against climate change is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) developed under the Kyoto Protocol, which allows projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions to earn saleable credits, with each credit equivalent to a ton of carbon dioxide.
Pointing out that there are more than 860 registered CDM projects in 49 developing countries, with another 2 000 projects in the pipeline, Van Schalkwyk said this needed to be scaled up further to ensure that a greater number of these projects took place in Africa.
Following the Bali conference, where a roadmap was developed for negotiations to steer the world into a post-Kyoto regime on climate change (the Protocol expires in 2012), intensive multilateral negotiations are expected in the lead-up to a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009.
Details of a more effective and inclusive climate change regime are expected by Copenhagen 2009, Van Schalkwyk indicated, with South Africa and developing country peers having committed themselves to doing much more to combat climate change.
And strong leadership is expected from South Africa, itself is one of the larger emitters while also bearing the historical burden of industrialised countries’ emissions.
“South Africa is going to play a key role if we are to reach an agreement in Copenhagen,” Stoltenberg said.