UNEP Boss calls for robust climate change negotiations

(Wanjohi Kabukuru, ADDIS ABABA, 11/10/2010) Africa will need to adopt robust bargaining skills for the forthcoming global climate change attacks, best referred to as COP16 (Conference of Parties) in Cancun later this year.

Speaking at a High level UNEP meeting on the sidelines of the African Development Forum, currently taking place in Addis, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner urged African governments to employ vigorous and concrete environmental diplomacy skills to be able to not only make an impact in Cancun but to get a deal that serves Africa well.

“Lets be true to ourselves. In Rio De Janeiro in 1992 three pillars, economic, environmental and social were identified as a means of achieving sustainable development. Of the three the environmental pillar is the weakest.” Says Steiner. “It is time we gave the environment the very importance it deserves as it is inherently linked to the other two pillars.”

The UNEP boss has hailed Africa’s current crop of leaders whom he terms as “bold and decisive”, for taking climate change and giving the environment the necessary attention it deserves.

“Africa has leaders who are now committed to climate mitigation and adaptation and are mainstreaming the climate change agenda in their policies.” Says Steiner. In his speech to the high level panel, Steiner cited countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya as nations which have made significant environmental milestones in the last five years owing to “bold and decisive leadership”.

“When leaders like Meles Zenawi discuss climate change with such forthrightness, Kenya takes a bold step to reclaim an important water tower and Rwanda begins to refocus her energy strategies on renewables, this is a plus for the environment and represents a shift on policy reflecting bold and decisive leadership that is sensitive to sustainable development.” Steiner says.

That Africa has taken climate change seriously is not in doubt. And Steiner is privy to this.

“Though our work is mainly to assist and offer technical support, it pleases us to see political leaders not only accepting our advice but engaging us in healthy debates which ultimately end up benefiting humanity. The developed world has already taken climate change as a security threat; Africa is not left behind too. When Cancun comes later this year, we expect to see Africa bolstering her strategic collective negotiations skills to bear fruit for the continent.” Steiner reveals.

Steiner also noted that Africa’s quick embrace of the green economy is a sure bet to safeguard the continent’s vast natural capital which is its greatest asset. The Nairobi based UN Under Secretary also lamented on the slow progress made in ensuring communities benefit from the tenets espoused in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which calls for ‘equity’ in sharing of benefits raised from genetic resources.

“Progress on the CBD in conceptual terms has been okay, however there is need for concerted international action because that is an area we are lagging behind.”