An African delegation is in the Polish city of Katowice to join 30,000 delegates and thousands others from almost 200 countries attending the 4th edition of what has come to be known as annual climate change negotiation conferences organised under the auspices of the United Nations.
The two-week conference takes place at the backdrop of the alarm sounded by scientists working under the auspices of UN-mandated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose special report released in October warned of dire consequences if the global community fails to put in place drastic measures to arrest the accumulation of climate-polluting emissions which cause global warming.
Over years, discussions have centred on the efforts to reduce the green house gases believed to accelerate global warming, and how to live with the damage already caused while helping those who are unable to absorb the shocks emanating from climate change impacts.
At stake is the so-called "Paris Rulebook", a framework of the Paris Agreement implementation which has already resulted into fissures between delegations from developed countries and poor countries. Developing countries, especially those from Africa, want the elements of the Paris rulebook to be as unambiguous as possible to avoid past deliberate oversights that have rendered impotent previous Pacts aimed at addressing climate change. On their part, industrialised countries are fighting to ensure the framework helps them escape their historical responsibility, which they successfully achieved under the Paris Agreement that seemingly has watered down the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.
Whether Katowice will deliver a balanced rulebook or an eschewed framework favouring the powerful countries due to their manipulative, intimidating and/or carrot-dangling strategies will be judged in the two weeks.
For African countries, any framework for the implementation of Paris Agreement that does not define the source of money and technology is hopelessly barren. Rich countries have turned the negotiations into marketplaces to expand markets for their goods and services. In their effort to turn climate change into business opportunities, the industrialised countries and those in transition such as China, India and Brazil have encouraged their major transnational corporations to train their eyes on the emerging opportunities in the "climate sector", where sectors such as "climate-smart agriculture", "forest as Carbon sinks, "clean coal", "climate finance, "low-carbon", "climate resilient growth", are gradually overtaking normal development discourse.
There is nothing wrong in turning the challenge of climate change into opportunities as the industrialised countries have vouched in the ensuing transformation where even international development assistance is conditioned. What is curious though is the fact that these conditionalities may disadvantage people already suffering the impacts of climate change. In addition, many donors are only interested in projects that are mitigation in nature, such as energy and major infrastructure projects which assure them on bigger profit margins. Adaptation, which does not have return for investment, is not attractive to many donor partners nor private sector investors.
A win-win framework in Katowice which considers the interest of industrialised countries and their businesses, as well as developing countries and their vulnerable communities to enable them transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient development trajectories without jeopardising the livelihoods of the present and future generations is thus the most suitable outcome.
Mithika Mwenda is the Executive Director for the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).
-Inter Press Service