International Affairs Forum:
The continent of Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, is said to experience the worst consequences of climate change despite contributing negligibly to the current global carbon stock. How do you view climate change in the context of overall development efforts? Is there an intractable trade-off between growth and development on the one hand, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction on the other?
Dr. Kamal El Kheshen:
There is a strong relationship between the level of economic development and vulnerability to climate change. The factors of adaptive capacity – wealth, technology, knowledge – are all tied to development. Africa’s vulnerability to climate change is exacerbated by its low level of development. Climate change poses a formidable constraint to achieving economic development and poverty reduction in the continent, considering that major economic sectors in the continent are very sensitive to climate. Climate change may also have a negative impact through reversing modest gains which Africa has achieved thus far towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
There is obviously a trade-off between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. This trade-off is apparent through the economic development model based on carbon-intensive energy supply of the industrialized countries. Recent studies have shown that it is possible to achieve rapid economic growth through a low-carbon intensive development pathway, however at an initial high investment cost. Africa is currently at a low level of economic development and has an opportunity to grow into a green economy. This requires initial financial outlays that are beyond the capability of the continent, but whose benefits will be of global significance.
What sort of financing is necessary – from the external and domestic side – to help implement an ambitious GHG emissions reduction agenda? Maldives has an aggressive agenda to curb climate change, would you like to comment on its efforts?
Dr. El Kheshen:
While I will not specifically speak of the Maldives, I will use the country’s efforts as representative of any developing country with the desire and ambition to embark on a green development pathway, with the intention of substantially cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the near and medium terms. It is obvious that none of the developing countries can do this on their own without global support. That is the basis for the on-going United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations that are expected to be concluded in Copenhagen by 18th December 2009.
While several issues are under negotiations, financing is seen as the glue that binds together all the other issues. Two issues are particularly important regarding financing climate change efforts – the size of the money required and the mechanism for channeling these resources. For the developed countries, finances to be agreed upon at Conference of Parties (COP) 15 should be new, additional to Official Development Assistance (ODA), predictable and sustainable. Several proposals are on the table in this regard. These range from national budgetary allocations, through levies and taxes, the carbon markets, and private sector financing. Regarding the mechanism for channeling these financial resources, the developing countries would want to see more transparent institutions that would also allow them easier access to the resources.
Right now the debate on Copenhagen seems to be led by large emerging economies, like China and India, and the developed economies of Europe and America. How do African nations fit in? What role do regional institutions like the African Union (AU), African Development Bank (AfDB), and New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) play (or can play)?
Dr. El Kheshen:
Africa and especially, African policy-makers are paying important attention to climate issues. At the political level, decisions have been taken by the AU heads of States, Ministers of Finance, and the Ministers of Environment to ensure that Africa develops a coherent position and speaks with one voice at Copenhagen. The African Union has set up the Conference of the Heads of State on Climate Change to coordinate Africa’s participation in the on-going negotiations. The various Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have also organized high level meetings within their regions to lend their support to African negotiators. The African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) have provided technical assistance to enhance the capacities of African negotiators in identified areas of weaknesses.
As stated earlier, an appropriate financing architecture will be very crucial to any agreement made at COP 15. The African Development Bank has financed several climate-change related projects that contribute to sustainable development in the continent. It is therefore putting its experience on the table to be part of the financing architecture that will be agreed to in Copenhagen. Africa is going into the negotiations more prepared than it has ever been in any international negotiation.
The African Development Bank is also looking beyond the climate negotiations by putting in place enduring programs that will enable the continent to adapt to climate change, while transitioning to a low carbon intensive economy. Such programs include the establishment of the Special Climate for Development in Africa Fund, a joint initiative between the African Development Bank, the Commission of the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa; the establishment and hosting of the Congo Basin Forests Fund that seeks to slow down and reverse the rate of deforestation in the Congo forests as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions; a USD 30 million programme to strengthen the capacities of African regional climate centres; a Lake Chad project to reverse the dying trend of the Lake and several clean energy projects such as the Turkana Wind Farm in Kenya and the Morocco Solar Thermal Power Station project.
If you were advising developed country leaders – say, President Obama asked you what U.S. policy should be – with regards to African concerns on climate change, what would be your advice?
Dr. El Kheshen:
Climate change does not know frontiers or recognize political boundaries. Greenhouse gas emissions anywhere in the world have devastating impacts everywhere in the world. Every leader in the world should be concerned about this major global phenomenon. I wish to commend President Obama for his commitment to addressing the climate change issue, which is a major departure from the previous position of the USA. He has already announced the US commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% from the 2005 levels. This constitutes a good starting point for the COP15 discussions. However, while several similar promises have been made by other leaders in the past, they have not been enforced. I would urge him, and indeed other world leaders, to develop a transparent, measurable, reportable, and verifiable strategy to show how this target will be achieved. I would also urge him to use his political might and convening power to rally the other political leaders to agree to a deal in Copenhagen in December.
Do you know of a particular developed country (/countries) that has a climate change policy agenda which takes the concerns of African countries seriously and has effective ways to incorporate these concerns?
Dr. El Kheshen:
Several developed countries have shown very sincere commitments to reducing the adverse impacts of climate change in Africa. Several of these countries have established bilateral funds which were hosted by the Bank and provided technical assistance to enable the Bank to address the risks of climate change in its regional member countries. Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change because of the emissions from developed and newly emerging economies. The best form of global adaption is coordinated global mitigation and I would urge all countries that are responsible for global warming that is causing climate change and its deleterious effects to agree to a scientifically agreed emissions reduction target in Copenhagen.
Finally, what do you think is the most likely outcome of Copenhagen?
Dr. El Kheshen::
I personally think that COP15 is the most important meeting of the last 60 years as the outcome will affect our children and grandchildren and will either maintain this planet’s ability to sustain human life or will take us down a dangerous road with dire consequences for future generations. I hope that Copenhagen offers a historic opportunity to build a new, strong, fair, and collective climate change regime that takes into account the different interests, views and concerns of all parties. While no single meeting can transform our society to one living within the climate change boundary, COP15 in Copenhagen offers a unique and timely opportunity to start such a transformative journey. I am hoping that if we are successful in meeting the climate change challenge, future generations will read in their history books that COP15 was where the journey really began.
Dr. Kamal Elkheshen, is the Vice President, Sector Operations (OSVP) at the African Development Bank (AfDB). .
Dr. Elkheshen oversees several departments and units delivering support to the regional member countries in the areas of human development/social sectors, governance, economic and financial reforms, agriculture and agro industry, gender, climate and sustainable development and fragile states. He obtained his PhD in agricultural economics from Oxford University in the United Kingdom in 1982.
|Comments in Chronological order (5 total comments)
| Great interview. Let's hope that the crucial bit regarding financing comes through. Any views on what appropriate financing for Africa would be?
"an appropriate financing architecture will be very crucial to any agreement made at COP 15. The African Development Bank has financed several climate-change related projects that contribute to sustainable development in the continent. It is therefore putting its experience on the table to be part of the financing architecture that will be agreed to in Copenhagen."
| It's a pity that COP15 seems to be looking at history and not the future. Shouldn't African nations contribute to more constructive debates on the issue?
| It is ironic that the continent with the most to lose from potential global warming consequences is the one that has least contributed to that phenomena. Shouldn't the African development bank be getting most of the funds from the proposed $100 bn fund that Sec Clinton mentioned this day?
| Do African nations even have capacity to deal with climate change? With all that corruption, one would think it's hard to do day-to-day business let alone handle more issues
| I agree corruption and government capacity are big issues for most African nations. Can institutions like the African Development Bank resolve these?