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Emerging African countries speak out on climate change – December 2011

Emerging African countries speak out on climate change – December 2011

December 2011: Negotiations at the 17th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) in November/December 2011 in Durban, South Africa could influence future economic growth and investment worldwide as it is planned that a legally binding agreement on global warming and gas emissions will be confirmed by the end of the Conference.

Discussions, led by governments from around the world, have been influenced to a large degree by business requirements in developed countries. Little has been heard in the past from developing African countries about the requirements and processes that are already in place to combat climate change, as well as what could realistically be done to reduce emissions.

With its extensive network of leading legal firms in 30 African countries, Lex Africa provides the international business community access to an established pool of skilled and reputable lawyers, all of whom can advise on the current emissions situation in their respective countries.

George Gapu, partner at Lex Africa’s Zimbabwean member, Scanlen & Holderness says, “Scientific studies have shown that it is possible for a country to reduce its emissions of green house gasses by 25% and still achieve economic growth. In Zimbabwe, attaining this 25% target is likely to prove difficult given the current depressed political, social and economic environment. Achieving this will depend on the capacity of the country to promote alternative sources of energy, obtain technology transfers as well as provide economic incentives for industries.”

Gapu comments that while Zimbabwe has not set any integrated targets for reducing emissions, efforts thus far have focussed on sector specific initiatives to reduce emissions. Such activities include a focus on reducing waste burning at landfills and the operation of incinerators and motor vehicles. In addition, industries are required to obtain emission licences depending on the scale and hazardousness of their emissions. The country has also banned the importation of ozone depleting substances without a licence.

“There are efforts being made to craft a policy on climate change but the processes are moving slowly. To enable the country to adapt to climate change, Zimbabwe needs to develop a policy dealing specifically with the issue. Such a policy would provide stakeholders in the country with guidance on government’s priority areas, incentives for use of climate change adaptation technologies and research. The policy should be followed by the promulgation of a Climate Change statute to provide the legal framework. Such a statute should ideally incorporate the following principles:
– Promote access to climate change information
– Promote public participation
– Promote capacity building and skills sharing
– Research
– Deal with resource allocation for implementation
– Enforcement and deterrent penalties
– Economic incentives and disincentives

South Africa
South Africa recently promulgated regulations on the Integrated Resource Plan 2010-2030 (IRP 2010) and the move by authorities to reduce the country’s reliance on coal in favour of renewable energy was welcomed.

Happy Masondo, director at Lex Africa’s South African member, Werksmans Attorneys, says, “The changes to the IRP 2010 are significant as they aim to ensure security of supply of energy from 2010 to 2030 by mandating that 42% of the supply will be from renewable energy sources. It is a laudable ideal for South Africa to significantly reduce reliance on coal while increasing its reliance on renewable energy and we have seen great support from independent power producers, in fact, there were 321 bidders at the recent compulsory briefing session by the Department of Energy, anxiously wishing to participate in the bidding process for the first phase of the 3725MW available for renewable energy generation.”

In addition Justin Truter, a Director in the Environmental Law team at Werksmans Attorneys, points out that there are initiatives aimed at achieving a low carbon and climate resilient economy and society, including:
– Mandatory standards for energy efficiency, including standards for commercial and residential buildings (which will also include water saving measures and standards), fuel efficiency standards, and renewable energy targets.
– Various initiatives are being implemented which aim to create and develop green jobs in energy efficiency, renewable energy and climate resilience.
– South Africa’s National Treasury Department is also investigating options for implementing a carbon tax this year and regulations for mandatory emissions monitoring and reporting are being developed.

Ms. Seyram Dzikunu, Associate at Lex Africa’s Ghanaian member, Bentsi-Enchill Letsa & Ankomah, says that although there are currently no emissions targets in the country, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has guidelines which it uses to check and control emissions, setting acceptable levels for the emission of chlorine, hydrogen sulphide, nitric acid or nitrogen, carbon monoxide and other gases. In addition the EPA is working with the Registrar General’s Department’ to transform these guidelines into law.

Dzikunu says “Economies across the world have to put long-term plans in place to make the transition towards the development of a low carbon growth path. In this context, a realistic emissions target which will still encourage economic growth for Ghana will be around 40% by 2020; in line with the global standards being discussed for developing countries. Lower targets may stifle economic development and may be unattainable.”

“Being a responsible global citizen and in line with its obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Ghana must acknowledge its responsibility to undertake national action that will contribute to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In accordance with this, Ghana must undertake mitigation actions such as putting in place legislation which will result in such reduction. However the consensus from the EPA is that enactment of wholesale legislation may stifle economic development. It is thus preferred that every industry sets targets which can be achieved and enforced as part of its policy guidelines and these guidelines do not necessarily have to be enacted as legislation.”

Judging by the intensity of the exchanges and the views expressed at the World Economic Forum which took place in South Africa earlier this year, there remain formidable obstacles toward finding real solutions to the problem of global climate change.

There cannot however be a one size fits all approach towards finding solutions. Truter concludes “For developing countries a framework for mitigation actions which are appropriate to each country must be agreed upon and recorded in a new, legally binding instrument under the Convention. Developed countries in turn should be legally bound in terms of an instrument under the Convention to provide adequate and predictable support, including funding, technology and capacity building in order to assist developing countries to carry out their mitigation actions and achieve their mitigation targets.”

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