Friday, December 23, 2011

Has Malawi gained from COP17?

By Tiwonge Ng'ona, The Daily Times - Malawi (December 21, 2011)

They came in their large numbers to Durban. These were great minds who met to explore the future in the thick of a climate change scare. The talks raised hopes to the poor and peasant farmers of possible ways to reduce the effects, which are negatively changing people's lives.

For two weeks they locked themselves in meetings both closed and open, spending hours and hours negotiating and opposing and yet the result lacks a lot to be desired.

Now they are back or heading to their respective countries. These are big brains from over 190 countries who gathered to ponder on the positive ways to address climate change.

To a poor Malawian the United Nations climate change talks might mean nothing because no matter how long policy makers meet, on behalf of the voiceless, people continue to experience climate change effects.

But the Malawi delegates who went to the talks either as an observer or negotiator, to them the talks have got a different meaning all together.

For youthful Heather Maseko, a Chancellor College student, who went to Durban under National Youth Network on Climate Change (NYNCC), she came to Durban to learn how negotiations are made.

"As a youth this is a platform to gain experience on the process of negotiations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a future leader," she said adding that though the talks have not met her expectations, she hopes there is always a next time.

The faith community was also part of the talks as observers. National Coordinator for Act Alliance, Dingiswayo Jere, feels the talks need to be taken more seriously as it is happening now.

He cited the absence of President Bingu wa Mutharika and his ministers and other influential leaders like United States President Barack Obama, Robert Mugabe at the talks as discouraging and degrading to the impact of such talks.

"We needed as a country to have our President here because some of these issues they need a political voice which in this case can better come from him (President)" he said adding that the absence of other key leaders has also negatively affected the outcome of the talks.

Small-holder farmer Eunice Chipengule who was among African women farmers who presented a petition to the COP president hoping that before COP17 ends they will have their concerns addressed, should be among frustrated people because as African farmers among others they were advocating for the Kyoto Protocol extension.

But Leader of delegation Evans Njewa, who is the Environmental Officer for Policy and Planning, Climate Change and Global Environment Facility, took courage to say that even if it might seem that the Durban summit failed to bear fruits, talks on climate change continue outside the Conference of Parties (COP).

"We might have failed to come up with something positive, but we are hoping that talks will continue until we reach an agreement on the second Kyoto Protocol," he said.

Njewa said the talks have been beneficial for Malawi as they provided a forum for the country to present its position in as far as climate change is concerned.

Mainly Malawi stressed on the need for donor support towards adaptation activities. Another delegate who did not want to be identified said he feels the talks are a waste of time and money because they are there to blindfold people as decisions are made prior.

"I can assure you that the talks will not yield anything positive, rich countries do not want to endorse the second commitment," he said.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Anthony Livuza said: "We came with a lot of hope but that hope is being tampered with. We are facing difficulties in negotiating because countries like the US are unwilling to clearly put the cards on table so that we move forward."

But he disagreed the meetings are a waste of time but bemoaned their slow pace.

"We want progress so that we have the Green climate fund operational and we put in place the second Kyoto protocol. These two issues are key for Malawi because we face lots of constraints in terms of funds and capacity that would allow us to trade with complex issues like afforestation," he said.

Different organisations have come up with statements criticising developed countries' efforts to undermine the climate convention principles and legally binding agreements. For Malawians this means tougher times ahead.


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