COP 22, MARRAKECH: The Action cop for climate change

  • December 6, 2016

Every year, The United Nations Climate Change Conferences are held in the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. With 197 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC Parties.

The twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) and the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12) held in Bab Ighli, Marrakech, Morocco from 7-18 November, 2016, took place adhering to the goal of the annual convention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change.

On its way to Marrakech this year

The progress made during COP 21 was remarkably important. COP 22 will take over the reins from COP 22 with a focus on action items in order to achieve the priorities of The Paris Agreement, especially related to adaptation, transparency, technology transfer, mitigation, capacity building and loss and damages. This conference is an “opportunity to make the voices of the most vulnerable countries to climate change heard, in particular African countries and island states. It is urgent to act on these issues linked to stability and security.

After its entry into force in 1994, the UNFCCC Secretariat was established in Geneva. It was then relocated to Bonn in 1995 following the “First Conference of the Parties” (COP1) in Berlin. Since then, there have been twenty-one COPs, with the most recent one organized in Paris this past December. The COP meets annually to review and assess the implementation of the UNFCCC and any other legal instruments the body adopts with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change. These annual UN climate change conferences are commonly referred to as COP.

An Ingenious model for preservation of environment for the present and future generation

The ecosystem of our planet, earth is dangerously threatened. Several scientific studies are a proof of it. The natural mechanisms that sustain the earth’s climate are in disorder and have created chaos in the functioning of all the living species. The world is experiencing unprecedented global warming according to various studies conducted over the past 25 years, notably by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They evaluate from a scientific perspective the influence of human activity on climate change by measuring risks and proposing mitigation and adaptation strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts report a rise in sea levels and concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Each of the last three decades have been warmer than the previous one, and warmer than all previous decades. This past year has been the hottest on record.

The Paris Agreement

In order to enter into force, the Paris Agreement, adopted on December 12, 2015 in Paris, had to be approved by at least 55 Parties to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) accounting for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. On September 21, 2016, on the sidelines of the 71st UN General Assembly, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon invited the Parties to a special event in New York in order to fast-track the ratification of the Agreement. Up till now, 31 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification crossing the first threshold of 55 Parties.

The second threshold of 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions required for this entry into force was crossed on October 5, 2016, with the deposit at the United Nations of the instruments of ratification by the European Union, which counts as 1 party, along with seven of its member states namely Hungary, France, Slovakia, Austria, Malta, Portugal and Germany in addition to Nepal.

Thirty days later, the Paris Agreement came into force on the eve of the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC.

Evolution in Energy, Africa

Africa continues to face critical challenges related to its energy sector. The current energy policies and systems have failed to provide the platform needed to support the economic development of the majority of Africa’s poor. In fact, energy has been supplied in insufficient quantity, at a cost, form and quality that has limited its consumption by the majority of Africa’s population, making the continent the lowest per capita consumer average as compared to the global one. Over the past four decades, the gap between energy supply and demand in Africa has actually widened, while it has narrowed in other developing countries. Unless drastic interventions are made, recent trends indicate that this gap will continue to grow, and a majority in Africa will continue to lack access to basic energy services and hence would have limited chances of realizing any meaningful social and economic development.

Large-scale and small-scale renewable energy systems.

Renewable energy technologies provide attractive environmentally sound technology options for Africa’s electricity industry. They could offset a significant proportion of foreign exchange that is used for importing oil for electricity generation in most countries. In addition, renewables are modular and are well suited for meeting decentralized rural energy demand. The modular nature (i.e. can be developed in an incremental fashion) of most renewable energy technologies and the low investment levels makes them particularly suitable for capital-constrained African countries. Most renewable energy technologies utilize locally available resources and expertise, and would therefore provide employment opportunities for the locals. The success of renewable energy technology in the region has been limited by a combination of factors which include: poor institutional framework and infrastructure; inadequate planning policies of skilled manpower.

Most urban areas in Africa face serious problems with disposal of liquid and solid waste, which could be converted to energy. Existing municipality liquid waste handling and treatment systems can be renovated to capture methane produced, which could then be used to generate electricity to power the treatment plants; the excess could be fed into the grid. Organic municipal solid waste could also be incinerated or gasified to produce energy. Urban waste management is a major challenge in many African cities and heaps of rubbish is a common site. High capital costs and lack of conducive institutional frameworks have hindered the development of plants to convert urban waste to energy.

“Let us be good stewards of the Earth we inherited. All of us have to share the Earth’s fragile ecosystems and precious resources, and each of us has a role to play in preserving them. If we are to go on living together on this Earth, we must all be responsible for it.” – Kofi Annan

Large-scale solar energy projects are very limited in Africa because of cost constraints. Several countries in Northern Africa are planning to develop solar thermal plants of varying capacities buoyed by interest from European countries. Small Scale systems: In terms of energy used per system, small-scale traditional bio-energy systems appear marginal but their importance lies in the very large number of end-users that these systems serve. Bio-fuelled cook stoves meet the bulk of cooking, heating and lighting needs of most rural households in Africa.

In Africa, small-scale renewable energy systems have mainly been used to increase access to modern energy services. These systems are generally modular and decentralized in nature and thereby able to provide energy services to communities that are not accessed by existing conventional energy supply systems such as the electricity grid. The majority of sub-Saharan households rely primarily on wood fuel for cooking and heating. Wood fuel is the main source of fuel in rural areas while charcoal is commonly used in the poorer urban households. However, shortages of alternative energy sources including electricity blackouts and brownouts often force even the better-off households to use charcoal. As a response to fuel wood shortages, improved biomass cook stoves have been promoted throughout Africa. However, the level of adoption has been limited due to various factors including cost, effectiveness in fuel or money savings and compatibility with user needs.

Africa must promote Bio-fuel technology

The choice of renewable energy technologies for dissemination and development in sub-Saharan Africa should take into account the existing technical knowledge and local industries. Technologies that improve existing methods and build on already established industries are likely to be successfully disseminated. In addition, these technologies can become self-sustainable in the long-term.

Africa needs to promote biofuels by developing conducive policy instruments such as blending targets, tax benefits, smart subsidies and loan guarantees. These policies should be developed considering the cross-sectoral nature of biofuels and the need to comply with agreed sustainability criteria and resource availability

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