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Developing countries get climate adaptation boost

November 20, 2006 By Kimani Chege This article courtesy of Nature News.

But Nairobi conference leaves open the question of what happens after Kyoto.

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A roadmap for the expansion of the Kyoto protocol, including ways to assist developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change, was reached at the United Nations climate-change conference that concluded in Nairobi, Kenya, this weekend.

But there was little movement on deciding what to do after the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012. Despite general agreement that global emissions need to fall drastically, all that the parties specifically decided upon in this regard was a comprehensive review in 2008 to focus on future commitments.

After two weeks of intense talks, delegates agreed that the adaptation fund a pot of money available for developing countries to adjust to a changing climate should be managed by a body under the direct authority of countries in the Kyoto agreement, so as not to be unduly influenced by countries that have not signed up.

And they agreed to encourage equal-opportunity investment in Clean Development Mechanism projects. Africa hosts very few of these projects, for example, which delegates were keen to see changed. The Nairobi Framework, announced by the United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, and the Special Climate Change Fund, will provide additional support to developing countries to successfully run such projects.

"The conference has delivered on its promise to support the needs of developing countries," said conference president Kivutha Kibwana, Kenyan minister for natural resources and the environment. "The positive spirit of the conference has prevailed."

But on actual emissions reductions the news was not so definitive. Ministers and delegates from 190 countries agreed on a 'work plan' a guide to countries on how to reduce their future emissions. And parties to the Kyoto protocol adopted rules of procedure to ensure that countries have a clear accountability regime for their emission reductions targets.

A proposal by Russia seeking to allow countries not party to Kyoto protocol to take on voluntary commitments to cut greenhouse gases also faced indecision. It was shelved until a future date to allow countries to study it further.

Moving forwards

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the 2008 review will be guided by "the best scientific evidence", and urged countries to take up the existing work plan to cut emissions.

"The fact that parties now have a concrete work plan means that they can move ahead with addressing issues fundamental for agreement on future commitments, such as the level of emission reductions that is required and the ways in which they can be achieved," he added.

During the talks, the prominent, recent UK report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern played a strong role, helping countries to acknowledge the threats climate change could have on world economy.

"We are seeing a revolutionary shift in the debate on climate change; from looking at climate-change policies as a cost factor for development, countries are starting to see them as opportunities to enhance economic growth in a sustainable way," said Yvo de Boer.

Disappointment

But many left the meeting disappointed. Environmentalists noted that the conference did not live up to its expectations, as most of the decisions were referred for discussion next year. "We are not seeing the bold leadership required. Further delay is totally irresponsible," said Catherine Pearce, of Friends of the Earth International.

The British and German environment ministers co-authored a statement saying "greater urgency must be injected into international climate-change negotiations if the world is to face up to its responsibilities in tackling climate change".

Kenyan environmentalist Sharon Looremetta noted that the delay only helps the developed countries while herders from her Maasai community continue to feel the effects of climate change, such as droughts and floods.

Andy Atkins of UK Christian development agency Tearfund lamented, "Sadly, this conference has been marked by a lack of urgency and leadership. This must change quickly if we are to halt global warming in the decades ahead."

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