AMCEN climate change talks enter decisive week to finalize position before Copenhagen

Delegates and high-level experts from African countries, who participated in the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are finalizing efforts today to consolidate and map out the region's position ahead of the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

However, with less than six weeks to go before the historic meeting in Denmark where the post-Kyoto climate bill will be forged, worries remain that much still has to be done to make Africa's voice heard.

The meeting, the last major preparatory gathering in Africa before the negotiations in Copenhagen begin, is the initiative of AMCEN and the African Union, (AU), in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Participants at the meeting discussed Africa's common negotiating position; deliberated on the framework of African climate change programmes and its associated frameworks of sub-regional climate change programmes; and deepened the understanding of African experts on the issues being negotiated in connection with the international climate change regime beyond 2012.

Last May more than 30 African countries met in a weeklong session in UNEP's Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and adopted the Nairobi Declaration on climate. The Declaration urged all parties - and particularly the international community - that increased support for Africa should be based on the priorities for Africa, which include adaptation, capacity-building, financing and technology development and transfer.

Climate change is clearly impacting Africa in every way. According to the latest indicators, globally the climate is changing more rapidly than estimated. Today, nine out of every ten recorded disasters are climate related. Rising temperatures and more frequent and prolonged floods, droughts and storms are impacting millions of people's lives. And Africa is feeling the brunt of the changing weather patterns. Increasing numbers of natural disasters have left people grappling with drought, flooded houses and growing poverty.

Home to some of the major ecosystems in the world, climate change is also threatening some 20-30 percent of species in Africa which now face the danger of extinction if global warming continues. According to a detailed study by Mozambique's national Disaster Management Institute, over the next 20 years and beyond the country will be overwhelmed by more natural disasters like cyclones, floods, droughts and disease outbreak as a result of climate change.

African countries hope for an inclusive, fair and effective outcome in Copenhagen that prioritizes both adaptation and mitigation, and recognizes that the continent has an urgent need for support. The negotiations in Copenhagen must also recognize that solving the climate problem will only be possible if it is undertaken in the context of Africa's need for development and capacity building.

Having adopted the Nairobi Declaration, AMCEN delegates continue to hope that there will be similar consensus in Copenhagen but worry that time is running out and much more still has to be done.

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