YAOUNDE - No doubt, the climate is changing drastically. Across the world, thousands are dying every year from the effects of extreme temperatures, flooding, and disease. And the worst is yet to come, if the current trends continue. World leaders meet next week in the Danish capital Copenhagen to develop a new framework to fight the phenomenon, which some have called humanities biggest threat ever.
However, finding a common way forward at the Copenhagen summit could be hard, fear many negotiators. One of the countries leading the cause for an equitable and fair climate deal in Copenhagen is the United Kingdom. Standard Tribune contacted its high commission in Yaounde to understand more about what the UK believes and what they are doing.
The high commission’s Communication Manager Abel Akara Titcha was interviewed by Eugene N. Nforngwa.
The British High Commisioner recently delivered a map on the devastating consequences of a 4-degree Celsius global rise in temperature to the Cameroon’ Minister of Environment and Nature Protection, Hele Pierre. What does the map tell us?
The 4-degree map illustrates the global consequences of failing to keep climate change to under 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial world climate average. The map which was produced with the latest peer-reviewed science from the The UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre predicts devastating consequences for health and food harvest as well as extreme weather conditions such as drought and floods by 2050 if nothing is done now to keep global temperature rise in check. And, alarmingly, it shows for example that our region may be badly affected by water shortages and forest fires – we could expect the sort of wildfires more usually associated with Australia and California.
What is the purpose of this initiative?
Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband together with Britain’s chief scientist Prof John Beddington launched the map in October to transmit a message of urgency to world leaders that now is the time to lay the solid framework to avoid the spectre of a 4-degree world. The initiative seeks primarily to emphasize the point the UK has already been making that the world cannot afford for Climate Change talks in Copenhagen to fail. The world needs a deal that is ambitious, fair and effective to save our children from the terrible effects of a 4-degree Celsius situation.
Could all of this be some wild speculation? There is still some division among scientists on climate change and on how serious it might be as a problem. Do non-believers have a point?
To the UK Government, climate change is not up for debate anymore. The vast majority of the world’s scientists are agreed on this. The ordinary citizen on the streets of Maroua in Cameroon is living the effects of climate change as is the person on the streets of Manchester [UK] or Jakarta [India].
The UK’s Met Office has temperature records from 1659 showing, that since the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, the average world temperature has risen by 0.75 °C. Leading scientists in atmospheric studies have also proved that many of the climate problems our world is facing are a result of human activity such as transportation, power generation, agriculture and deforestation. Today scientists have the tools to measure historical global temperature trends accurately. The UK’s science museum website – www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/proveit demonstrates the strength of the evidence.
What would be the most urgent action that governments need to take to combat the effects of climate change?
There is certainly no one-size-fits -all approach to take, especially as each country does not contribute to, or suffer from, the problem in exactly the same way or scale.
The UK and many other European countries have been working hard to meet their carbon emission targets set in the Kyoto Protocol. The UK is on course to meet its 2012 carbon reduction target of 12.8% of the 1990 levels. Britain is now the first industrialised country to have passed a Climate Change Act which makes emission cuts legally binding for all stakeholders. The Act says emission cuts must reach 80% by 2050. This is a fundamental step for others to follow, for it would be a great incentive for nations to turn to renewable energy.
For countries endowed with forest, a tighter control of illegal logging among other things will help. Developing countries with forest resources can take advantage of carbon credit schemes being devised. Several processes are being developed through multilateral engagements for mitigation and adaptation with the hope that they are incorporated into the deal the world hopes to reach in Copenhagen this December. A very important process, which the UK is supporting, is called REDD – Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation. Through this process, a country such as Cameroon and others in the Congo Basin can adopt strategies to gain money from not deforesting in the same manner in which they could gain money from extensive logging. The process would involve technology transfer for exact measurements of the level of forest degradation and deforestation. But training, capacity building and educational campaigns would be necessary drivers for the required change.
What can explain the resistance of some Western countries to commit to huge cutbacks in Carbon emission, which today stands as the principal cause of climate change?
Nearly all states have acknowledged the enormity of the problem of climate change and are ready to be part of the process to reverse it. But to achieve this needs coordinated action to change the way certain economies operate.
Since the industrial revolution, fossil fuel has constituted the major source of energy and a lot of investment efforts depend hugely on this source of energy to support modern ways of life from transportation to manufacturing.
It is not for the UK to explain why some countries are still not fully engaged in the campaign for a full-scale onslaught against climate change but there is hope that everyone will get involved on the scale that the world needs to avoid the consequences of a 4 degree situation.
Many now believe the coming climate change talks in Copenhagen are doomed. Is that a view you share?
These concerns have been raised but the UK’s position, as often stated by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, is that the world cannot afford not to have a deal that is ambitious, fair and effective. A lot of people have now signed up to the “seal the deal” campaign being pushed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. And there is a plethora of meetings before Copenhagen to try to guarantee the best outcome of the summit. US authorities have of late been talking of the need for the world to act to stop a climate scenario that may become irreversible. The UK is still very hopeful of a satisfactory outcome of Copenhagen.
Developing countries have been clamouring for what is now termed “climate justice”, which requires in part that the West should not only take steps to reduce its emissions but to also pay for the cost of adaptation in developing countries. Do you think this demand is grounded?
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has made it abundantly clear that the UK wants a climate change deal that is fair especially to developing countries which have contributed very little to causing the greenhouse effect that has engendered climate change.
What role is the UK playing in the ongoing effort to deal with the climate change issue?
The UK’s effort is varied from research to funding of initiatives to pushing for an ambitious deal that would guarantee a healthy global climate for our children and subsequent generations.
The UK has been instrumental in getting world leaders together to discuss the urgency of actions needed on climate change.
As I’ve said, the UK is on course to achieving its 12.8% emission reduction targets for 2012 which it pledged in Kyoto. The country hosted world leaders in a carbon sequestration leadership forum last month to discuss feasible mechanisms for ways of capturing and storing carbon, ahead of Copenhagen.
Its leaders have also been present in every international meeting to which it has been invited to discuss climate change. In the recent pre-Copenhagen conference, Energy and Climate Change Secretary of State Ed Miliband joined 40 other environment ministers to restate the need for a sealed deal.
In the area of research, the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre and Science Museum are working to inform the science, and social economics of a greener world.
The UK has equally been leading in funding processes that would help mitigate climate change. It commissioned two authoritative reviews on the subject – The Stern and Eliasch Reviews. The UK has already pledged a £50 million contribution to the Congo Basin Forest Fund, which Norway is also supporting.
Climate Change is the one of the most important foreign and domestic policy concerns of the UK Government.
What work are you doing in Cameroon, in this regard? What effects can it have?
Like in the areas of human rights and governance, the UK government is sponsoring small, high impact social adaptation projects and larger mitigation projects.
A huge forest mapping scheme carried out by High Commission’s partner Helveta is helping Baka communities monitor logging activity in their areas thanks to GPS technology. The £167,000 [about CFA121.7 million]-project was completed in 2008.
The UK sponsored a three-year £88,000 [about CFA64,1 million] project, called The Access Initiative, to promote environmental democracy by helping communities in Cameroon, Gabon and the DRC participate in forest governance.
In addition to these multi year projects, the High Commission runs a Challenge Fund which is a window of funding for smaller projects running through one UK financial year. This financial year, the British High Commissions has funded small scale climate change projects amounting to £72,000 [about CFA52.5 million]. Projects include the building of improved stoves reducing wood use for cooking by 60%-70% in the Far North, run by the Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection; the provision of low carbon-emitting fish smoking ovens for fishermen in Cameroon’s coastal regions implemented by a coalition of NGOs.
We are also funding projects to encourage journalists to report more on climate change; to assist the Presbyterian Church in reforesting schemes; to help parliamentarians use their legislative remit to tackle the problem; and to support a religious order in providing solar energy to a dispensary in the East province.
The High Commissioner is committed to providing such opportunities to many more groups to tackle climate change. The High Commission website ukincameroon.fco.gov.uk provides information on how to access these funds which also cover the areas of human rights, democracy and governance.
What kind of conversations have the UK been having with Cameroon authorities on this subject?
The British High Commissioner Bharat Joshi is continuing the efforts of his predecessor to collaborate with the Cameroon Government on climate change issues, in particular forest protection and carbon credits. In various meetings with partners across the Cameroonian Government, HE Joshi has noted the progress Cameroon has made in developing its position for Copenhagen. The High Commissioner has been encouraging Cameroon government partners to act on climate change across ministerial departments for better results. Where appropriate, those ministries primarily concerned with the issue have been encouraged to submit project bids.