Last week my colleague Oliver Buston and I attended the Financing for Development Conference in Kigali, where Finance and Environment Ministers discussed achievable goals for the Copenhagen climate change summit in December.
One thing that came across clearly is that in Africa the full impacts of climate change are not yet fully appreciated or understood. The same goes for the challenges that communities across the continent will face in order to adapt to these impacts. In light of this, international partners must be encouraged to offer assistance to African countries to help them build their capacity to engage, so they are not left on the sidelines of these discussions and the best climate deal for Africa is realized.
The Minister of environment from Zambia, Catherine Namugala emphasized the link between climate change and the Millennium Development Goals, especially health, and stated that the impact of climate change on least developed countries is a human rights issue.
There is still tremendous scope for Africa to set its own agenda in the climate change negotiations, but this will only happen with the help of strong leadership from African countries. With the myriad of other problems to address, climate change concerns could very easily get pushed down the list if leaders do not prioritize this issue.
I’ll be writing more shortly on the outcome of this meeting in Rwanda but for now, I’ll end with three major points from Rwandan President Kagame’s speech during the opening ceremony:
- African countries must incorporate environment issues into their development strategies.
- They must also recognize that climate change offers opportunities.
- Africa must engage in international discussions.
This is the path to a deal for Africa.