By Servaas van den Bosch
COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – Global warming will hit Africa hardest at the local level, yet municipalities are grossly overlooked by the decision-makers in Copenhagen. In response Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) launched a continent-wide declaration on climate change.
ÔÇťOur grandchildren will ask us what granny did to prepare us for the effects of climate change,ÔÇŁ counselor Agnes Ntlhangula reminded an audience of African local government officials. ÔÇťGlobal warming will affect Africa in the worst way, because our people use natural resources. Yes, the developed countries should carry us forwards, but we must also take action ourselves.ÔÇŁ
The African Local Government Declaration on Climate Change outlines a set of demands and recommendations from local governments in over twenty African countries. Representatives of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda were present at the launch.
ÔÇťThe most immediate goal at this conference is to lobby for inclusion of local governments in the negotiating text,ÔÇŁ said ICLEI Africa director Kobie Brand.
To do this, ICLEI has brought over 1100 local counselors, mayors and other representatives to the Danish capital. ItÔÇÖs the second largest delegation at the COP, and many of them are African.
ÔÇťI am so impressed,ÔÇŁ exclaimed ICLEI global president David Cadman. ÔÇťAfrica has to understand that it is an absolute leader when it comes to municipalities working together and getting organized. It needs to take that leadership role in this conference. Talk to your national delegations, urge them to step forward.ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťPoliticians will only buy into something when they are supplied with lots of information,ÔÇŁ Ntlhangula added.
ÔÇťThe voices of local governments are missing out. Not just here in Copenhagen but everywhere at national level,ÔÇŁ argued Cecilia Njenga of the UN Habitat Centre in Nairobi. ÔÇťItÔÇÖs clear that we cannot incorporate the adaptation responses to climate change, but we are not there when the money-cake is divided.ÔÇŁ
She urged local governments not to sit back in dealing with climate change. ÔÇťWe know that the biggest problems will occur with food security and water provision. Who else than the municipality is responsible for that? We have to think in a more holistic manner in solving these problems.ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťWe cannot make the mistake that we made with HIV/AIDS,ÔÇŁ warned Ntlhangula. ÔÇťThere we didnÔÇÖt act until it was much too late. LetÔÇÖs act on climate change while itÔÇÖs fresh.ÔÇŁ
Cadman said “The risky habits of the North are transferred to Africa, and the effects are floods and droughts alike. Africa has acknowledged this danger and is in the forefront in making the voice of local governments heard. I hope this declaration will become a much wider consensus statement.ÔÇŁ
The document calls on Convention Parties to build a pro-poor framing of the global response to climate change and give a central place to cities and towns in mitigation and adaptation. ÔÇťThe African continent has the fastest growing urban population and our urban centres are the site of substantial development pressure, which are at the frontline of response to climate change,ÔÇŁ the African Local Government declaration reads.
The flipside of this coin is the potential for African cities to contribute to the fight against global warming. ÔÇťImagine how much energy would be saved through a simple measure like installing ceilings in two million low-cost houses,ÔÇŁ said Carstens Laugensen, environmental attach├ę of the Danish Embassy in Pretoria.
Two years ago the Danes initiated the Urban Environmental Management Programme (UEMP) and bankrolled it with 40 million dollars, eighty percent of which will go to implementation.
Municipalities can apply for grants under UEMP through the Ministry of Environment with a budget plan for projects of their own choice. ÔÇťThis is vital,ÔÇŁ commented Laugensen. ÔÇťHow would we as Danes know what local solutions are required in Durban or Johannesburg?ÔÇŁ
With UEMP money, Cape Town started a climate change think tank that must prepare the city for catastrophes. The city of Durban invested in both urban adaptation projects and community based initiatives in rural areas. Both cities, housing over three million people, are at risk from rising seas levels. Flash floods have badly damaged Durban in recent years.
According to Cadman UEMP can go a long way: ÔÇťWe should roll it out all over the continent.ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťThe local governments that do well have to be our voice at a national level,ÔÇŁ appealed Njenga. ÔÇťWe need our champions to speak for us.ÔÇŁ