‘Focus should remain on climate change’

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WORLD leaders, civil society organisations and international agencies are meeting in Marrakech, Morocco for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) 22 to come up with best solutions to help humanity cope with harsh effects of climate change.

The conference has been running from 8 November, hardly a week after the landmark ratification of the Paris Agreement, bringing all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. It will end tomorrow with the stated objective of enhancing support for assisting developing countries as they are the most vulnerable to climate change.

In this wide-ranging interview, Lesotho Meteorological Services ‘Mathabo Mahahabisa speaks to Lesotho Times (LT) reporter Pascalinah Kabi about Lesotho’s impressions on the conference which has been described by COP 22 president and Moroccan Foreign Affairs Minister Salaheddine Mezouar as the last opportunity to act to avert the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations and poor countries.

LT: Since COP 22 started on 8 November, what are the impressions of Lesotho on the ongoing negotiations seeking to find strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change?

Mahahabisa: The past week has been dominated by negotiations among world leaders and various delegations. The negotiations looked extensively into few agreements that have been made in the past years.

Two of those agreements include the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body on the Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTTA).

The SBI was established by the COP in 2014, replacing the ad hoc open-ended working group on the review of implementation of the convention.

The four functions and core areas of work of SBI consist of review of progress in implementation; strategic actions to enhance implementation; strengthening means of implementation; and operations of the convention and the protocols. The Bureau of the Conference of the Parties serves as the Bureau of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation.

On the other hand, SBSTTA was established to help us understand issues of climate change scientifically, telling us what scientific findings say about climate change and its damage.

It further establishes and reports to governments on how far the world has gone in addressing issues of climate change, decreasing the temperatures in the atmosphere. The Copenhagen Agreement, reached in 2009, tells us that we must be working towards making sure that our temperatures remain at 2 decree Celsius. As things stand now we are at around 0.8 degrees Celsius.

It is worth noting that although countries drew the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), committing each country to decrease greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions. However, most of these commitments are not ambitions enough to help the world reduce the greenhouse gas emissions to keep the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

As of today (Sunday), we have not yet reached the agreement.

LT: What is Lesotho’s reaction on the posture by many African countries that climate change financing is not accessible for adaptation and mitigation programmes?

Mahahabisa: In accordance with the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities set out in the convention, developed country parties are to provide financial resources to assist developing country parties in implementing the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It is important for all governments and stakeholders to understand and assess the financial needs developing countries have so that such countries can undertake activities to address climate change.

Developing countries need to know that financial resources are predictable, sustainable, and that the channels used allow them to utilize the resources directly without difficulty. For developed countries, it is important that developing countries are able to demonstrate their ability to effectively receive and utilize the resources.

In addition, there needs to be full transparency in the way the resources are used for mitigation and adaptation activities. The effective measurement, reporting and verification of climate finance is key to building trust between Parties to the Convention, and also for external actors.

However, there are so many stringent bottlenecks put in place making climate financing inaccessible. During the COP21 held in Paris, France, developed countries made financial pledges to support developing countries’ adaptation and mitigation programmes but very few of these pledges have materialized into monetary terms.

So this shows that the climate change financing is still not available for developing countries, most hit-hard by climate change, to implement programmes designed to adapt and mitigate climate change.

There is also an issue of transparency; developed countries are finding it hard to play their cards openly. So you can see that as African countries, though we are emitting very low, we are unable to access the climate change financing despite the fact that we have been told it is available.

Climate change financing is one of the major issues which COP 22 must address if we are to adapt and mitigate climate change successfully.

LT: COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar said the ongoing conference is “an opportunity to make the voices of the most vulnerable countries to climate change heard”. What voices are you making as government to ensure that Basotho are well equipped to adapt and mitigate climate change?

Mahahabisa: We have many programmes seeking to address issues of climate change in Lesotho. Such programmes are championed by different institutions in the country as climate change is a cross-cutting problem that needs to be addressed across all the sectors. Government ministries, non-governmental organisations and international agencies are all working towards a common goal of ensuring that Basotho are capacitated enough to adapt to and mitigate effects of climate change.

As LMS, under the Ministry of Energy and Meteorology, we have different programmes targeting schools with the biggest milestones being the inclusion of climate change in the national curriculum.

We are strongly believing that educating children on issues of climate change will help us make all the right noises to ensure that people understand and appreciate issues of climate change and the importance of taking care of their environment. We have trained the media on climate change and the ozone layer, closely working with them as one of the strategies of educating Basotho about climate change.

LT: World leaders in the ongoing COP22 stated that women are most vulnerable to effects of climate change. What is Lesotho doing to capacitate this group?

Mahahabisa: This is a fact we cannot run away from. Women and children suffer the most under the effects of climate change. Women are the pillars of their homes. They are expected to feed their families, no matter the circumstances.

So we need to give them all the tools to adapt to effects of climate change. We need to avail adaptation methods to the doorstep of our African women. Such adaptation methods include capacitating women through technology transfer, see what is suitable for them to use to adapt and mitigate climate change.

Unless we fully capacitate women, it is going to be rather difficult to win the fight against climate change as we would have left a critical group behind. Women are the glue that holds their families and if their vulnerability to climate change is not addressed, we would be fighting a losing battle.

LT: What impacts does climate change have on the world’s ability to achieving the ambitions Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Mahahabisa: Climate change has a huge bearing on the world’s ability to achieve all the set goals in the SDGs. It must be noted that while there is a specific SDGs on climate change, Goal 13 which seeks to take urgent action to combat climate change, it cuts across all the 17 SDGs. We cannot talk about SDGs on food security, health issues, agriculture, forestry to just mention a few without talking about climate change as it has a huge bearing on each country’s ability to achieving SDGs on food security, health and forestry.

It is also important for people to appreciate our agriculture is still rain fed. We rely heavily on rain for us to yield quality production. In the era of climate change where we experience drought or floods due to climate change, our agriculture suffers a blow. So you cannot talk about food security without climate change.

It is also important for us all to appreciate that people cannot have access to clean water if we are not doing our best to combat effects of climate change. If the situation continues as it is now, the SDG on forestry will be achieved as climate change continues to have dire effects on this sector. If we do not migrate to proper irrigation systems as one of the methods to combating climate change, access to clean water by all in 2030 is a far-fetched dream.

All these sectors are affected by climate change and we need to mainstream it in our plans put in place to achieving SDGs.

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