Southern African countries have adopted regional priorities and plans for RIO+20 conference coming this month, after the one day multi-stakeholder discussion, which was held in Gaborone last Thursday.
The dialogue on climate change gave the Sothern African Development Community (SADC) member states an opportunity to reach a common ground and develop a regional policy on issues of environment and development.
The 15 countries which have already developed future plans on post Conference of Parties on climate change (COP 17) have resolved that, since the region has similar environmental problems, the member states should have one position on issues to be negotiated in RIO+20 conference.
Commenting during the dialogue, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Botswana (FES) Representative, Helmut Elisher, said, “In the wake of failure of the individual countries having their positions reflected in COP 17 and other international conferences, regional integration is the only viable solution.” Elisher said though the region is not high on emission of gases, it faces threats from climate change impacts which are beyond the countries as individuals.
“SADC is one of the regions heavily hit by the impacts of climate change despite contributing very little to global green house gas emissions and the resultant climate change impacts. We can’t tackle climate change on our own, especially as it is clearly so much more than an environmental issue,” he said.
The regional priorities, which revolved around making environmental issues an integral part of poverty eradication, were embraced as SADC agenda for action in RIO+20. This came after the member states agreed with a representative from South African Trade Unions (SATU) that climate change demands climate jobs.
Jeff Rudin said climate jobs also involve the adaptations that must be made as a consequence of global warming.
“All this means the urgent creation of a very large number of climate jobs,” said Rudin.
A representative of Swaziland government, Shlobile Sikhosana, said as development efforts in different sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, appear to be losing the ‘sustainability’ focus, Southern Africa needs to change running farming from mitigating to adaptation approach.
“Mitigation is important and has long term benefits, but we are faced with climate change problems which need adaptation. A Climate change expert from the University of Botswana, David Sello, reiterated that and said it’s high time farmers adapt to climate change problems.
“It’s either we adapt or we die,” he warned.
On issues of green economy, the SADC member states agreed that, as part of agenda for action, negotiators for countries in the region should push for financing of transition to green economy.
Oliver Chapeya of Enviroplan (Pty) Ltd, from Zimbabwe, said though it is expensive, the benefits of green economy outweigh the costs.
Though the discussion finalised that the region should push the agenda for action in RIO+20, it has emerged that a majority of SADC countries lacks competent negotiators.
A local ecologist, who is also a former negotiator for Botswana, Raymond Moemedi, said the region does not have skilled negotiators who can negotiate in good faith. He said as negotiations involve competition of ideas and decisions, which involve investment on people’s life, it’s high time SADC countries increased the capacity of its negotiators. He said Botswana usually sends government workers who are never taught how to negotiate smartly, while countries from other regions always send professional negotiators.
RIO + 20 conference, which comes on June 20-22, 2012 in Brazil, is a United Nations conference on sustainable development.