UN Climate Change Summit In Paris 2015: World Leaders Must Stop Paying Lip Service To Sustainable Development Matters

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath


Do you remember this philosophical Ghanaian adage that says: “If you cut your own tongue and chew it with rapacious appetite, you have chewed no meat at all?”


As world leaders, especially those from industrialised nations embark on their ‘talk shop’ journey to Paris, France in a few weeks or so for 2015 UN Climate Change Summit, they must bear in mind that the rest of the world is watching them with eagle eyes. They must know that we are in the 21st century and hardly can they play tricks with the destiny of humanity as far as environmental sustainability and climate change matters go!


On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS), University of Ghana, in collaboration with France Embassy, ABANTU for Development and other stakeholders, organised a training workshop for the media on Conference of the Parties (COP21) Negotiation Language and Process.” 


Two major thought-provoking presentations that were made by experts included “Process of Climate Change Negotiation & Critical Issues for Media and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in COP21”. This was presented by Philip Acquah, Member, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC Roaster Expert).


Ms. Patience Damptey, Convener, Gender Action on Climate Change for Equity and Sustainability (GACCES), made a presentation on “Promoting Inclusiveness in the Outcome of COP21 (balance of power between Annex I & II countries and gender responsiveness”). The two resource persons did justice to their respective topics.


Africa going to Paris as a Team


As far as this writer is concerned, the training session was an eye opener. It came to light that at least the 46 African countries including Ghana have agreed, “Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently”


Theoretically, Africa knows that to meet the objectives of UN Sustainable energy for all by 2030, GHG emissions by worse offending nations ought to be reduced to levels acceptable to Africa and not the other way round.


Africa must insist on provision of energy services that will improve quality of life for the people of Africa in the area of health, life expectancy and comfort and productivity. Africa must stick to its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). African experts must put this adopted position into practical application strongly at the negotiation table in Paris.  Otherwise, it would have been better they were not there at all.


Trends of Greenhouse Gases


What prompted this author to title this article as above is the fact that, if the trends of Greenhouse Gas emissions as disclosed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2014 Report is anything to go by then one will not be too harsh to describe industrialised countries as paying lip service to global climate change matters.


According to IPCC 2014 Report, total anthropogenic or man-made GHG emissions have continued to increase over 1970 to 2010 with larger absolute decadal increases toward the end of this period. Some of the main sources of greenhouse emissions or the rise in temperature that affect the climatic conditions of our mother Earth or “our Common Home” as Pope Francis would put it, include burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. These activities lead to higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air.


It has been proved scientifically that land use or misuse of land as applies in this part of the world especially deforestation in the tropics account for up to one third of total “anthropogenic C02”.  In Ghana for instance, apart from deforestation through bush fires and charcoal burning, illegal gold mining known as “galamsey” is not only destroying our forests but also contaminates rivers and pollutes water bodies.


IPCC 2014 Report revealed that “Despite a growing number of climate change mitigation policies, annual GHG emissions grew on average by 1.0 gigatonne carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2eq) (2.2 %) per year from 2000 to 2010 compared to 0.4 GtCO2eq (1.3 %) per year from 1970 to 2000 (Figure Total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010 and reached 49 (±4.5) GtCO2eq/yr in 2010. The global economic crisis 2007/2008 only temporarily reduced emissions.”


Further, “CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributed about 78 % of the total GHG emission increase from 1970 to 2010, with a similar percentage contribution for the period 2000–2010. Fossil fuel-related CO2 emissions reached 32 (±2.7) GtCO2/yr, in 2010, and grew further by about
3 % between 2010 and 2011 and by about 1–2 % between 2011 and 2012.


“Of the 49 (±4.5) GtCO2eq/yr in total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2010, CO2 remains the major anthropogenic GHG accounting for 76 % (38±3.8 GtCO2eq/yr) of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2010. 16 % (7.8±1.6 GtCO2eq/yr) come from methane (CH4), 6.2 % (3.1±1.9 GtCO2eq/yr) from nitrous oxide (N2O), and 2.0 % (1.0±0.2 GtCO2eq/yr) from fluorinated gases.”


IPCC 2014 Report concluded that, since 1970, about 25 % of anthropogenic GHG emissions have been in the form of non-CO2 gases annually. This is more reason why world leaders at the Paris Conference must not pay lip service to environmental sustainability. I suggest that Pope Francis’s PAPAL ENCYCLICAL LAUDATO SI must be discussed at COP21.


The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) in Accra










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