Africa especially vulnerable

01 December 2011 - 03:26 By CRISPIAN OLVER

Africa is particularly vulnerable to increased risks of extreme weather, delegates at COP17 have heard.

The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Rajendra K Pachauri, presented the latest scientific findings on the impact of climate change, saying Africa faced disasters such as droughts linked to famine and food security, as well as storms, floods and cyclones.

The focus of yesterday's discussions was development and therefore particularly relevant to South Africa and Africa in general.

At the informal consultation session, the discussion was surprisingly open-ended and inclusive.

Civil society and observer organisations were heard, with even the more radical groups, such as the Climate Action Network, getting an opportunity to engage with delegates.

The Climate Finance Paper, formally presented yesterday afternoon by Minister of Planning Trevor Manuel was subjected to scrutiny, sometimes critically.

Some African countries felt that its focus on market mechanisms for the transfer of skills and technology was inappropriate for many developing countries, whose immature markets would have difficulty in leveraging such mechanisms.

Christiana Figueres, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary, was an impassioned presence at an event hosted by Cambridge University.

She said she was hopeful about the negotiations and believed countries now recognised that the climate agenda was in their national interest.

Speaking of the difficulty in making the changes required, Figueres said: "This is the largest and most deeply rooted revolution that mankind has ever seen, and that is why it is slow. Every aspect of life will be affected."

Asked about the role of the US, she said that Americans needed to develop a much better understanding of how climate change was affecting their country, and an appreciation of the US's moral responsibility to the rest of the world.