New sources of funds, the money from which is earmarked for renewable energy and cleaner energy projects, forestry schemes and ones that will help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, have been approved.
Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, said:" Africa, the Continent which the scientists tell us will be hit hardest by climate change, must have their fair share of these new funds. At the same time African countries must seize on these new opportunities and begin harnessing them now. There is no time to lose. UNEP, which hosts the secretariat of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), stands by with knowledge, advice and skills so they can be ready to grasp the opportunities and implement these new energy, forestry and adaptation projects in the most effective ways".
The new sources of funding have emerged as a result of the climate talks which just took place in Bonn, Germany, where 180 countries agreed the rule book for bringing into force the Kyoto Protocol.
The Protocol sets emission reduction targets for industrialized countries which have to be met by 2010. The agreement also outlines ways and rules by which these targets can be met. The funding streams are the Special Climate Change Fund and a special fund for the Least Developed Countries many of which are in Africa.
European Union countries, Switzerland and Canada have pledged $410 million towards them with Canada pledging an additional $10 million specifically to kick start the Least Developed Countries fund. It has been agreed that the money must be new and not diverted from existing overseas aid budgets.
Sekou Toure, Director of UNEP's Regional Office for Africa, said that eventually billions of dollars will be needed, but added:" We now have the chance for a new beginning on the Continent. With this beginning we start to build even bigger financial support to help developing and least developed countries in Africa deal with the climate change while at the same time getting some benefits from the world-wide effort to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases".
The rules governing the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) have also been agreed. Developed countries will be able to offset some of their emissions at home by paying for carbon saving projects in developing countries including the transfer of renewable and cleaner energy technologies.
Procedures for the world's least developed countries are to be streamlined making it easier and faster to install small energy projects of less than 15MW, including wind powered, mini electricity grids, and set up solar energy service companies.
The agreement also allows industrialized countries to offset emissions by tree planting schemes in developing countries. One per cent of an industrial country's greenhouse gas emissions can be offset this way annually over five years.
Pedro Sanchez, Director General of the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), which is located near to UNEP in Nairobi, said: "Africa must use this as a new development opportunity. It opens the way for doing a lot of important work that will not only have environmental benefits but ones related to health, hunger and poverty".
He said that most trees grown in Africa are grown on farms and are able to remove or sequester important amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.
"Our calculations are that average annual removal rates of carbon from the atmosphere by trees planted here can be much higher than those planted in a temperate climes such as the United States," said Mr Sanchez.
Plans for tree planting schemes that it is hoped will qualify under the CDM are already underway. For example in Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park a pilot is to be launched where native Miombe woodland is to be restored and opportunities given to local people for sustainable timber harvesting and the development of eco tourism.
The project is being developed by Future Forests and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management in Britain. Governments or companies in industrialized countries who fund the project through the CDM will be able to offset emissions as a result of the carbon soaked up by the new trees.
Mr Sanchez said his centre was involved in a similar project with Swiss companies and an estimated 10,000 farmers in Maseno, Western Kenya. Farmers not only gain income from planting and nurturing trees but find crop yields have improved as a result of the trees fixing nitrogen and carbon in the soils.
Mr Toepfer said: " I am concerned that the wrong kind of tree planting schemes could lead to industrial forestry. Monoculture plantations of unsuitable species, like eucalyptus, planted across developing countries could force people from the land, harm wildlife and the environment generally".
"However properly developed with the appropriate safeguards there could be real and lasting benefits while at the same time helping to fight climate change by taking carbon from the air. We must have the right kinds of trees, in the right places with local people quite rightly involved," he said.
Another flow of money is likely through an adaptation fund to help developing countries cope with the impacts of global warming. Projects could include new flood defense systems or the strengthening of buildings to cope with more frequent storms.
" Trees can play an important role in helping poorer countries adapt. They stabilize soils, help keep moisture in the land and can help halt the spread of deserts," said Mr Toepfer.
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UNEP News Release 01/91