Scheduling quirk won’t distract from importance of Climate South Initiative

Originally, the inaugural Climate South Initiative, a forum meant to empower the African continent to take control of its destiny with regard to climate change, was slated to take place just before the New York Forum AFRICA in late May of 2015.

NYFA15

However, last week Richard Attias & Associates, the organizers of both summits, said the NYFA would be moved to late August, to coincide with the 15th annual AGOA forum. Both the NYFA, which focuses on intra-African economic development, and the AGOA, which was established during the Clinton presidency in order to open Africa to free markets and make establish commerce with industrialized nations, will take place in Libreville, Gabon.

Libreville will also host the Climate South Initiative, an event that may appear lost at sea now that it has been unmoored from its more established partner summit, the NYFA. But this is not the case. Climate change is an issue of utmost importance — a fact proven by its move to the fore of global politics over the past 18 months — and it’s likely that the world will reflect on 2015 as a pivotal year in climate change’s short history. Thus the Climate South Initiative, with its foundation in addressing climate needs in the global south and specifically Africa, is more than capable of standing on its own.

In 2015, you can almost guarantee that every event related to the climate has an eye toward December, when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will convene in Paris. The goal of that convention is to establish a universal, legally binding framework by which the globe can collectively reduce harmful emissions and accelerate sustainable energy. So everything leading up to that is all about creating awareness, alliances and support ahead of the convention, so that the process of drafting universal legislation can run smoothly. That means that activist climate nations like the U.S. and France are reaching out to nations like the Philippines and India to persuade them of the worthy cause before them.

Africa is a boondoggle for the climate fighters. A continent in which many countries are some of the most susceptible on earth to the disastrous effects of climate change is also one of the most underprepared and disinterested toward the warming climate. Realizing the unfortunate economic realities of many of these nations, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established five years ago to funnel pledges and donations from wealthy countries for the infrastructure improvements and sustainability measures needed to fight climate change in poor and developing nations. The GCF has total donations of just over $10 billion, but the fund has been often maligned by wealthier nations who disagree with any “global responsibility” to reduce the impact of climate change, and it is well short of its $100 billion goal.

The Climate South Initiative offers African political and business leaders another way. Rather than being at the mercy of industrialized nations and their fundraising whims, the continent can stand up for itself, get educated on the particulars and start instituting change from the ground up. Already across the continent, there are sustainable energy projects taking place on a small scale, indicating that Africans are capable and willing to fight climate change from within. The question now becomes: Are their governments and business tycoons willing to invest in it as well?

At the CSI, giving African nations the tools they need to succeed against the rising tide of climate change will be the priority, but not before showing attendees the benefits of controlling one’s own destiny. While recent events have shown that the climate fight is a global one, nations must ensure their own house is in order before entering the larger fray. The sooner Africa takes the reins of its particular fight, the better off it will be in the long run.