AFRICA: Join Climate Neutral Network, continent urged

Saturday, February 21, 2009

African countries, despite being among the world's smallest contributors to carbon emissions, as well as businesses and institutions operating on the continent, should join the year-old Climate Neutral Network (CN Net), officials said on 19 February.

"Successful economies of the future will have to be carbon neutral and Africa and other developing countries must not be left behind," Roberto Dobles Mora, Costa Rica's minister for environment and energy, told a news conference during the 25th session of the Governing Council of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in the Kenyan capital.

"In order to become climate neutral, African countries have to become efficient, reduce costs and use renewable energy," Mora said. "Governments must strive to modernise their operations in order to mitigate their carbon emissions in areas such as transportation and generation of renewable energy."

He said Africa could benefit from CN Net by information-sharing, twinning with cities or organisations that are already climate neutral and replicating innovations that have been tried and tested by climate neutral entities.

Mora was one of four officials at the news conference convened to announce the 100th participant of the CN Net, the city of Copenhagen, which will host the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2009.

Under its vision of becoming the "climate capital of the world", Copenhagen has already cut its CO2 emissions by one-fifth since 1990 and has pledged another 20 percent cut by 2020, according to UNEP.

In a tele-video message, Klaus Bondam, Copenhagen's mayor for technology and environment, said: "As the mayor of a city that has our common struggle against climate change at heart, I am pleased to see that so many cities around the world have committed themselves to strong CO2 reduction goals and joined the Climate Neutral Network.

“Fifty percent of the world's population live in cities, and cities worldwide are responsible for 75 percent of the global CO2 emissions. Hence, if nations truly want to combat climate change, cities and urban populations are their most important allies in the struggle."

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CN Net, a UNEP-led initiative, aims to promote global action towards low-carbon economies and societies. It was launched in 2008 with four countries, four cities and five companies. The network brings together small and big countries, cities, international companies, UN agencies and NGOs.

"One year on, the unfolding financial environmental crises make the CN Net more relevant than ever before as a showcase of both the promise and viability of the low-carbon development model which goes hand-in-hand with the emerging Green Economy initiatives around the globe," Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said.

UNEP spokesman Nick Nuttall said the CN Net was part of efforts to stem growing pessimism on whether or not a deal for a climate-friendly planet would be delivered at the Copenhagen summit in December.

"We aim to see people living in zero-emission societies, and CN Net is delivering innovations as well, and people get to learn what the others are doing and getting empowered on the possibilities available," he said.

He said UNEP would strive to communicate better CN Net's efforts to Africa and other developing nations since it was not an initiative for the developed countries alone.

"The entire world must go green, become less dependent on fossil fuels; this is not targeted at developed economies only," he said.