From the Bonn climate negotiations leading up to the Paris Conference (COP 21) at the end of this year, Sidi Mohamed El Wavi, Focal Point for the Climate Agreement and National Climate Change Programme Coordinator for the Mauritanian Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, is here to fill us in on how the negotiations are going.
How is Mauritania contributing to the fight against climate change?
Mauritania, which has been enduring the effects of climate change for a long time, has more recently been putting the environment in the forefront of its priorities, starting with the creation in 2008 of a fully-fledged and dedicated ministerial department, followed in 2009 by the setting-up of a climate change unit within the Environment Ministry prior to the Copenhagen Conference. Climate is a cross-disciplinary issue, with national awareness and management of it by the public authorities moving forward in great strides, leading us to set up a network of 15 sectoral climate focal points in each ministry, which are provided with training and will take part in carrying through the INDC (Intended National Determined Contribution), a national contribution that every country must submit in October prior to the Paris Climate Conference and that states its goals and commitments on the subject of mitigating and adapting to climate change. That will not be our first time, since we have already passed on three communiqués, being the first African country to do so.
The INDC process is interesting but not binding. Any commitment which is not binding has its limits. French President François Hollande “snatched” commitments to a 40%-70% emissions reduction by 2050 from the G7. This is good news, but will these announcements be acted upon? The developing countries must not be “sandwiches” that one squeezes to make up for the lack of commitment of the major polluters. Likewise, some “new concepts” are in reality just already-existing concepts put in a new wrapping. An example of this is climate-smart agriculture: The “smart” aspect is not new and can be found in farming practices going back to the beginnings of agriculture.
What are the stakes for renewable energies in Mauritania?
In Mauritania we are going to focus the INDC reports on the contribution of key sectors such as habitat and hydraulics for adaptation and agriculture and energy for mitigation. Mauritania is a big country whose inhabitants are spread over the nation’s territory in such a way that they cannot all be served by the conventional network. Which is why we have several energy access projects ongoing involving renewable energies in both rural and urban environments: improved homes funded by the Adaptation Fund on 100 sites over 8 regions, solar wind energy (expected cumulated total of 100 MW at the end of this year) to mention only these few. I have also seen GRET’s Typha project recycling this invasive plant as charcoal as an alternative to deforestation. I am very familiar with this subject because I myself chaired the cross-border biosphere network with Senegal. Managing typha is a big issue and this project is interesting because it enables a response to a development and energy security challenge, and it also enables a contribution to climate change adaptation and to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions by offering an alternative to deforestation. Its profitability remains to be proven, because for a solution to be good it must also be profitable and attract investors.
How do you see the negotiations currently unfolding in Bonn?
We came out of the COP 20 conference in Lima last year with a text less than 80 pages long. In Geneva that number rose to 160 pages, with some passages where you have 12 options! In Bonn it is proving difficult to bring the number back down. A bit of a political boost is required because the negotiations bring together technicians who reflect the positions of their countries and react to each option with vigilance. France, as host country, must schedule into the process an intermediate political level, before everybody meets in Paris, in order to drive the negotiations. This was the mistake made in Copenhagen. There are two key issues: mitigation and funding. “Who gives what + how and when” is an eminently political issue, all the more so since the amount being talked about is 100 billion annually, while the Green Fund has up to now been finding it difficult to raise 10 billion. The intermediate solution of entrusting the authoring of the texts to the joint chairpersons during the second week of negotiations to simplify the draft agreement is a good idea, but it runs the risk of not being enough if the political level is not requested within the timescale. France has a major role to play in the success of the process.