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The Message that the Somali Government Must Deliver to COP 18 in Doha

by Buri M. Hamza
Monday, November 26, 2012


 The 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 18) and the 8th session of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol will be convened from November 26 to December 7, 2012 in Doha, Qatar. The Conference will be hosted by the Government of Qatar and supported by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC). COP 17, COP 16, and COP 15, which Somalia had attended, were convened in Durban, Cancun, and Copenhagen, respectively.


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The UNFCCC started as one of the three “Rio Conventions” that were adopted at the “Rio Earth Summit” in 1992. It entered into force on March 21, 1994. There are now 195 countries that have so far ratified this Convention. These countries are referred to as “Parties” to the Convention. The objective of the UNFCCC, as specified in Article 2 of the Convention, is to “achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.


The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, on the other hand, was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on December 11, 1997. It entered into force on February 16, 2005. While the Convention encourages industrialized countries to stabilize the greenhouse gas emissions, the Protocol commits them to do so. The developing countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol can benefit from the Adaptation Fund that has been established for their adaptation projects and programmes, which are designed to counter the adverse effects of the climate change.  


Somalia and the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol


Somalia had acceded to the UNFCCC on September 11, 2009. Its Accession to the Kyoto Protocol took place on July 25, 2010. Somalia has, therefore, become one of the Parties to the Convention and the Protocol, and it is now classified as one of the countries that are “given special consideration by the Convention because of its limited capacity to respond to climate change and adapt to its adverse effects”.


Because Somalia became a Party to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, it had qualified for funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – the financial mechanism of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). GEF is an important source for funding for the implementation of: the Convention for the Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and other Conventions.    


But Somalia’s accession to the different International Environmental Conventions and Protocols did not receive the attention it deserved and was rendered irrelevant by the cabinets of the Transitional Federal Government that had emerged following the dumping of the first one that was formed in Djibouti in early 2009.  No justification has been given for failing to implement some of the provisions of these Conventions despite the availability of the required funding. There might have been some constraints in terms of the institutional capacity needed in the implementation of the Convention’s objectives, but this would have been mitigated through the involvement of an appropriate stakeholder-based process and through the participation of appropriate government ministries.


Somalia is yet to prepare its First National Communications under UNFCCC. Somalia would have met its reporting requirement as a Party to the UNFCCC by preparing the Communications pursuant to Article 12.1 and 4.1 of the Convention. The United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi and the Global Environment Facility had in 2010 negotiated with the Ministry of the Environment of the first cabinet of the TFG formed following the Djibouti Peace Process in early 2009 and expressed their willingness to assist the Government with the expertise and the financing required for the preparation of the First National Communications. Most of the Parties have already completed the preparation of their Fifth National Communications.


Somalia has also failed to take advantage of the financing and expertise made available for the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) to prepare the National Adaptation Programmes of Actions (NAPA’s) under the UNFCCC. This financing and expertise would have helped Somalia identify its priority activities that respond to its urgent and immediate needs to adapt to climate change. Similarly, Somalia is yet to initiate the preparation of the country’s National Biodiversity Strategic and Action Plans (NBSAPs) within the framework of the Convention of Biological Diversity – Somalia had acceded to this Convention on September 11, 2009. And it is yet to finish the preparation of its National Action Programmes (NAPs) in the context of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.


What Message Should Somalia Deliver to COP 18?


One of the most crucial issues that the current Federal Government of Somalia is confronted with is the impacts of the charcoal trade. This lucrative business has strengthened radicalization in Somalia. The revenue accrued from the export of charcoal has been used in the exacerbation of violence and instability. The export-violence nexus is now well-entrenched and is no longer uncertain. Because tens of millions of dollars of charcoal are now stockpiled at Kismayo port – God knows how many more millions of dollars of charcoal had already been shipped to the neighbouring States – Kismayo and its surrounding areas must have by now succumbed to the deadliest forms of deforestation and desertification.


The lives and livelihoods of Somalis living in Kismayo and the surrounding areas have been heavily impacted. The extreme weather events, floods and droughts, and the continuous vanishing of the Somali biodiversity are a result of the inhumane and indiscriminate cutting of the Somali trees. The prevalence of malaria and other vector-borne diseases in areas that were not previously endemic is an indication that the impact of the climate change – induced by, among other factors, the killing of the trees that would have otherwise absorbed the greenhouse gases – has altered the ecology of the vectors that transmit the causative agents of the diseases.


The neighbouring States, incriminated as being the main importers of the Somali charcoal, are defiant. They are Parties to the Environmental Conventions that prohibit logging, and the import or export of charcoal, and they are not compliant with the main “Obligations of Parties” under these International Environmental Treaties. Neither do they respect the Charter of the United Nations and the Principles of International Law. The neighbouring States, by virtue of this illegal export of charcoal to their ports, are contributing to the fuelling of violence and instability in Somalia. There is no doubt that they are mindful of the horrendous impacts of this export on peacebuilding efforts in Somalia, and the fact that their intransigence could easily elicit a relapse into violence and the re-surge of Al Shabaab militancy in the liberated areas.


Drawing upon this reality, the Federal Government of Somalia must dispatch a high level delegation to COP 18 in Doha to bring to the attention of the participating delegates the inherently dangerous consequences of the charcoal import by Parties to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. The neighbouring States, directly or indirectly involved in importing charcoal from Somalia must again know that:


1.     They are violating the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2036, which has banned the export of charcoal from Somalia.


2.     They are partly responsible for the depletion of the mangrove forests in Somalia and that they ought to be held to account for contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions. All countries that are Parties to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol have recognized the critical role of trees in mitigating climate change. Depletion of trees and forests is linked to the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.


3.      They are contributing to deforestation and desertification in Somalia.


4.     This trade is bolstering militancy in Somalia and exacerbating violence and instability.


5.     Their continued involvement in charcoal trade impedes the Somali people’s aspiration as regards the dismantling of radicalism and warlordism in the country.


6.     By refraining from importing charcoal from Somalia, the neighbouring States and other importing countries will have exerted a huge amount of leverage and influence over those who want to have the UN Security Council’s ban lifted.


The human and social costs of this trade are colossal. The neighbouring States must accept to internalize the environmental externalities that have been generated as a result of the production and export of the Somali charcoal. Somalia must be compensated for the damage that it has incurred through massive reforestation projects and the provision of the financial assistance needed to jump-start environmental recovery programmes.


In conclusion, the Somali delegation at COP 18 should also undertake to negotiate with the representatives of the countries that import the Somali charcoal with the view to seeking a lasting solution to this debilitating trade. The Government of Qatar, which will be hosting COP 18, could play an important mediating role in this regard. The Somali Embassy in Doha should be instructed to make the necessary arrangements to ensure the convening of these negotiations with the help of the hosting Government.

Buri M. Hamza
[email protected]


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