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Remarks By Mr. Tesfai Ghebreselassie, Minister of Land, Water & Environment

MINISTRY OF LAND AND ENVIRONMENT AND EUROPEAN UNION DELEGATION CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE

(18 November 2015, Asmara, Eritrea)

 

MINISTRY OF LAND AND ENVIRONMENT AND EUROPEAN UNION DELEGATION CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE

(18 November 2015, Asmara, Eritrea)

Remarks
By

Tesfai Ghebreselassie, Minister of Land, Water & Environment

Thank you, Chairman
Honorable Guests
Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to start by thanking the European Union (EU) Delegation to Eritrea, and particularly the Honorable Ambassador, Mr. Christian Manahl, for inviting the Ministry of Land, Water and Environment (MLWE) to partner in organizing this event that is dedicated to mark the significance of the forthcoming 2015 Climate Summit in Paris,   France.

Climate change stands as one of the major challenges of the 21st century, and the world has high expectations from the deliberations of the Paris Climate Summit (Cop 21). Indeed, today’s event could not have come at a more appropriate time, and I am pleased to have this opportunity to make a few remarks that reflect Eritrea’s stance on the issue of climate change.

Climate scientists have been alerting us for some time now that global warming would bring climate change with consequences unbearable to life   on Earth. This is not a prediction any longer.  It has become a reality in many parts of the globe. Records show that the last two decades have been the warmest times since weather recording began more than a century ago.

Although climate may vary naturally, scientists have compellingly established that increased accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (CH4,N2O) released by massive burning of fossil fuels, land clearing, agriculture, and other human activities are largely to blame for the global warming that has been noticed in the past 50 years.
The rationale of attributing global warming to human activities is simple and indisputably clear. Excessive overload of the atmosphere with green house gases above the level of concentration that nature is capable to cope by its stabilizing mechanism, contributes to global warming by trapping back the heat reflected from the surface of the Earth. This phenomenon is what the scientists call green house gas effect.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, the peoples of developing countries contribute the least to GHG emissions but they suffer the most from global warming. This is due to either their inability to adapt and/or the geographic location of their habitat. Nonetheless, the distressing fact that we cannot be complacent about is that the adverse impacts of global warming and resultant climate change are becoming all-embracing at an alarming speed. No country has the chance of being spared.
The environmental anomaly trends that we are observing now are lead indicators that tell us what lies ahead. They include unpredictable weather conditions, frequent and widespread heat waves, severe droughts, unusual tropical cyclones, devastating flash floods, shrinking fresh water resources, melting of glaciers and large mass of polar ice and consequent sea level rise, loss of vast forest and grass lands, land degradation and loss of soil fertility, crop failures, rapid extinction of species, dwindling of fish resources and other related adversities.
Analysis of global warming and climate change and the subsequent environmental degradation require us to look at the root causes.

Modern mankind has been reckless and cruel to mother Earth. The root cause of this destructive behavior is embedded in the prevailing world economic order. This world economic order, by the achievements of which we have deluded ourselves, has been destroying the very natural assets and support systems on which it depends.

The prevailing world economic order and the thinking behind it have put the whole world on a self-destructive path. They do this by promoting an unsustainable mode of production, a culture of excesses and insatiable consumerism and unfettered abuse of the finite natural resources that are meant for us to use forever. In simple terms, it is a system that does not take notice of the incalculable costs of environmental damages and environmental imbalances.
Now, it is a wake up time.

Cognizant of the impending disaster, various international instruments and reports, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the series of climate summits and Rio+ conferences as well as the MDGs and Post-2015 development agendas (SDGs) are telling us that business as usual is not a solution to the complex challenge posed by global warming and climate change.

Eritrea appreciates fully the complexity, the scale and the consequences of climate change. The strong linkage that climate change has with poverty, food insecurity, underdevelopment, diseases and degradation of the environment is obvious to us.
Furthermore, Eritrea appreciates the harrowing consequences of business as usual and, therefore, it endorses the outlook that there is an urgent need for paradigm shift and concrete actions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It should not be an exaggeration if I say that there is no time left for finger pointing and incrimination on who takes responsibility for past mistakes and negligence towards our planet. And there is no time for excuses to evade responsibility either. The graveness of the climate challenge that is facing our world today makes it imperative for all Parties to the UNFCCC to bear moral responsibility and think and effectively act as members of a united human family in the fight against global warming.

UN reports show that well above 2.8 billion people in low and middle-income countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America have no access to modern energy. They still rely on solid fuel for domestic requirement as a result of which indoor air pollution in these parts of the world is responsible for serious ailments including respiratory and eye diseases.

Taking into account the immense amount of suppressed demand for modern energy in the developing countries, experts forecast that global energy demand will more than double by the end of the first half of this century. Every one can imagine what this would mean if countries were left to their own devices and energy production were to continue rely on the conventional carbon based energy technology.

Given the projected growth in global energy demand and the problem that we already have at hand, concerted international response is critical in order to curb global warming. The required international response will have to focus on substantial reduction of GHG emission and promoting global transformation to low-emission and a climate resilient pathway. To this end legally binding climate regime is a must.

It is our strong belief that a climate deal that the whole world looks for to be made in Paris at CoP 21 should stick to the principle of equity, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities of countries, as conspicuously stipulated by the Convention. This principle is fair enough to require renegotiation and rewriting. The success of the Climate Summit in Paris will depend on it being able to play a historic role where such a legally binding climate regime will be concluded.

Eritrea shares and strongly supports the position that mitigation of global warming and initiatives for substantial reduction of emissions are, first and foremost, the responsibility of the main polluters. Therefore, developed countries that are the main polluters and that have the technological capacity and financial means must take effective measures to shift to clean energy sources. By so doing, they would be able to substantially reduce their GHG emissions as recommended by the scientific community, in order to hold the projected increase in the global average temperature below 2  above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. They have a defining role to play in making make a difference.

Capacity to adapt, increase resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change also is an essential contribution to the long term global response to guarantee global environmental safety. Removal of barriers to access clean energy technology and financial support is crucial to help developing countries in their endeavor to develop capacity, realize sustainable development goals and adapt climate resilient development pathways. In this regard, the developed countries are in the best position to assume leadership and to show political will and commitment to co-operate with the developing countries. This kind of engagement by the developed countries is essential in the achievement of the ultimate objectives of the UNFCCC.
Eritrea appreciates the establishment and operationalization of the Green Climate Fund with the aim of financing low-emission (mitigation) and climate resilient (adaptation) projects. However, the pledges made to raise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 need to be expedited from reliable sources. Fair and non discriminatory access to the fund by the developing countries on the basis of transparent criteria is also of paramount importance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The arguments I have raised are in no way meant to throw the whole burden of responsibility of climate change mitigation on the developed countries. What I mean is far from that understanding.

Indeed, developing countries, which are entitled to a fair share of the atmospheric space, should assume responsibility commensurate with their capacity in the betterment and preservation of the environment.

It should also be kept in mind that categorization of countries in different groups according to the level of their economic development is dynamic, and should not be an issue of contention.
At the present moment, Eritrea’s GHG emission is negligible. The country is far from utilizing its legitimate atmospheric carbon budget. Despite this, the Eritrean Government believes that it has a great stake in appropriately addressing climate and environment related problems of the country and the world at large. In fact environmental protection constitutes an essential component of our national development strategy.

As a country that is hard hit by global warming and the consequent impacts, Eritrea has been giving prominent attention to adaptation and resilience enhancing measures. However, a lot still remains for us to do, improve and achieve in this regard. It is worrying that we have not been able to exploit the immense renewable energy potential, including solar, wind and geothermal, available in the country.

Furthermore, as an indication of our commitment to the international effort to mitigate global warming and climate change, Eritrea has submitted its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) document to the Secretariat of UNFCCC.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that Eritrea is appreciative for the support of its development partners in its effort to achieve development along a sustainable path.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

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