The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) has underscored the importance of legislative domestication of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change as an effective intervention to lessen the adverse effects of climate change that people were grappling with, especially in Africa.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change was adopted in 2015 and it came into force in November 2016 following its ratification by 55 United Nations member states.
“We need legislative initiatives that must enable parliamentarians across Africa to be well grounded in understanding the contents of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change through their participation, networking and collaboration with the private sector, civil society and other non-state actors,” PAP Fourth Vice President, Honourable Dr. Bernadette Lahai, stressed on Thursday.
The PAP Fourth Vice President made the remarks at the PAP Headquarters in Midrand, South Africa at the start of a roundtable discussion for African Parliamentarians on Climate Policy and Legislation that has been jointly organised by the Pan-African Climate Change Justice Alliance (PACJA).
Honourable Lahai expressed hope that the roundtable discussion between PAP and PACJA would result into a new and lasting legislative initiative that must enable the two institutions to continue working together on climate legislation for the common good of the African people whom, she observed, were bearing the greatest scourge of climate change, although they were the least polluters of the environment.
She applauded PAP and other parliamentarians across the globe for actively lobbying for the ratification of the Paris Agreement by their countries; that resulted in the ratification of the agreement in a record time since its adoption.
“The speedy ratification of the Paris Agreement could not have been possible without the keen interest of parliamentarians across all the continents in making use of their legislative roles and powers. Some parliaments like the Kenyan National Assembly have even gone beyond ratification to enacting Climate Change Laws,” she said.
Honourable Dr. Lahai, however, expressed concern that the full recognition and participation of parliamentarians on climate change discourses tended to be ignored or regarded as an afterthought despite the active participation of parliamentarians in ensuring that governments were implementing the Paris Agreement and other related climate pacts.
She expressed optimism that the roundtable discussion would provide PAP members an opportunity to share and reflect on global perspectives and discourse on climate change and related legislative and legal responses.“This meeting should consider functionalising the African climate legislative initiative as a platform for supporting the continent’s legislative institutions in the development and implementation of domestic and regional laws on climate change,” Honourable Lahai stressed.
Speaking at the same roundtable meeting, PACJA Technical and Political Affairs Chairperson, Mr. Augustine Njamnish stated that climate change negotiations and discussions had evolved in the past decade from an academic and scientific jargon to a phenomenon that was directly impacting the lives of the people all over the globe and especially in Africa.
He said it was now crucial that African governments begin taking action so the equity and justice that they have been proclaiming to the rest of the world can be translated into initiatives that should assist the people on the ground; who are facing the brunt of climate change.
“We, as non-state actors, have fought together alongside our governments over the years on climate change negotiations with the rest of the world to have a fair deal and it is now time that we take a step back and ensure that African governments implement what they have pledged to do, concerning climate change,” Njamnish observed.
PACJA has since its inception almost a decade ago, provided a platform for Civil Society Organisations on the continent and the people to come together and jointly discuss and tackle the effects of Climate Change in Africa.
Njamnish said Africa had now shown the world that it is fruitful and beneficial for governments and civil society organisations to bang their heads together and tackle challenges such as effects of climate change that the continent was currently experiencing.
“Initially all that we were doing as civil society organisations was attack and criticise governments all the time without offering any solutions but in 2008 we resolved that we must work with governments and together light the candle because the fight is for all of us and for the whole continent,” he said adding that it was that unity that has enabled Africa to be speaking with one voice on climate change issues since United Nations Conference on Climate change held Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009.
Njamnish impressed upon the PAP members to actively take part in the legislative initiatives in climate change on the continent and at national level saying the politics of climate change had now shifted from the global perspective to continental and national implementation of initiatives that would ensure equity and justice for the local people who were grappling with adverse effects of climate change.
Chairperson of the PAP Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, Honourable Jacqueline Amongin of the Ugandan Parliament stressed that involvement of Africa’s parliamentarians in climate discussions was crucial mainly because of the legislators’ roles in lobbying, appropriation and oversight roles at national levels.
She said it was imperative for all African parliamentarians to play an active role ensuring domestication of global strategies and initiatives in tackling climate change through planning and implementation of policy and regulatory frameworks across Africa.
The PAP has organised the roundtable meeting on climate change to sensitise Parliamentarians on the key provisions of the Paris Agreement implementation frameworks and tools, and to explore possible long-term inter-governmental and cross border cooperation on climate change interventions, among objectives.