Winnie Asiti shares her impressions of the first Climate Change and Development Conference for Africa, held 17-19 October, 2011, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

A New African Start: the CCDA

It was early morning when I checked in at the United Nations Conference Center in Addis Ababa. This is where the first Climate Change and Development Conference for Africa (CCDA-1) is being held. There is anticipation in the air and you can tell that everyone is totally excited about this.

The opening ceremony got underway and the excitement got to fever pitch levels. It was actually a mixture of relief, anxiety and then hope, hope that Africa is finally getting to chart its own course and doing well at that.

The Finance Minister from Guyana was candid in her speech, giving examples from her motherland, about how they are embarking on a low-carbon development path. Then there is Connie Hedegaard of the EU saying that indeed fast-start financing from the Copenhagen Accord has been released by the EU…Big yawn….no one believes that from the questions and stares in the room.

Then its Pachauri’s turn, for some reason everyone loves this guy at the helm of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) as he churns out facts that most leaders won’t act on, but this is hard proven science and the clock is ticking.

Then we go into climate science data, pouring over challenges. Of course the overarching challenge for us in Africa is the lack of climate change data as a result of very little research.

At the cocktail we had a youth table and to the surprise of everyone we all broke into dance singing the ‘Its too hot in here’ Climate song, getting everyone to turn and look at the youth announcing their presence in style.

The highlight of the CCDA-1 must have been the youth petition drive and awareness creation on day two…..we literally got the attention of everyone. I guess it’s something most delegates won’t forget soon, of youth at the lobby dishing out petitions and talking about what they are doing.

On the last day we released the youth press statement calling on world leaders to:

  1. Commit to a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty and to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol to ensure the survival of coming generations;
  2. Set clear short and long term targets for carbon emission reductions that keep average global temperature increases well below 1.5 degrees centigrade, and to support solutions that contribute to healing the earth; and
  3. Ensure there is adequate finance for adaptation in Africa. Such finance should come from historically polluting nations in recognition of their ecological debt and be additional to existing development aid, governed inclusively and equitably by the United Nations.

(Sign a petition calling for these demands at

At a side event we discussed Africa’s position; 350ppm which equals 1.5 degrees rise in global average temperatures versus the average rise of 2 degrees which the rest of the world seems to be settling on. It’s going to be a battle of wills at COP 17 no doubt but consensus has built around Africa’s position on 1.5 degrees, beyond which our very survival is threatened.

It is late in the night when I pen this looking back with nostalgia at a most memorable conference, a feeling that we indeed have moved forward the climate discussion. We got our voices out there at forums where we spoke and along the corridors where we brushed shoulders with all the other participants. Our concerns have been captured and our ideas incorporated, and hopefully they will be implemented.

It will definitely be some time before Africa puts its money where its mouth is but what is sure is that the process has started. We can all be part of this change! The COP is coming to Africa again and it’s time for Africa.

For more information on the Sauti campaign, visit here.