Report from Copenhagen: Africa demands that wealthy nations step it up

by: Kate Horner

Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 15:52


This post is part of Friends of the Earth sponsoring Open Left. Please check out the Friends of the Earth website here.

Paul Rosenberg wrote more on this same issue in the post immediately below this one.

Along with Natasha, who is also in Copenhagen, Friends of the Earth will be blogging live from the Climate Change conference on Open Left over the next two weeks--make sure to keep coming back for more first-hand reporting!--Chris

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Yesterday, African activists as well as members of African parliaments attending climate negotiations in Copenhagen demanded that wealthy nations step it up.

Directly following a meeting with the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who heads the main developing country negotiating bloc here, during which he outlined the contours of a potential bold new African position on the climate negotiations and new findings on the dire impacts of climate change on African livelihoods, a group of African activists initiated an impromptu demonstration in the halls of the Bella Center (where the climate summit is taking place) shouting, “2 degrees -- suicide; 1 degree – 1 Africa.”

More in the extended entry

Kate Horner :: Report from Copenhagen: Africa demands that wealthy nations step it up

The draft agreement currently under discussion seeks to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but probably wouldn't achieve this goal. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a 2 degree temperature rise globally would cause a 3.4 degree rise in Africa. Such an increase in temperature would lead to widespread devastation, including predictions of a 50 percent reduction in crop yields in some areas, cutting food output in half and leaving more than 600 million people without adequate water supplies. Massive damage to coastlines, rural communities and cities would also be consequences.

Discussions in Copenhagen have thus far focused on proposals that would unfairly and disproportionately allocate the Earth’s remaining atmospheric space to the rich, industrialized world, even though it has already polluted the most and owes its prosperity to cheap dirty energy. This disproportionate allocation would deny poor countries the atmospheric space needed to develop and condemn people in them to suffer -- and even die -- under the impacts of climate change.

To exacerbate what is already a tragic scenario, the wealthy world is so far committing only paltry funds to assist developing countries in deploying clean technology and adapting to climate change impacts. As Lumumba Di-Aping said in reaction to the current proposals from the U.S. and other rich counties that bear most of the responsibility for causing the problem, “You can keep your money because it’s not even enough the buy the coffins of all those who will die.”

During the demonstration, the African activists declared their support for African delegates who are demanding bold, aggressive action. They asserted that they would not allow Africa to be divided as it has been so many times before.

The demonstration and Lumumba's speech were the boldest and most powerful statements I have witnessed in my several years of attending international negotiations. The briefing by Lumumba on his new proposal on the impacts of climate change in Africa brought a room full of grown men and women quite literally to tears.

One thing that's upsetting is the pressure developed countries are putting on poor countries to accept the extremely weak terms of the current negotiations. Yesterday news leaked that the Danes, who are hosting and presiding over the climate conference, have prepared a draft text that totally ignores the demands of developing countries.

Instead of acting in a fair and balanced manner and using its leadership role as President of the Conference to come to an agreement through the established process, Denmark instead resorted to unjust back-room deal-making to accomodate the positions of the wealthy countries like the US and European Union members. Denmark has a long tradition of being fair and balanced in international affairs. In introducing the “Copenhagen Accords,” the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen has betrayed this long-held tradition.

After reviewing a leaked draft of the Danish text with colleagues from Friends of the Earth and other civil society groups, I would say that the Danish proposal is a kind of marriage of U.S. and European Union climate proposals. It does not reflect the interests of all countries taking part in the UN negotiations.

There is an ongoing negotiating process under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the treaty that is the basis of the current summit) that is designed to incorporate the views and interests of all countries in hopes of reaching a fair and balanced agreement on key issues. The Danes and other rich countries, namely the U.S. and members of the European Union, have resorted to unjust back-room deal-making to accommodate their own political interests. This must stop.


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Who Enforces? (0.00 / 0)
If, by some miriacle, there is a "binding" agreement that results from Copenhagen who would be responsible for enforcing it?

Also, thanks to the excellent coverage on this blog & Democracy Now I have a sense of the conflict between US/Europe and Africa/South America.  Where do the Chinese & Indians fit in?


Sry, Howard, but this looking at others is a big part of the problem. (0.00 / 0)
The US should stop looking for excuses, and presenting others as scapegoats, but go ahead and implemnt meaningful measures to reduce their carbon footprint. You don't lead by pointing fingers!

[ Parent ]
Just Asking A Question (0.00 / 0)
No finger pointing here.  I was just asking a question about the political dynamics of the conference and how an agreement might be enforced.  I don't trust the US, Chinese, Africans or anyone else to enforce an agreement voluntarily.

[ Parent ]
Hmm, of course it depends on how strict you define "enforce" (0.00 / 0)
We Yurpeans, for instance, sure made some progress on the goals set forth in the Kyoto protocoll. However, afaik, we fail to meet the targets. So, can this be called enforcing the agreement? Maybe not. But it's still a much greater achievement than that of the US, where the effing Senate refused to even ratify the Kyoto treaty.

And so, sry, but that's a big part of the reason why we Yurpeans think the US has no standing at all to question if others will enforce an agreement about doing something against climate change. Really, America should start to lead by action, and stop sabotaging the negotiations with focussing on others whose carbon footprint is much smaller!


[ Parent ]
"I don't trust the US, Chinese, Africans or anyone else" OK. (0.00 / 0)
Just don't forget that the Africans aren't much of a problem for the climate. Their carbon footprint/capita is ridiculously low compared to the US. So, it doesn't matter at all if they can be trusted. The focus should be on the big offenders and their actions.

[ Parent ]
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