Last climate talks before Copenhagen highlight the demands of the poor to the rich

Publish date: November 3, 2009

BARCELONA – African countries this week made themselves heard on emissions cuts they expect rich nations to make during the last round of climate negotiations in Barcelona before the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen next month – and by so doing opened the door to what will be expected of the "haves" and the "have-nots."

“The work continues,” said Lumumba Di-Aping, head the G-77, a caucus organisation that helps developing states pursue common goals and develop leverage in United Nations deliberations, at the meeting Wednesday afternoon. Di-Aping is also Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations.

African nations, which are part of the G-77, have put forth demands that emissions reductions in the world’s wealthier nations continue, and that these nations commit to a 40 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions as part of the agreement hoped to be hammered out in Copenhagen.

“We consider that this is still possible with a good outcome at Copenhagen,” Di-Aping said.

African nations, where the effects of climate change are already being acutely felt, generally hope that this is true. Kenya’s prolonged drought has forced electricity rationing, leading to long blackout periods during the day.

Much of Sudan, Somalia, Congo Tanzania and other equatorial African nations have long grown used to so called “climate refugees,” a term now becoming familiar to the developed world. In 2006, the World Information Resource Collective and The San Fransisco Chronicle documented how villagers in volatile southern Somalia routinely walk 90 miles with pails to the nearest rumoured water supply.

In northwest Kenya, riots over water are not uncommon when it is delivered by tanker trucks operated by CARE, a leading humanitarian organisation devoted to fighting global poverty, and has a special niche in Africa.

Dr. Alcinda Antonio de Abereu, environmental minister for Mozambique, further to the south, described to the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, that her country in inundated with floods annually.

Di-Aping’s own Sudan has been war-ravaged for years over lack of basic resources like water and arable land.

And to the north in Africa, Mali’s environmental minister, Dr. Agatheane Lassane, reported on steady and rapid desertification in her country, which is leading to widespread social unrest and a constantly more difficult fight for scarce resources.  

Ironically, the entire continent of Africa accounts for 5 percent of the world’s emissions, compared to the United States’ 25 percent share.

A modicum of understanding
“I have a certain understanding for the African countries’ response,” said Hanne Bjurstrøm, Norway’s climate negotiator. “But I would like to say that this is not a good way of doing negotiations."

Last chance before Copenhagen
The Barcelona meeting is the last negotiation before state leaders from around the world gather in Copenhagen on the 7th through the 18th of December. The goal of Copenhagen is to negotiate the framework for an international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, thereby putting the brakes on global warming and climate change.

The agreement that comes of Copenhagen is meant to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The Barcelona negotiations began on Friday with a 200-page document. The main goal of the negotiations this week are to narrow the document so it is manageable for politicians when they meet at the Conference of Parties 15 in Copenhagen.

The main goal this week is to narrow the document so that it is a manageable deal text for politicians when they meet

A maximum of 2 degrees
“We hope for good climate negotiations in Copenhagen in Decemnber, and we are pleased that the African nations will continue in the negotiations,” said Bellona’s international advisor, Svend Søyland, who is present in Barcelona.

“The goal must be an agreement that hinders more than a maximum two degree rise in global temperature,” he said.

The big question this week is how large the emissions cuts that nations will commit themselves to will be, and how these climate strategies in developing nations will be financed. Both the amount of funding and who will control it are the complicated questions on everyone’s minds.

Questions are also associated with whether the high voltage Copenhagen meeting can come up with a legally binding agreement that will be an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, whether the negotiations will end in a series of promised national measures that seem to be favoured by the United States and China – two of world’s three biggest emitters.

Private conversations with participants in the Barcelona conference seem to be swinging toward accepting and outcome like a “Bali Roadmap II.”

The “Bali Roadmap “ was the result of the December 2007 Bali Climate talks, and was a loose agreement that nations needed to develop a new, more efficient global deal to handle greenhouse gas emission. However, most nations disappointingly chose to pledge as little dedication as possible.

Comparisons to the financial crisis
G-77 leader Di-Aping emphasised that climate change was not a future but present reality for them, and that anything under a commitment by nations in Copenhagen to slash emissions by 40 percent would mean ruin for Africa. He also emphasised the resources that rich nations where able to shore up to help rescue their own economies despite the world financial crisis, and called for similar commitments from these countries for climate change.

“So why are the right to life and development not worth the same, unless they say that some people are less equal than others,” said Di-Aping.

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