line003.jpg (628 bytes)

     Gobar times: Environment for Beginners

line_01.jpg (801 bytes)

plus.jpg (487 bytes)


Preparations are on at a feverish pace. There are only about two months to go before countries of all sizes, shapes, and economies meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, to assess progress on the Climate Change front and negotiate actions for the future. The continent of Africa is buzzing, too. Unlike on previous occasions, when every African nation came to the negotiating table with an individual agenda, this time 53 of them have agreed to join forces to present a united front. Purpose: Getting the best Climate deal possible.

A 12 member delegation — Conference of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC ) — headed by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, will represent the hundred billion people who inhabit this breathtakingly beautiful, natural resource-rich continent, and who are still the poorest in the world. The other members are, Jean Ping, Chairman of the African Union, the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, and other prominent personalities from Algeria, Mozambique, Congo, Kenya, Mauritius, Uganda, and Nigeria, as well as the chairperson of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment.

CAHOSCC’s position is — rich nations need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. It’s also demanding that the fund to support measures that Africans need to adapt to lower their emissions must be worth US $67 billion per year by 2020.

Africa demands

While addressing the public and the media for the first time in the Africa Partnership Forum (APF) at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Zenawi said,

We will not be there to express participation by merely warming the chairs or make perfunctory speeches and statements… We are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten another rape of our continent

— Meles Zenawi

Historically, Africa has been divided. Each country bargained for itself, emerging as a competitor, rather than a partner in the international arena. So, the developed nations were in a position to play one against the other. They threatened to strike a deal with a sister nation if the other disagreed on the terms of the agreement. This time, with the delegation taking over control, the bargaining chip may slip out of the hands of the rich nations.

Whose mess is it, anyway?

The top eight industrialised nations, inhabited by only 14 per cent of the world’s population, account for 65 per cent of the world's economic output, and 45 per cent of Carbon di oxide (CO2) emissions. Entire Africa, on the other hand, accounts for about 3.8 per cent of global economic output. Its contribution to the emission load is also miniscule.

Although the continent needs financial help from developed countries to adapt to the effects of Climate Change and limit its own contributions to the pheno­­menon, it does not come to the negotia­ting table empty-handed. By partnering with us on green development, the developed world could create a more robust market and overall environment for the mitigation efforts that it alone must shoulder.

— Jean Ping

Not in the REDD

But the responsibility it shoulders in mitigating the impacts of Climate Change is certainly not small. In fact, its gigantic. How? Well, Africa houses 635 million hectares of forest land, accounting for 16 per cent of the world's forest cover.

Now we all know that forests are a critical commodity in this Global Warming afflicted Planet. The Inter governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the cutting down of forests is now contributing close to 20 per cent of the overall greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. Forest degradation also makes a significant contribution to emissions from forest ecosystems.
Therefore, there is an immediate need to make significant progress in reducing deforestation, forest degradation, and associated emission of greenhouse gases,

So, a multi-donor trust fund was established in July 2008 that allows donors to pool resources and provides funding for protecting and regenerating forests in the developing countries. Its called the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD Programme). So is Africa benefiting hugely from REDD? No it isn’t, because ‘dry forests’ — that constitute the bulk of African natural forests — do not qualify for funding under the REDD. The programme provides support to protect only certain types of forests.

No wonder Zenawi and his colleagues are furious!

"We want to keep our forests intact and re-afforest those that have over the years been degraded. We want to do so precisely because such an approach is economically more rewarding and sustainable."

— Meles Zenawi

Rah, rah for Africa!

The industrialised nations are not fazed by this show of strength by the hitherto fragmented African players. The US delegation took this opportunity to say that it "sees Africa as a partner". It went on further to say that much of the US $1.2 billion that will be spent in 2010 on Climate Change adaptation is likely to end up in Africa.

The US, like the Europeans, are seeing this as a move to separate Africa from the G77 Bloc. G 77 is a group representing developing countries, that has now swelled to 130, from the initial 77 founding members. It includes all African countries; all Latin American nations; the Middle East; and South East and South Asian countries, including India and China.. An European delegate commented, "A pulling away from the G77 by Africa is excellent. The mix was too wide before On its own, Africa has a high moral position when it comes to asking for support.”

Whittle away…

The G77 was launched in 1964 to help the member nations to further their collective interest and have better negotiating capacity. They command a formidable a clout of countries, which have been victims of Climate Change and hence want a better deal for themselves at Copenhagen.

The developed countries, many of which have been colonial powers, excel in a political game called ‘divide and rule’. They want to break up the group of 130 countries into many small blocks — one representing Africa’s least developed countries (LDCs), one of the oil-rich Middle East, and one of India, China and so on.

Dividing, on whatever pretext, is bound to reduce the negotiating capacity of each block. And a divided, weakened opposition camp will allow the industrialised countries to get away with a deal they are craving for — lesser emission cuts; lower financial commitments; and zero responsibility!

The climate may have changed, but the strategy hasn’t. But, more importantly, have the African leaders been able to truly change themselves? Lets wait and watch.

small_aline.jpg (496 bytes)