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Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki opened a pan-African summit in Nairobi designed to produce a unified African position for global climate change talks in Copenhagen this December. The Kenyan head of state told the delegates that the world needed a more equitable climate change policy.
The pan-African meeting is expected to call for substantial financial support from the developed world to help developing countries to adjust to a non-carbon-based economy.
African Union head Jean Ping said Sunday the continent will also be seeking "reparation and damages" from rich nations for the potentially catastrophic effects of rising temperatures on the region. The A.U. chairman said Africa is most vulnerable to climate change, despite accounting for only 3.5 percent of global greenhouse emissions.
If the Nairobi summit is successful, the Copenhagen talks will mark the first time Africa will be entering the global climate change negotiations under a common position.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki echoed Mr. Ping, telling the Nairobi delegates that developed countries must take seriously creating an international framework that is fair to poor nations, who are expecting to be worst hit by climate change.
Mr. Kibaki also stressed Africa must also commit to exploring renewable energy solutions and to curbing deforestation.
Kenyan parliament member David Koech, serving as chairman of the Pan-African Parliamentarians' Network on Climate Change, which organized the event, said Africans expect global action because they are experiencing the harsh reality of an unfriendly climate.
"Ask any Kenyan, and every Kenyan will say, 'Please can you go sign that thing [possible Copenhagen document] very fast," he said. "Look at the animals that we lost the other day because of drought. Look at our lakes, they are drying up. Look at our rivers, they are drying up.' And I think, by extension, the same with other African countries. All of us are really feeling the effect, and therefore the need to sign. But we must ensure that the developed world also comes to support us in this endeavor."
Koech explains why the continent will demand compensation in the Copenhagen talks.
"It will be very expensive, for the developing world, especially Africa, to engage in clean energy and be able to develop at the same pace," said Koech. "That is why we are asking for mitigation. The developed world - yes you are the major causes. What are you giving us to to help us, to enable us develop like you? So we expect them to pay something to us."
Speaking at the summit, Kenya's environmental minister John Michuki warned Africa is not prepared for the global meeting. He said he feared that unless serious resources were spent over the next two months developing specific projects and numbers to justify the mitigation requests, the continent would leave the Copenhagen summit largely empty handed.
The United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen is intended to create the framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Many around the world believe the success of the global talks will depend heavily on the positions taken by the United States, which notably never ratified the Kyoto agreement. U.S. President Barack Obama has expressed support for climate change action, but faces a skeptical U.S. Congress.