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African Leaders Criticize Climate Proposals by Developed World

  • Eugene Nforngwa

Africa came to the Doha climate change summit with a basket of expectations. But the first full week of negotiations have not been promising. Campaigners say rich countries have been evasive on almost every major issue, from climate finance to the reduction of emissions.

African campaigners said they do not expect a promising outcome. And as ministers prepared to join the talks at a higher level, campaigners took to the streets.

Hundreds of activists from around the world joined the December 3rd march in the Qatari capital Doha, site of the 18th conference of parties to the UN Climate Change Convention, or the UNFCCC.

The goal of the march was to draw global attention to the urgent need to tackle climate change and other related issues. For African participants, it was an opportunity to air their frustrations with the status of negotiations.

The marchers say despite warnings from the scientific community, rich nations refuse to undertake deep emissions cuts to help limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

They also fear industrialized countries will not make binding commitments to channel badly needed assistance to help poor countries deal with the adverse effects of climate change.

Augustine Njamnshi is the chair of the steering committee of the PanAfrican Climate Justice Alliance, PACJA. The alliance is a group of over 300 African NGOs that’s been pushing for a fair deal at the Doha summit.

Njamnshi says Africa’s survival depends on rich nations taking responsibility for historic emissions that have caused climate change and by providing Africa with adaptation funds.

"[If significant emission cuts are not made]," he said, "Africa will burn and its development will be compromised. Africa’s people will be in danger because of the negative effects of climate change like droughts and floods. These will be compounded by the lack of means to adapt to the situation. If there are no deep emission cuts, what we are seeing today will be compounded in the years ahead. These talks are very critical for Africa."

Rich countries recognize the need to cut emissions, but campaigners say they are unwilling to make legally binding commitments. By pushing through carbon trading, industrialized countries hope to continue polluting as long as they can purchase carbon credits from less industrialized countries.

PACJA has issued a statement warning that this would lead to catastrophic rise in global temperatures. It says an increase of two degrees Celsius as demanded by rich countries would worsen floods, hamper food production and fuel the spread of disease.

With this is mind, African negotiators at the conference want rich countries to cut their emissions by 40% by 2017 based on 1990 levels. In the long term, they are pushing for emission cuts of up to 95 percent by 2050.

A few countries like Australia, Kazakhstan and Liechtenstein have pledged cuts of between 78 and 99%. But they have said they would only deliver if rich countries make similar commitments.

For now, that looks very unlikely to happen at this conference.

Africa’s other major fear is that a deal will not be reached on a new round of predictable climate financing. Fast Track Financing, a two-year regime to channel money from rich countries to help poor countries deal with climate change, expires at the end of this year.

There has already been a disagreement over whether rich nations have honored their Fast Track pledges. Industrialized countries say they have surpassed a $30 billion target by $3 billion. But poor countries say only $25.9 billion has been honored. In addition, poor countries say most of the money does not count because it was part of traditional official development assistance and so was neither new nor additional. Some of the money was also disbursed as loans and not grants.

There is also uncertainty about the Green Climate Fund, which is about to become operational. It was established two years ago and will transfer climate funds from rich countries to poor countries. Rich countries promised $100 billion to the fund annually between 2009 and 2012 but have so far failed to honor it.

African negotiators say rich countries owe that amount because they have polluted the atmosphere for centuries and caused climate change. But the succession of failed promises has weakened Africa’s trust in the ability of developed countries to deliver financial assistance. And as the last round of negotiations begin, negotiators and campaigners alike are at best cautiously optimistic.

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