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African Delegates Demand Immediate Action at Climate Conference

Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, speaks during the opening of the Green Solutions @ COP16 in Cancun. (File Photo)
Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, speaks during the opening of the Green Solutions @ COP16 in Cancun. (File Photo)
Gabe Joselow

A Nobel Prize-winning panel of scientists has said Africa is the continent facing the greatest risks from the effects of global warming. African delegates are demanding immediate action from all parties at the U.N. climate conference in Durban, South Africa to avert further environmental destruction.  

As host of this year's U.N. climate summit, known as COP17, Africa is taking a leading role among the developing regions most affected by climate change.

While Africa produces the least amount of carbon dioxide of any other region in the world, it is considered the most vulnerable to droughts, floods and other extreme weather events that scientists say will increase as the Earth gets hotter.

The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, delivered these grave statistics Wednesday, to delegates at COP17.

“Our assessment indicated that in Africa by 2020 between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change," the doctor said. "In 2020 in some countries yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent.”

Pachauri was talking about a report put out a few years ago from the IPCC - a panel of scientists that was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their work on understanding and publicizing the effects of climate change.

African delegates at the climate conference are trying to secure concrete action in regard to several deals being considered here in Durban.

In particular, the African Group, which represents 54 countries, is lobbying for a new commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement that legally binds signatory governments to cutting their carbon emissions.

Africans are also calling for the implementation of a Green Climate Fund that will be used to finance projects in developing countries.

“We need a second commitment period to actually tackle that issue and at the same time we need to seriously think about the mobilization of the financial resources that are needed to tackle adaptation," explained Seyni Nafo, a spokesperson for the African Group. "And we've yet to have that discussion. That discussion has yet to happen in this process.”

Nafo said the African Group hopes nations at COP17 can agree to emission cuts or global financing, saying Africa's future is at stake. He added, if the talks fail, there is no “Plan B.”

“We'll have to have a consensus, I don't like the word compromise because millions of lives are at stake and I think that we really need to have a good outcome,” said Nafo.

The notion of a new commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol is strongly supported by the European Union and many developing countries, but is losing support from other members including Japan, Russia and Canada.

The proposed Green Climate Fund is also under consideration.  A transitional committee established at the last U.N. conference in Cancun has presented a text of the agreement.  Countries are still trying to work out logistical details for financing and governing the fund.

The African Group insists that the fund be used to finance governments and projects in developing countries -- and that the money is not spent on development agencies and private firms from rich countries.

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