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Developing Nations Discuss Ways to Fight Climate Change

The delegates at the U.N. conference on climate change in Ghana say they are pleased with the progress made after a week of negotiations. Brent Latham reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar, the parties hope to shape a new global environmental regime to further incorporate African countries in the fight against global warming.

The U.N.-sponsored meeting in Accra was one in a series aimed at forging a deal to replace the Kyoto protocol, which expires at the end of 2012, and was never fully embraced.

The process has sped up, and parties have become more serious about reaching an agreement, said executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Yvo de Boer said that time is running out to come to reach an accord on climate change, and that he witnessed a growing sense of urgency at the conference.

Developing countries demonstrated initiative this week, says Keya Chatterjee, deputy director of the climate change program at Washington, D.C.-based World Wildlife Fund.

"What we have seen is the emerging economies and developing countries that have been taking the lead. It has been really interesting to watch," said Chatterjee. "Many developing countries have come to the table with specific targets, with national action plans on climate change."

Countries designated by the Kyoto accord as developing are not required to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. A major issue in the negotiations for the new environmental deal is how to incorporate developing countries into the fight against climate change without hampering their economic growth. Negotiators are also considering ways to reward countries that avoid deforestation.

Chatterjee says it is important that developing countries are becoming more involved in the global fight against climate change, which can have adverse effects on agricultural outputs.

"In poor countries there is less adaptive capacity, and there is more vulnerability, so when food supplies are affected, for example, it is harder for a poorer country to be resilient to that, to find alternative food sources," added Chatterjee.

U.N. representative De Boer said that the new framework should be designed partially to lead to more investments in Africa. He said Africa was at risk of, "becoming the forgotten continent in the context of the fight against climate change."

Some West African leaders have said their countries are already feeling the effects of climate change. In the opening address to the conference, Ghanaian President John Kufuor said his country had suffered increased drought and flooding in recent years due to global warming.

African environmental leaders will meet again in early September in Dakar for the first Africa Carbon Forum. They will discuss ways to improve financial compensation for African projects that help reduce global warming by avoiding carbon emissions. A global ministerial meeting on climate change has been scheduled by the U.N. for early December in Poland.