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UN  Seeks More Funds For African Global Warming Fight - 2001-07-27

The head of the U.N.'s Environment Program says the agreement on global warming reached earlier this week in Bonn offers important opportunities for Africa. At a news conference [Friday] in Nairobi, the U.N. official said Africa will be given millions of dollars to fight global warming.

At the climate change talks in Bonn, representatives from 180 countries hammered out a compromise deal to implement the Kyoto Protocol. The goal of the protocol is to reduce emissions of the so-called greenhouse gases that are blamed for warming the earth's atmosphere.

One of the provisions of the protocol calls for $410 million to be given to developing countries to help them adapt to warming temperatures.

The executive director of the U.N.'s environment program, Klaus Toepfer, says Africa deserves a large share of this money. "Africa, the continent which the scientists tell us will be hit hardest by climate change, must have its fair share of this new solution because, without any doubt," Mr. Toepfer points out, "there is not a single positive consequence of climate change for this continent."

Mr. Toepfer says Africa will bear the brunt of global warming and, of all the populated regions of the world, it is the least to blame for it. "This continent has the lowest responsibility for climate change," Mr. Toepfer says. "Africa has a share in the global population of 14 per cent. But a share on the global CO2 emissions, the greenhouse gas emissions, of only 3.2 percent. This continent is especially the victim of this."

Scientists predict that global warming could cause a 30 percent drop in food production in Africa in 20 to 30 years. With food production already a problem in much of the continent, a drop of that percentage could lead to widespread famine.

However, although Africa is likely to suffer the most from global warming, scientists say it also can play a key role in reducing global warming.

In parts of Africa with sub-humid climates, trees grow much faster than anywhere else in the world and trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The director of the International Center for Research into Agroforestry in Nairobi, Pedro Sanchez, says the Bonn agreement finally recognizes the importance of Africa's role in combating climate change. "Before, African countries were trying to say 'Please help us, please help us, please help us,' sort of hat-in-hand begging," Mr. Sanchez says. "Now we've got a huge asset that is now accepted."

Before Africa can start to benefit from the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty must first be ratified by at least 55 countries responsible for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Thirty countries have already ratified the protocol, but none of the industrialized countries is among them.