Africa's lead negotiator at the Copenhagen climate summit says China has promised to support African demands for equitable financing to cope with global warming. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned that Africa will be watching to see whether funds being pledged by European countries are real, or recycled.
Prime Minister Meles evoked little reaction a few months ago when he threatened to walk out of the Copenhagen summit unless Africa's demands for compensation were met. But he upped the ante Friday, saying China, a major player at the climate talks, had agreed to support Africa's position. "If Copenhagen is going to be about an agreement that simply rides roughshod over Africa, then we will try to scuttle it, and I think we have reasonable assurance we can scuttle it if our concerns are not addressed," he said.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Meles told of his frustration in preliminary talks on learning that Africa's compensation demands were not being taken seriously. He said the frustration led him to seek Chinese and Indian backing for his walkout threat.
"So at one stage I had to write to the heads of state of Africa suggesting to them I don't see the political will to come up with real money and therefore we may not be part of an agreement in Copenhagen if we don't see change in terms of political commitment. I also indicated to them that we may need allies in order for us to be heard. Allies that have the capacity to mess the environment, and therefore allies who could not be ignored. If we can get the commitment of these countries not to sign an agreement unless Africa signs an agreement, then I assume we'll be taken more seriously. In a recent phone conversation I had with the prime minister of China, I was assured of that support for Africa," he said.
Mr. Meles said he would stop in Paris and London for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown before heading to Copenhagen. He said he would seek assurances that the $10 billion being pledged by European countries would be what he called 'real money' and not an illusion. "Our problem is the way it is structured and proposed it is likely to be funny rather than real money. And therefore our concern has been how to make sure it is real money...The European Union as you know proposed $100 billion per annum by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation a while back. It so happens that 50% of that money is supposed to come from developing countries themselves. So there's a lot of smoke and mirrors in the figures that are being given," he said.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, was quoted Friday as admitting the European financial commitment included previously promised aid as well as new money.
Africa's representative, Mr. Meles said a deal on reducing carbon emissions appears likely in Copenhagen. But he warned that the gap on financing is a much more serious issue.