African nations say they are feeling the brunt of climate change, and they want wealthier nations to do more about it. Earlier this month, African delegates pulled out of U.N. climate talks in Barcelona, Spain demanding that developed countries make deeper cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.
"The global community has to put pressure on the industrialized countries to make sure they cut their emissions to a very greater number, say up to 40 percent," says Morris Koffa, executive director of Africa Environmental Watch. "That way it reduces the level of impact to Africa because no matter how you calculate it, Africa is being severly impacted."
A new deal at the United Nations Climate Change conference this year would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States never ratified. The U.S. delegation has signaled President Obama is prepared to set a target for cutting carbon emissions. A carbon dioxide emissions target is still under debate in the U.S. Congress with proposed "Cap and Trade" legislation. But some in Congress believe the legislation could severly curtail the U.S. economy.
"When we look at capping greenhouse gases and putting a cap on carbon," says Jackie Roberts of the Environmental Defense Fund, a non-profit environmental group, "we see that it's going to drive a lot of economic opportunity and that the U.S. can really play in that game. And because we're not promoting policies here that encourage demand for a lot of these new technologies, we're actually losing ground to other countries."
The proposed U.S. legislation promotes environmentally friendly energy sources and limits how much carbon dioxide power plants and factories can release into the air. These factories would receive carbon "credits" to sell to or trade with other carbon producers.
But Charlie Drevna of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association says the legislation creates a model that will not work for the United States.
He says such legislation would debilitate the U.S. economy and pass along unnecessary, massive costs to consumers. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of a Cap and Trade bill in June that sets a 17 percent reduction in carbon emissions. The proposed Senate bill calls for a 20 percent reduction over the next 10 years. Morris Koffa of Africa Environmental Watch says African nations are not only looking for higher reductions from the United States, they are eager to receive compensation for the effects of climate change from heavily industrialized countries.
He says African governments could use that money for education, training and technology that would help reduce Africa's impact on the environment.
You can see all of Rebecca Ward's episodes of "Going Green", available here.