Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Africa Bloc Leads Walkout at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit

Africa Bloc Leads Walkout at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit

Developing countries reject imperialists attempt to further impoverish the majority of humanity

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

African countries have protested the efforts of the United States, Britain and other imperialist countries and their allies to sidestep taking responsibility for the worsening impact of the CO2 emissions that has caused climate change and consequently threatened the total collapse of agricultural production on the continent.

The African states were joined by other developing nations in Asia and Latin America along with the People’s Republic of China in accusing the Danish government of refusing to discuss the major issues that affect the overwhelming majority of people on the planet.

Developing countries refused to participate in the working groups scheduled to begin on December 14, the second week of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The African bloc along with the Group of 77 developing countries are demanding universal adherence to the Kyoto Protocol which sets strict standards for all nations to limit the emissions of greenhouses gases.

These pollutants are the result of the burning of oil, gas and coal which holds solar heat and causes the rise in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere. Atmospheric scientists have predicted that if serious actions are not taken over the next decade the planet will warm significantly and there will be an escalation of drought, floods, storms and rising sea levels that will create massive hunger and famine for billions of people throughout the world.

A new United Nations environmental report has indicated that approximately 60 million people have suffered the effects of 245 natural disasters this year alone. Over 90% of these serious weather related events have been amplified by climate change.

African states have made the case that the region is the hardest hit by pollutants generated by the industrialized states while these governments refuse to limit their emissions and at the same time expressing an unwillingness to provide compensation to developing countries for the damage caused to the environment. The United States has not signed the Kyoto Protocol which sets goals and timelines for curbing pollutants.

The World Wildlife Fund director Kim Carstensen told the BBC that “The point is being made very loudly that African countries and the wider G77 bloc will not accept non-action on the Kyoto Protocol, and they’re really afraid that a deal has been stitched up behind their backs.” (BBC, December 14)

The dispute escalated between the developing states, China and the West when the Danish government made an attempt to place another draft agreement on the agenda and consequently ignore the Kyoto Protocol. The walkout on December 14 threatened to derail the entire conference where heads of state from 120 countries were scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen within a few days.

During the first week of consultations in Copenhagen, tensions arose between the People’s Republic of China and the United States over setting goals for the curbing of emissions. China accused the U.S. and the West of trickery for their attempts to shift the focus of discussion from the concerns of the developing states to broader undefined talks that would absolve the capitalist countries of taking any action to address the worsening food crisis in Africa and other parts of the world.

African states and other developing countries are demanding that conference president Connie Hedegaard of Denmark place the question of curbing emission standards for the industrialized states at the top of the agenda prior to the arrival of world leaders in Copenhagen. These countries, along with China, believe that the Danish government is working to destroy the Kyoto Protocol.

“We are seeing the death of the Kyoto Protocol,” said Djemouai Kamel of Algeria, who is leading the 53-nation Africa group.

One Western negotitator who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said that discussions involving 50 environmental ministers on December 13 were contentious as a result of the “growing disputes between the Americans and the Chinese.”

“At the back of everyone’s mind is the fear of a repeat of the awful scenario in The Hague,” when another climate change conference held in 2000 which was to designed to set up definite guidelines related to the Kyoto Protocol, broke up without an agreement. (Agence France Press, December 14)

The developing states are adamant that the industrialized capitalist countries commit to the Kyoto Protocol drafted in 1997 that sets goals for emission standards to be reduced beyond 2012. African and other developing states have accused the Danish government of ignoring their concerns.

G77 chief negotiator Lumumba Di-Aping stated in relationship to the stalled talks that “It has become clear that the Danish presidency—in the most undemocratic fashion—is advancing the interests of the developed countries at the expense of the balance of obligations between developed and developing countries.” (BBC Radio 4’s “The Word at One” Program, December 14)

Di-Aping continued by pointing out that “The mistake they are doing now has reached levels that cannot be acceptable from a president who is supposed to be acting and shepherding the process on behalf of all parties.” During the previous week of consultations in Copenhagen, the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu created a crisis by demanding that the efforts to amend the United Nations climate convention and the Kyoto Protocol be debated fully at the summit.

African States Demand Compensation

African countries planned to demand $50 billion in compensation for the damage done by industrialized states to the continent’s environment over the last several years. Even the pro-western government of Ethiopia led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, stated that he would make Africa’s position clear on December 18 when heads of state were scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria, “Africa is the worst hit when it comes to global emission. We are going to Copenhagen with one voice’ and our position is that the developed countries should pay us 50 billion dollars in the short term. Our requisition also is that in 2015, the compensation should be increased to 250 billion dollars.” (Xinhua, December 11)

The African Union’s Presidential Commission has agreed on this position unanimously saying that the continent, which only generates 4% of the world’s carbon emissions, has been the most severely affected by climate change. In addition to compensation through funding, Africa is also demanding technology transfers that would foster the replacement of outmoded machinery.

In making its case for compensation from the western industrialized countries, the Monitor newspaper published in Uganda wrote in an editorial that “The entire Eastern Africa region has, for example, this year witnessed extensive drought with crop failure and livestock deaths commonplace in semi-arid areas. Secondly, Africa is home to a big percentage of the world’s natural rain forests, which help stabilize climate by sucking carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases—methane, nitrousoxide, perflourocarbons,
hydroflourocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.” (The Monitor, December 14)

The Monitor editorial continues by stressing that “We must be compensated for each tree standing. Modalities of compensation should be a key item on the agenda in Copenhagen. The USA, the principal culprit must be at the forefront of efforts to both save the environment and to pay reparations.”

Demonstrations outside the UNFCCC have drawn tens of thousands of people. Although the crowds of environmental, anti-capitalists and other left-wing activists have been peaceful, Danish riot police are attacking the crowds with teargas and batons. There had been over 1,000 arrests by December 14 sparking allegations of police brutality and gross misconduct.

At a vigil being held outside the City Hall building in Copenhagen, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, handed over a petition signed by more than 500,000 people demanding immediate action to curb the threat posed by rising greenhouse gases.

Tutu told the crowd that “This is a problem. If we don’t resolve it, no one is going to survive.” (South African Mail & Guardian, December 14)

In a pre-conference article written by Emma Clancy in the Irish Weekly An Phoblacht, it states that “An alliance between the developing countries, progressive forces in the industrialized states and the growing global climate change justice movement is facing hugely powerful governments and business interests at the Copenhagen summit that are determined to prioritize short-term profit over the survival of the planet. Public opinion, pressure and mobilization are the keys to changing this balance of forces and ensuring action is taken.” (anphoblact.com, December 10)


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