African anger at betrayal over climate change
The second day of the UN Climate Conference is wrapping up on a dynamic and explosive note. A few hours ago the Guardian revealed a leaked the “Danish text” a secret alternative text thought to be created by the Danes, Americans and British.
The text provoked a furious reaction from many nations due to its significant departure from the principles of the Kyoto Protocol and potential to undermine the existing UN process. In particular, concern has centred on the omission of the principle that wealthy countries, who have benefited from emitting, must compensate poorer countries who have contributed the least to the problem but stand to be dramatically effected.
After the leak surfaced there was a spontaneous and powerful protest in the corridors of the United Nations by African youth and civil society delegates.
They were distressed at the leak which they believe highlights wealthy countries lack of interest in an agreement that will prevent the worst impacts hitting African countries. Delegates chanted “there will not be enough coffins in the world for all the people who will die from climate change in Africa”.
The passion and distress from these delegates was palpable. Africa stands to be terribly impacted by climate change particularly by increased drought, reduction in agricultural capacity, water shortages and extreme weather events. This is amplified as many nations do not have the resources to adapt to climate change impacts. The injustice of climate change is that while Africa has contributed little it will suffer a great deal.
African delegates were also concerned with a lack of ambition from the negotitations which have centred on limiting global warming to two degrees. They argue that the impacts of two degrees on Africa will be devastating and the world must aim much lower. This resonates with the sentiment of many vulnerable countries including Australia’s neighbours in the Pacific who call for a far more ambitious agreement than what is currently on the table. At two degrees the evidence suggests many of the nations in the Pacific will simply not exist as they will disappear beneath the ocean.
No wonder people feel passionate about the outcome in Copenhagen, the negotiations have the potential to impact on the well being of millions the world over.
However, despite the explosive end of the day, there were a number of constructive developments. Today the UK made a powerful call for the EU to adopt a 30% cut in emissions, implying that they are willing to go to their upper range of 42% emissions cut by 2020. Bolivia joined the Pacific, Caribbean and African nations to call for an agreement to be referable to the latest science and aim for a stabilisation target of 350 parts per million – a much more substantial target than what is currently proposed. Russia announced a 20-25% reduction target and it is speculated that France will join those countries pushing for strong action and adopt a 30% reduction target.
In light of today’s events it is crucial that Kevin Rudd reaffirm Australia’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and its principles. Trust has been damaged by the leak and it is crucial that developed countries like Australia reaffirm principles that have underpinned good will for many years. While the Kyoto Protocol is nowhere near perfect it’s the only legally binding instrument we have. What comes out of Copenhagen should emcompass and build on Kyoto, moving beyond to more ambitious action.
So day two wraps up on a passionate note. Hopefully the leaking of this document in the early stages, and the emotive response, may set a scene for more determined and driven negotiations by those nations wanting a fair, ambitious and binding deal.
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