Africa says do what science requires

The desperation that poorer countries are feeling over climate change was dramatically displayed at Barcelona this week when the African bloc walked out of the official negotiations towards a Copenhagen agreement.  Their complaint, reports the Guardian, was that the rich nations’ carbon cuts were far too small to avoid catastrophic climate change. The demand is that the rich countries adopt the science-backed target of a 40% overall cut on emissions on 1990 levels. So far, rich countries have pledged an aggregate of less than 10%. The US, the world’s second biggest polluter, has pledged to cut around 4% on 1990 levels, or 17% on 2005 levels.

Bruno Sekoli, head of the Lesotho national climate office and chair of the least developed countries group of the world’s poorest nations, had this to say:

“Africa had no choice because of the reality of climate change. The negotiations have been going a long time and have not shown much progress. It’s not about money. Climate change is an issue of life or death for us. The developed countries have to shift policies. A bad deal is not good for Africa or vulnerable countries.

“The impacts of climate change have come too soon, so soon. I am scared to think of the consequences.

“Africa and Africans are dying now while those who are historically responsible are not taking actions.”

Algeria, which chairs the Africa group, said  rich countries were “more concerned with political and economic feasibility” while the poorest were “struggling to survive” with climate change.

The resultant rescheduling of sessions at the meeting has meant that 60% of the remaining time will be devoted to discussion of emission cuts. The Guardian reports that the African move was credited with reminding delegations that the ultimate point of the talks is to reduce emissions.

Camilla Toulmin, in Climate Change in Africa, which I reviewed a couple of days ago, worried that in spite of all its problems Africa will be marginalised in the global climate change discussions.  This action at Barcelona suggests that marginalisation is not going to be accepted. Nor should it be. “If you are an African country you have much more at stake than a rich country. They are rightly confused by the talks and angry,” commented Saleemul Huq, head of climate change at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development.

Three things about New Zealand struck me when I was reading about the Barcelona drama. The first is that our government has expressed satisfaction that it’s somewhere in the middle of the pack in the sadly inadequate response of the rich nations to the emissions cuts required.  Second, the Algerian accusation that that rich countries are more concerned with political and economic feasibility identifies the dominant theme in New Zealand government thinking at present, as Nick Smith regularly demonstrates.  Third, the NZIER report, welcomed by Smith, claimed that emission reductions were a low priority for New Zealand. The insularity of such a statement stands out all the more offensively against the pleas of the countries already feeling the effects of climate change.

Thanks to Hot Topic commenter Macro for directing my attention more closely to the event.  The youtube clip he provided a link to is well worth spending a couple of minutes watching to catch a sense of the drama.

13 thoughts on “Africa says do what science requires”

  1. Because like all international agreements it was a compromise and reflected the level of concern and willingness to buy-in at that time (1992). There was also the very strong argument that the annex 1 countries of the UNFCCC were responsible for most historical emissions and that these countries needed to demonstrate to the emerging economies that they were serious about addressing emissions.

    The big omissions from the annex 1 are South Korea, PRC, India, and Brasil. Not sure why South Korea was left out but the PRC, India, and Brasil were not that significant (per capita) in 1992

    Kyoto was always meant to be an interim step towards more comprehensive agreements. The success of the next agreement will be getting these countries into the agreement.

    It does not help that the annex 1 countries have failed to show any real commitment to addressing emissions or assisting the non-annex countries transition passed fossil fuels to low carbon economies.

  2. Stephen, Gareth is away for a few days and I was thinking I might have to try to respond from my very broad brush understanding of the principle of differentiated responsibilities which the Kyoto agreement was based on, but thankfully Doug has relieved me of that.

    There will no doubt continue to be be a lot of jockeying for position in the hoped-for deal to come out of Copenhagen, some of it less than edifying. We can only hope that the overriding imperative of emissions reduction will be strong enough to overcome the possibility of a deal falling apart for the kind of reasons that excite LibertyScott.

    1. Don’t forget negotiations are far from over. Copenhagen wont be the end of anything.

      The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was written in 1992. The Annex-1 list was formed at that time.

      Of course at the time the world was different to now. These countries adopted commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

      Currently negotiations are occurring under 2 tracks. The Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), and the Long Term Agreement (AWG-LCA).

      The KP negotiations are where commitments are decided and the LCA negotiations is where finance, mitigation assistance, adaptations assistance, technology transfer etc is decided. Developing countries may be asked to take ‘Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action’ (NAMA) under the LCA, but they will not face any commitment under the KP.

      Of course there is the possibility to amend Annex-1 to include more countries, and no one is saying this defiantly wont happen.

      The preferred approach by most western governments is now a ‘singe track approach’. This will bring commitments into the LCA, and tie financial obligations to action by all countries. This is a point of disagreement with the developing country groups (African Group, G77+China etc). During the recent Bangkok negotiations these differences came to a head.

      Essentially developing countries want no part in binding commitments, while developed countries want finance tied to commitments (money for nothing and your chicks for free).

  3. My opinion: Developed countries have the real power, they are putting the money up and they are the ones taking commitments. A single track will emerge. If this does not happen the US wont sign any LCA that contains financial obligations.

    A second possibility is the failure of the US Senate to sign the agreement leads to a ‘break away deal’ (US law requires a 2/3 majority). The US may pass climate legislation but not sign the LCA or KP2. Canada may pull out of KP1, and look at the US as a second option. This may lead Mexico to also sign up to a North American ETS.

    This will leave Australia and New Zealand’s blooming Trans-Tasman ETS in an interesting position, align with KP2 or The NA-ETS? The world could be left with two competing emissions trading blocks.

    China may also prefer the US scheme to the now Euro-centric KP. (but this is all speculation, feel free to post your own opinion, but don’t get angry at me!).

  4. “NOAA pulls online lesson that questions CO2’s link to global warming”

    It only took two days for NOAA and the National Weather Service to pull a webpage on their site that questioned whether carbon dioxide truly was a contributor to climate change… Today the page has mysteriously vanished.

    Surprise surprise!

    For the full story, see here:

    And for the original story where the National Weather Service says, “No evidence CO2 is causing global warming”, see here:

    LMAO!! Excellent!

    1. In order to keep discussions coherent and sensible try and post comments on articles that they relate best to.

      There was a post last week that addressed different views on climate change that attracted a lot of comments. Maybe that would be a better place to have this debate:

      While I agree that there are issues with the science, the international policy debate is quite separate and that is what this article addresses.

  5. [ignores the troll]

    The negotiations are infinitely more complex than people probably understand. It is not as simple good guys vs bad guys, despite what Greenpeace NZ might want to have NZ portrayed as. For example, the coverage of last night’s meetings illustrated that NZ has significant weight and influence, irrespective of the target that politicians have decided on.

    Actually that’s another point; it dismays me to see people write about how they hope the NZ delegation gets blasted and pushed around for the NZ target. The commitment was a political call, not the personal view of any of the negotiating team. NZ sends incredibly skilled and committed people to those negotiations who work insanely hard. I feel nothing for someone like the Greenpeace NZ guy who makes superficial and negative comments while adding nothing to the actual outcome of the conference.

  6. AGW-Denier. I hope all commenters will ignore your comment. It is completely off topic. I don’t think you should assume you can use Hot Topic gratuitously to spread your denialist tit-bits. Join in the existing discussions by all means, but if you want to initiate topics of your own set up your own website.

  7. I had a read of the cached paged and the discussion repeats a number of the old deniers’ talking points. Ones that have been refuted by the science so many times that they are jokes.

    I can only assume that someone hacked the NWS site and that is the reason why it was pulled.

    I suspect that there will be a follow up from NWS to this effect, but this will not be reported in the Examiner.

  8. The juxtaposition of a home experiment demonstrating that CO2 was indeed a greenhouse gas (though it has to be said the design left some things to be desired) with claptrap on CO2 not affecting climate strongly suggests sabotage. I’m guessing the saboteur (and AGW-D) never tried the experiment.

Leave a Reply