“We Need a Strong Voice for Africa”

Posted on 17 December 2009 by editor

Mithika Mwenda. Credit: Nasseem Ackburally/IPS

Mithika Mwenda. Credit: Nasseem Ackburally/IPS

Nasseem Ackburally

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – Ethiopian president Meles Zenawi was chosen by African leaders to champion a united African position.

But Zenawi has provoked outrage from campaigners by issuing a joint statement with French president Nicholas Sarkozy that falls well short of the Africa Group’s demands for emissions cuts or long-term financial commitments to support mitigation, adaptation and other  measures in the developing world.

Nasseem Ackburally interviewed one of those most disappointed by Zenawi’s action, Mithika Mwenda, from the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance.

Q: What is the position of Pan-African Climate Justice on the statement made by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi?

A: This statement seems to contradict the position of Africa. It reinforces what industrialized countries have been wanting: collapse the Kyoto Protocol – and this is unacceptable.

That shows that the developed countries are not committed to leveraging a fair deal in Copenhagen. They want a politically binding deal, which in our view is very bad.

We are really surprised the person who is supposed to talk of Africa is falling into this trap. We urge our spokesman to consult the other stakeholders before making statements so that he does not contradict what is for Africa.

Q: How do you think his statement affects Africa?

A: There is a lot of outrage amongst the African countries following this statement. This is going to create dissent, meaning division, and then those who are bent on dividing Africa will succeed.

We should not fall into that trap. That’s why we are telling him that this is not good and he should consult others.

We need a strong voice for Africa and that voice can only be achieved if we consult each other.

Q: How united is Africa today?

A: Africa is the most united region now. A lot of consultations are going on with the African ministerial conference on the environment.

In fact, right now [early on Dec. 16, they are discussing the Malawian statement and the African Group is actually setting the pace here. We are seeing actually an incredible group because of their unity. We are really happy.

The good thing is that we at the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, we are talking with our negotiators, with other stakeholders and we believe that we need to unite and take the work forward through this unity.

Q: What should be the position of Africa?

A: From our point of view, we need to hold the global warming down to 1.5 degrees. The statement is talking about 2 degrees.

It also confirms that the 10 billion dollar offered by industrialised countries to Africa for adaptation and mitigation. We believe this is hardly enough. There should be more financial commitment by industrialized countries.

Q: How much more money do you think Africa needs for adaptation and mitigation to climate change?

A: Africans are talking about 400 billion dollars per year for the next three years.
Just compare that with the 10 billion dollars they are giving. That’s nothing because when you divide this sum among the almost one billion Africans, it comes to 4 dollars per person.

This is actually an insult for Africa which is the most afflicted by climate change.

Q: Is money the only solution to the problem of climate change?

A: Resources can come in many forms but in the form of money as well. The issue here actually is how do we adapt and we need the resources for it. Money is playing an important part because at the end of the day it’ll be required for everything, including technology transfer for adaptation.

Q: For how long does Africa need the money?

A: We are saying that by the year 2020, the industrialised countries should cut their emissions by 45 per cent to the baseline of the year 1990 and then by 2050 by 80 to 90 per cent. We need the money until that time.

Q: Would that be sufficient?

A: Hopefully.

Q: What do expect from this Summit?

A: We expect a legally binding agreement and a two track outcome which will retain and strengthen the Kyoto Protocol.

This is the only agreement right now that binds the industrialised countries to reduce their emissions. If by any chance we lose Kyoto, which we know these countries do not like much, there will be no longer be any commitment.

We know most of them have not even committed to the five percent which they don’t want. So the only way they can escape is to drop the Kyoto Protocol and to negotiate another agreement that can take a long long time – not less than ten years.

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