Message from Africa

In listening to the “Climate Justice from Copenhagen” side event, two philosophies are discussed to approach climate change challenges in countries of need.  The first is one of urgency emphasizing the need to “start over” and have every nation participate in changing their future behavior to discontinue practices that contribute to global warming.  The urgency attitude is meant to cause thinking of present and future actions not leaving time to point fingers for past polluting practices (speaking specifically of CO2 emissions).  A complete opposite approach is speaking very loudly at COP15 as non-Annex I members, those who in many cases are suffering the most from impacts of climate change, are demanding compensation for damages that have already been committed.  This approach emphasizes the need to focus on identifying those responsible for current damage.  Compensation may not only exist in financial assistance, and Dr. Habtemariam Abate, who is from the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, says that Africa is expecting:

1) to survive

2) mitigation by polluters

3) compensation, both financial and technological, for damage which has already been created

From the second perspective, Annex I countries are viewed to have a dual obligation to the developing world: reduce domestic emissions and provide financial assistance and technological support to developing countries.  How do you determine how much assistance and support?  Tom Athanasiou, founder of EcoEquity, emphasizes that these obligations should be determined by capacity to help.  These are subjective issues where power has historically resided with those in better economies, but COP15 has shown that the voice of the developing world is being heard despite these boundaries.

There are obviously conflicting interests between the developed and developing – this is not new.  The fact that portions of the developed are joining the developing in voice will be interesting to observe if they also join on large scales in action.

Written by LAURA BELL.

3 thoughts on “Message from Africa

  1. Les

    How are the nations “at fault” for past pollution emissions resonding to demands by developing nations such as those in Africa? With two seeingly different agendas,how are discussions progressing with some nations dwelling on the past while others are looking toward improving emission standards?


    1. Laura Bell

      The impression I got was that no compensation has been made. The panel was of the opinion that compensation should be paid so they tailored their presentation around persuading support for the issue. There was no testimony from the “other side”. It would be interesting to see a split panel on this one!


  2. Bette J Miller

    Wow. Because we cannot control what happened in the past, why do countries always want “compensation”? We can be much better “stewards” in the future, yes.


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