Ethiopian Dicatator Stands Alone in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN, Dec 17 (IPS) – Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says Africa must compromise and be flexible towards other countries, if the U.N. Climate Conference ending on Dec. 18, is to reach an agreement.

Speaking to the press in the Danish capital, Zenawi – ostensibly leading the African front on climate change – said the continent would suffer the most should the world fail to seal a deal.

“Because we have more to lose, we should compromise and be flexible with (other countries),” said Zenawi, after admitting that his proposals at the U.N. summit fall short of African expectations.

But he was quick to point out that Africa’s bending did not mean desperation: “We will not accept any empty words”.

Millions of Africans are banking their hopes on the Ethiopian Prime Minister, who was chosen to lead the African delegation during the High Level Meeting of heads of state that concludes the U.N. Climate Conference.

The prize is to bring home a sound deal that will act to slow the rising average temperatures that have caused catastrophic droughts and severe rains in recent years, and to secure funding from the historically-polluting countries to cope with changes that are already unvaoidable.

While maintaining that Africa had virtually no responsibility for the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, Zenawi slashed the 67 billion dollars a year that African leaders agreed to demand from the industrialised nations who are responsible.

Instead his proposal accepts the developed world’s offer of a start-up fund of $10 billion a year for Africa over the next three years, with the future to be decided on later. This fund will be dedicated to adaptation and mitigation actions, including the fight against deforestation, in poor countries.

“I support that the fund be established through the creation of a tax on international financial transactions, and that other sources be considered, such as taxes on sea freight or air transport,” he said. “I also support that it should be administered through the African Development Bank.”

In the long term, Zenawi proposed that funding rise to $50 billion a year in 2013, and reach $100 billion by 2020 – a proposal perfectly in line with what U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton outlined in a press conference on Dec. 17.

His proposal touched a raw nerve among African civil society organisations, who have demanded that he resign as coordinator of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change.

The proposal has caused outrage in Africa, according to Pan-African Climate Justice spokesperson Mithika Mwenda. He accuses Zenawi of caving in to the dictates of industrialised nations, leaving Africans to fend for themselves as best they can

“His statement is undermining the bold positions of African negotiators and ministers represented in Copenhagen, and threatens the very future of Africa,” said an angry Mwenda.

The proposed $10 billion a year for Africa is an insult, said Mwenda, who did a quick calculation and came up with $4 a year for each African. In his view, it should be the size of the pocket, that determines the expected contribution from industrialised countries. They are, he said “paying their debt for polluting the earth”.

A difficult start for Africa in the final phase of negotiations. The collective front put up by Africa Group negotiators as part of the Group of 77 and China block had failed to convince the Rich World to either commit to substantial greenhouse gas emissions or the $200 billion a year the developed world will need to cope with floods, droughts, rising sea levels and the spread of diseases due to climate change.

But the bloc had at least made it clear that the developing world would not stand peacefully by any abandoning of Kyoto Protocol commitments to reduce emissions, or easily settle for a modest though immediate sum.

Zenawi’s break with this position to endorse a Western position is a worrying sign that this solidarity amongst the countries whose people will bear the full weight of climatic changes may not hold firm.

Source : Inter Press Service

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