Wednesday, December 16, 2009

AFRICA@COP 15 What At All Is This Conference About? By Nana Akyea Mensah, TheOdikro.

I think that what we do now, or fail to, in this moment will be humanity’s defining legacy."

Native American Singer, protesting in Copenhagen, this week-end, catpured by Democracy Now!

Ambitious Legal Treaty Now!

The United Nations Conference, dubbed COP 15, that is currently under way at the Bella Center, Copenhagen in Denmark, must certainly be important, even from mere appearances. There are  more than 15,000 participants from over 190 countries. I am sure if you asked any of the overwhelming numbers of thousands of humanity from all over the world who were demonstrating in Copenhagen this week-end, nay, I do know their answer! Ask them what the conference is all about, and they would respond with one voice in a tremendous and musical unison: "Ambitious legal treaty now! Treaty now! Legal treaty now! Legal treaty now! Legal treaty now! Legal treaty now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now!" Hundreds of times over until the chant assumes a magical appeal and a sense of power and determination to save our planet, never seen before in the history of the human race.

Meanwhile, a  report released by the UN's World Food Programme said "the number affected by hunger could rise by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent without action to tackle global warming, with two thirds of the increase concentrated in Africa."

Their views about the urgency of the situation have a striking corroboration from almost every angle you turn, even in the United States, which appears to be holding the world back.. On the November 25, 2009, the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine, Connecticut, United States [] wrote: "The upcoming COP15 meeting in Denmark—so named because it is the 15th such international gathering of the Conference of the Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—is the world's next big chance to take decisive multi-lateral action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions substantially enough to ward off cataclysmic climate change"

"The world has just ten years to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control before the damage they cause become irreversible, warns Dr Jason Lowe, Head of Mitigation Advice, Met Office and AVOID Chief Scientist. "Government policies are based on robust, up-to-date evidence, and the AVOID .. (See also: Copenhagen climate change conference: world 'has 10 years to reverse trends)

"Should nations fail to tackle the issue, giant mirrors in space, artificial trees and other so called “geo-engineering solutions” will be the only way to prevent disastrous overheating of the planet, the researchers warned."
'Pollution from cars and factories will have to be declining at a rate of five per cent a year by 2020,' reports, 'the Met Office said, "World emissions are currently growing at around three per cent per annum and it will take massive investment in renewable energy, electric cars, nuclear and other green technologies to stop the growth. It is estimated it would cost the world around 2.5 per cent of GDP or £150 for every person on the planet to make such massive cuts."
Now, just a step away from the main streets and into the Bella Centre we have our groups of designated representatives as delegates. One fundamental problem with this conference is the simple lack of agreement about what this particular conference is all about. From people from poor islands like Tuvalu and the Maldives who are already experiencing dramatic rises of sea levels and internal migration onto higher lands, it is very normal that anything short of an ambitious legal treaty out of the conference renders it a horrendous failure. The leading industrialised countries, led by the Obama Administration are thinking otherwise. The problem is that those who pollute the most tend not to feel the need to reduce, whilst those who are suffering already the ravages of droughts, floods, and other natural disasters want a firmer action.

"the largest climate summit in history."

"Over the next two weeks, a hundred world leaders are expected to
attend the UN conference that’s been described by some scientists as
the most important the world has ever seen."  Reports Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. Little wonder it has been described as  "the largest climate summit in history."

"To stress the significance of the summit," Amy Goodman goes on, "fifty-six newspapers in forty-five countries are taking the unprecedented step of publishing the same editorial today. The editorial reads, quote, “Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security…Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days,”

"The next speaker of the welcoming ceremony was Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The group was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Pachauri warned of the dangers of unmitigated global warming:

”In the twentieth century, average global temperature increased by 0.74 degrees Celsius, while sea level rise resulting from thermal expansion of the ocean and melting of ice across the globe amounted to seventeen centimeters. With this increase, the Maldive Islands, several other small island states, and low-lying coastal nations like Bangladesh, with land surface barely a meter or two above sea level, would find that every storm surge and major upwelling of the seas represents a serious danger to life and property. The global community thus has a moral and material responsibility to do all it can to limit the growing impacts of climate change on these and other vulnerable societies across the globe.
Indeed, we need to give practical expression to the provisions of Article 2 of the UNFCCC, which defines the ultimate objective of the convention as the achievement of—and I quote—“stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” end of quote.

On the basis of the AR4, we know that climate change, in the absence of mitigation policies, would in all likelihood lead to, one, possible disappearance of sea ice by the latter part of the twenty-first century; two, increase in frequency of hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation; three, increase in tropical cyclone intensity; four, decrease in water resources due to climate change in many semi-arid areas, such as the Mediterranean basin, western United States, southern Africa and northeastern Brazil; five, possible elimination of the Greenland ice sheet and a resulting contribution to sea level rise of about seven meters—without mitigation, future temperatures in Greenland would compare with levels estimated 425,000 years ago, when paleoclimate information suggests four to six meters of sea level rise; six, approximately 20 to 30 percent of species assessed so far being at increased risk of extinction, if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius.

May I mention that climate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land use change, including urbanization? Available research suggests a significant future increase in heavy rainfall events in many regions, including some in which the mean rainfall is projected to decrease. The resulting flood risk poses challenges to society, physical infrastructure and water quality. It is likely that 20 percent of the world population, which, as a fraction, could exceed two billion people, will live in areas where river flood potential could increase by the 2080s. In Africa, by 2020 between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to water stress due to climate change. And in some countries on that continent, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent.

Another area facing serious impacts of climate change are the oceans, where the uptake of anthropogenic carbon since 1750 has led to the ocean becoming more acidic, with an average decrease in pH of 0.1 units. Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations lead to further acidification, the consequences of which could be serious for all forms of marine organisms.”
Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Please note that the AR4 -  Rajendra Pachauri, is referring to is the The Fourth Assessment Report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and  published in 2007. The report is an assessmenet and summary of the climate change situation worldwide. It concluded that activities by man was mainly responsible for  at least 90% likely that the increase of the global average temperature since the mid-20th Century was mainly due to man's activity. BBC climate change glossary adds, "The report assessed and summarised the climate change situation worldwide. It concluded that it was at least 90% likely that the increase of the global average temperature since the mid-20th Century was mainly due to man's activity."

December 07, 2009

Climate Countdown: Largest Climate Summit in World History Opens in Copenhagen

African nations make a stand at UN climate talks

¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido! ¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!

The last important formal expression of the agreement  "that the average temperature rise since pre-industrial times should be limited to 2C (3.6F). "What this logically implicit in this is a search for a treaty in Copenhagen to curb the growth in greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the world within that limit."
In the meantime, many countries, most of them very poor, who are already bearing the brunt of climate change, and who are also the least polluters, are thinking about how to prepare for the impacts of climate change. The questions they are asking are such as - "what sorts of adaptation will be necessary?" They are there fore asking for climate reparations. "They are therefore looking for substantial and reliable finance to help them adapt. Their argument is that as the industrialised world has caused the problem, it must pay to sort it out."
The industrialised countries claim to have agreed in principle to help developing countries, constrain their greenhouse gas emissions, but in the absence of a treaty, the  mechanisms that can speed up this technology transfer is a far way cry! The urgency of the situation rests upon the fact that these include measures such as "building sea defences, securing fresh water supplies and developing new crop varieties." And time does not seem to be on the side of the victims in the near futre because the negotiations are stalling.

On Tuesday 3 November 2009 23.26 GMT,  John Vidal reports from Barcelona in the,, "African countries have said they are prepared to provoke a major UN crisis if the US and other rich countries do not start to urgently commit themselves to deeper and faster greenhouse gas emission cuts."

This powerful call by Africa in Barcelona where UN officials were putting up finishing touches to the COP 15, which was the just a few weeks away, gives me a lot of hope and confidence in our negotiators. The tactic forced the UN chair to abandon two working groups after the Africa group refused to take part. "The African countries were supported by all other developing country blocks at the talks." The Guardian reported, "In a series of statements, the G77 plus China group of 130 nations, the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group, as well as Bolivia and several Latin America countries, all broadly backed the African action."
Since the African countries complained in Barcelona, there has been very little movement. As Bruno Sekoli, chair of the LDC group, said then: "Africa and Africans are dying now while those who are historically responsible are not taking actions."
The same Guardian report of Tuesday 3 November 2009 23.26 GMT, and included:

"In a press conference, the poorest countries demanded that the rich 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."

December 08, 2009

Nigerian Environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey: The Global North Owes a
Climate Debt to Africa.

To gain an insight of what is really going on today, I think this part of the conversation is worth repeating:

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Nnimmo Bassey, what do you want to happen out of
here, when you have world leaders like our own President Obama saying
there will not be a binding agreement coming out of COP15, this

NNIMMO BASSEY: It’s really shocking that Obama would say a thing like
that, before even coming down here. It’s like telling us that we’ve
come here to waste our time. I mean, that kind of statement means to
me that we have a lot of time to play around with politics of climate
change. But indeed, the world has no time. We’ve run out of time. We
are not even in injury time. We’ve gone to the brink. And the United
States—President of United States, Obama, has a responsibility to take
this matter seriously. It’s an issue of justice. And it’s completely
unethical to play politics or play under the table. To make some
private secret deals among presidents about climate change, that is
totally unacceptable."

UN negotiators have said they are looking to achieve an interim pact
in Copenhagen with more negotiations for a possible binding agreement
next year. "Today is Tuesday, 15 December, 2009, and as I write we are going through the same motions over and over again. As Amy Good man puts it, "Tuvalu delegate Ian Fry said Senate actions will determine whether endangered island nations survive."
Ian Fry: “It appears that we are waiting for some senators in the US Congress to conclude before we can consider this issue properly. It is an irony of the modern world that the fate of the world is being determined by some senators in the US Congress.”
Amy Goodman adds:
"Fry’s plea came after architects of the main Senate climate and energy bills unveiled new, weaker proposals aimed at attracting Republican support. Democratic Senator John Kerry, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham released a new “framework” for the Senate climate bill. Their proposal would reduce US emissions cuts to 17 percent of 2005 levels, down from 20 percent in Kerry’s initial bill with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer. The 17 percent cut amounts to just a four percent reduction when adopting the 1990 levels used by the rest of the world. The new Senate “framework” also includes major financial incentives for nuclear power plants and expanded opportunities for offshore drilling."
"African countries have shown they are not going to sit back and accept a bad deal in Copenhagen," said a spokeswomen for Oxfam international.
"The poorest countries say they are dying now and the rich are just sitting back doing nothing. Hopefully they will take action now," said Asad Rehman, head of international climate with Friends of the Earth.
"The world's largest historical emitter, the US, is missing in action during the climate negotiations, on its targets, on its finance – and the developing world is rightfully calling them out on it," said Greenpeace USA climate campaign director Damon Moglen.
"It is clear that for many countries, enough is enough. The fact that this has come today from countries including Kenya, President Obama's ancestral home, should be his wake-up call. Obama can no longer hide behind failed congressional legislation. He must provide ambitious, science-based emissions reductions targets and come to table in Copenhagen." Source: The Guardian

December 15, 2009

The Climate Divide: Dispute Between Rich and Poor Nations Widens at UN Copenhagen Summit

Nana Akyea Mensah, TheOdikro.
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What At All Is This Conference About?

This article is a part of:
A Grammar of Pan-Africanism, and its manners of articulation in today's world series,
Reflections on the the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - COP 15, 7 Dec - 18 Dec 2009 in Copenhagen, And A Call For Action In support Of On-going Struggle Against The Emerging Challenges To Peoples' Power.

Read also on Ghanaweb:

"Well, today is the opening day of the summit, and Democracy Now! is
the only daily global TV, radio news hour broadcasting from right here
inside the Bella Center for the next two weeks, bringing you this
exclusive coverage from inside the conference with delegates and
organizers, from outside on the streets where thousands of activists
are converging to call for real solutions to combat global warming. As
one sign outside the Bella Center said, “Politicians talk. Leaders
act.” - Amy Goodman.