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  • African climate leader says Cancun talks 'will flop'

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[ADDIS ABABA] Upcoming international climate talks will be "a total flop", according to Africa's leading spokesperson on climate change.

Neither this year's talks in Cancun, Mexico, nor the ones in South Africa next year, will deliver a deal with set targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, said Meles Zenawi, prime minister of Ethiopia and coordinator of the Committee of Ten African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change.

His statements have provoked anger from some critics who see them as undermining the African Union's stance on climate change.

As a spokesperson for the African Union, Zenawi's comments were in bad taste and will further entrench those in the West who oppose a legally binding climate change deal, Dorothy Amwata, a researcher at South Eastern University College, Kenya, told SciDev.Net.

"If there are no chances of success in Cancun and South Africa then what is the point of holding consultative forums in Africa spending public and donor money?" said Amwata, who helped develop the Comprehensive Climate Change Programme for the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). "It is strange that [Zenawi] is the one leading the process yet he is so negative."

Zenawi was speaking this week (13 October) at the High Level Dialogue on Governance and Leadership Response to Climate Change at the Seventh African Development Forum (12–15 October), where he also said that developed countries were not taking the search for a global climate change deal seriously.

The 15th session of the UN's Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in Copenhagen last year disappointed many who expected a legally binding document to be agreed that would curb further greenhouse gas emissions and succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

The Copenhagen Climate Accord, which emerged instead, was an unbinding "statement of intent", and offered some hope for building clean-energy economies and helping the most vulnerable nations adapt to the effects of climate change but left many questions unanswered.

Delegates from around the world will continue working towards a global climate deal at this year's COP 16 meeting in Cancun, and next year's COP 17 in South Africa.

Zenawi blamed the lack of a binding agreement on the "uneducated" public in the developed world who make it "uncomfortable" for their leaders to make the "right and courageous decisions on global warming".

But Jato Sillah, Gambia's minister for Forestry and the Environment, told SciDev.Net that Africa was also to blame for the lack of a climate deal. "When we go to negotiations we have a common stand but when it comes to the floor different positions emerge," he said.

Africa must rise up to this "global leadership deficiency" and show leadership, Zenawi said.

Calls for Africa to speak as one at the COP 16 in Cancun were heard throughout the meeting, coming from Jean Ping, chairman of the Commission of the African Union; former president of Botswana Festus Mogae; and Ethiopian president Girma Wolde-Giorgis, who officially opened the forum.

"For Africa to be heard and taken seriously, it is no longer just enough to speak as one — we need to be ready to put our own contributions on the table, in terms of financing and concrete ideas," said Zenawi.

Amwata said that Zenawi and other African leaders should clearly state alternatives they have for climate mitigation and adaptation for the poor and vulnerable affected by the phenomenon in Africa.

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