[ADDIS ABABA] Africa should not be seen as a charity case in global negotiations on climate change, the continent's newly chosen spokesman on climate change said yesterday (3 September).
Speaking at a meeting convened by the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa to promote the African negotiating position, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the continent has "no intention to free-ride" a post-Kyoto agreement.
Zenawi was chosen to chair a new high-level committee to steer the African negotiation process by heads of state meeting in Libya last week (31 August).
It is the first time that Africa has spoken with one voice at international climate negotiations (see Africa Analysis: securing the right climate deal).
Although the continent needs financial help from developed countries to adapt to the effects of climate change and limit its own contributions to the phenomenon, it does not come to the negotiating table empty-handed, Zenawi said.
He pointed out Africa's potential as a market for clean development technologies and the creation of a potential carbon sink.
"By partnering with us on green development, the developed world could create a more robust market and overall environment for the mitigation efforts that it alone must shoulder," Zenawi said.
"Our interest is not to claim compensation for climate change and its damages. Our interest is to prevent that from happening. It makes no sense to us for someone to make large parts of our continent unliveable and then pay some compensation for doing so."
"We want to keep our forests intact and re-afforest those that have over the years been degraded. We want to do so precisely because such an approach is economically more rewarding and sustainable," he said, but added that the continent was nevertheless "prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten another rape of our continent".
Zenawi's message was warmly welcomed by representatives of rich countries attending the meeting, many of which have lobbied for developing countries — in particular, the more economically advanced ones — to make stronger commitments to mitigation.
The US delegation said it "sees Africa as a partner", adding that much of the US$1.2 billion it will be spending in 2010 on climate change adaptation is likely to end up in Africa.
But a European delegate who wished to remain anonymous told SciDev.Net that one reason that developed countries are pleased to see Africa setting out its own position for Copenhagen is that this separates it from the G77 negotiating block of poor and emerging economies.
"A pulling away from the G77 by Africa is excellent," the delegate said. "The mix was too wide before. You had in there countries like Saudi Arabia, whose presence didn’t help anyone in that group. On its own, Africa has a high moral position when it comes to asking for support. As a funder, you know that your money will go to the most deserving."