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U.S. Drags its Feet at United Nations Conference

U.S. Drags its Feet at United Nations Conference

Africa Action Opposes World Bank Climate Financing

Friday, December 12th, 2008 (Washington, DC) – According to an issue paper released by Africa Action today, the causes of climate change are obvious, and the effects are overwhelming. While Africa only emits 4 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, the continent is suffering from shrunken lakes, deforestation, and eroded coastlines. A UN report states that a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature would endanger the water supply of up to 600 million Africans. In sub-Saharan Africa there are roughly 800 million people.

“This is a great illustration of global apartheid. Africans emit the lowest levels of carbon emissions, but are most greatly affected by climate change due to the lack of affordable prevention methods,” said Gerald LeMelle, Executive Director of Africa Action. “It is time that developed countries share the burden of climate change and work together to create a new cooperative approach.”

This week the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was convened in Poznan, Poland. Delegates from nearly every nation around the world participated in discussions that focused on mitigating the disproportionate effects of climate change on developing countries. These discussions were supposed to set the framework for a revised global agreement on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009.

Unfortunately, it was difficult to agree on much of anything, even given the enormous and devastating effect that climate change has had around the world, predominantly in developing countries.

During the conference the participants were often at odds. The “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD) text was first supported by the European Union and other countries such as Bolivia, Norway, Mexico, and Switzerland. Then, according to Friends of the Earth, countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand strictly opposed any language that would recognize the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. The final text acknowledged only the value of indigenous peoples’ “participation.”

“This was a lost opportunity for millions of people in developing countries who suffer the brunt of climate change. The UNFCCC conference reflects a failure in leadership from many developed countries,” said Michael Stulman, Associate Director of Policy and Communications. “If President Elect Obama says we live in ‘a planet in peril’ then the U.S. Government will have to commit to long-term solutions that address both environmental problems and the global economy at the same time.”

Other recommendations to confront the climate crisis came from the Japanese Trade Negotiator, which suggested taking three baths a day rather than seven.

Taking a much larger and mistaken approach to climate change was the World Bank. During the UNFCCC conference, the World Bank positioned itself to take control of the climate crisis by managing the Climate Investment Funds. This would be a mechanism for developing countries to receive loans that could be invested in climate adaptation and mitigation in Africa and the Global South.

“Grants, not loans, should be directly given to developing countries. Poor countries should not have to pay for dealing with the problem that has been caused by the world’s wealthiest countries,” said Gerald LeMelle, Executive Director of Africa Action. “Grants need to be designed with local participation channeled through the UNFCC or another truly multilateral decision-making body.”

On Tuesday, 142 nongovernmental organizations released a joint statement that was critical of this position. It exposes the hypocrisy of an institution that invests in polluting- industries assuming responsibility for climate change. In recent years, World Bank investments in oil, coal and gas has greatly increased, not decreased.

Read the most recent analysis on climate change and Africa at:


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