African nations move closer to EU position at Durban

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Europe's position at the UN climate talks in Durban won support yesterday (8 December) from the chair of the 54 African nations.

As the negotiations moved into their final 36 hours, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, chair of the Africa group, said that its position had moved closer to Europe and those developing countries who have supported the EU's calls for a legally binding agreement covering all nations to begin as soon as possible.

Africa would now concentrate its demands on seeking a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol – where legally binding carbon reduction targets would continue beyond 2012 – and the setting up of a new green fund "to keep Africa safe" from climate change, he said.

But he added that "chequebook diplomacy" had started at the negotiations with poor countries being offered money and sweeteners by rich countries to ensure votes.

"We have moved towards Aosis [the Alliance of Small Island States] and the LDCs [Least Developed Countries]. We were far from them when we started. They were pushing for a legally binding comprehensive deal by 2020. You will always have bilateral deals and chequebook diplomacy. This is happening. I won't point the finger," he said.

Africa traditionally plays a small role in international talks, but its position in Durban is seen as critical because the continent stands to suffer the most under climate change and must not be seen to fail on its home turf.

But Mpanu Mpanu said that Africa was unclear over what he regards as Europe's hesitancy to sign up to a so-called second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol beyond 2012. "Africa should try to get to the bottom of the very complicated EU ratification process, which seems to be beyond the comprehension of everyone except the Europeans."

He reiterated that Kyoto was vital. "Kyoto countries will increasingly represent fewer and fewer emissions [and] Kyoto alone will not be enough to keep Africa safe. But we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. We must keep the strong rules of the KP. We must first have a second commitment period and then we will see how we can go forward."

And he lambasted the US, as well as Japan, Russia and Canada who are refusing to sign a new commitment period. "Some people have a vested interest in not making any progress in these talks."

"The Kyoto top-down approach to climate change is right. It's like building a dam. First you work out what height and strength it should be to hold back [emissions]. The bottom up, pledge and review approach of the US asks countries to say how much are they prepared to put in. What you may get is half a dam."

Referring to figures in a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute which compared the pledges made by the industrialised and developing countries at the Cancún talks last year, he said: "The developing countries are doing more than the rich. They have pledged to reduce their emissions by 5.2 gigatonnes, but the developed countries only 3.8gigatonnes."

The EU said its proposals were good news for Africa, because they would ensure that an international framework on avoiding dangerous climate change would continue to operate beyond 2020. An official said that as the least developed countries were most vulnerable, they had the most to gain, and that the EU was providing funding for adaptation and for poor countries to move to a green economy.

EU officials also dispute the Stockholm Environment Institute's figures, that show developing countries contributing less to emissions cuts than rich nations, pointing instead to statistics from the UN Environment Programme that found the current pledges from developed countries would result in a cut of 4.5 gigatonnes of carbon by 2020, while those from developing countries would amount to a cut of 3.1 gigatonnes.

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in December 1997 by the 3rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and opened for signature in March 1998.

The protocol commits industrialised countries to reduce during the period 2008-2012 their collective emission of six greenhouse gases (GHG) by 5.2% from 1990 levels. Under the protocol, the EU committed itself to reduce GHG emissions by 8%.

To enter into force, the proposal had to be ratified by 55 countries, and the developed countries that have ratified must account for at least 55% of 1990 emissions.


Life Terra

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