In November, African nations refused to sign a joint statement with the European Union on climate change during the recent Africa-EU summit. According to a representative for Africa, the proposal does not reflect the continent’s priorities. Instead, the proposal – according to the rep – reflected European priorities.
According to Dr. Harry Rosen, Dean of the School of Business and Information Systems, York College, City University of New York, the move by the Africa Union is based on economics. “The simple fact is that clean energy is expensive energy. When nations in the developed world were building their industrial capacity a century ago, they did so with coal-fired factories, and despoiled huge tracts of their environment in the process,” notes Dr. Rosen. “Now, when African nations are beginning to build industrial capacity, they are asked to do so in a way that will not further erode the environmental damage done by European and North American nations in the past. A commitment to clean, but expensive energy will, out of necessity, slow the growth rate of most members of the African union. The AU’s stand on climate makes good economic sense. The EU’s response suggests that some form of subsidy of clean but expensive energy may be possible.”
African nations are not the only ones opposed to the proposal. Most developing countries say the declaration is unfair economically and places too much financial burden on them. This week during the international talks on climate in Cancun, Mexico, Globe – a group of legislators from developed and developing countries – created a proposal they hope will break the impasse between the U.S., Europe and the developing nations.
Meanwhile, the BASIC group of advanced developing countries — Brazil, South Africa, India and China — released their own ‘non-negotiable’ elements, which include, immediate payouts for poor countries. Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh announced at the summit, saying that BASIC members “will not be candidates” for the $30 billion ‘fast-start finance’,” proposed by the U.S. and Europe. He also states that poor African countries would be demanding redefinition of Annex 1 countries under the Kyoto Protocol, which stipulates major polluters to reduce their emissions by 5.2 percent compared to 1990 between 2008 and 2012.
Aimed at fighting global warming, The Kyoto Protocol was initially adopted in December 1997. Under the Protocol, 37 countries (Annex I countries) committed themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases by 5.2% from the 1991 level.
Environmental expert Michanna Talley says any new proposal will have to at last have priorities that line up with Africa´s own climate goals. “If the proposed statement does not in fact line up with the African priorities, rejecting the policy may be the best decision in the long run for Africa.
This move may have also conveyed the fact that Africa will only move forward in the future when decisions are made that not only benefit the environment, but also benefit the country as a whole,” she points out. “A policy that is fair for all nations may very well be possible, but that must be decided on a country-by-country basis. A policy on which multiple countries can agree will likely require a compromise by which all those involved come out benefiting from the policy. It also may be difficult to agree due to countries disagreeing not only on what is best for them, but also what is best for the environment and the best way to proceed.”