African leaders met this past week in Addis Ababa in preparation for the Copenhagen climate talks in December. Delegates from Algeria, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda met at the African Union (AU) headquarters to agree upon a figure needed for climate change mitigation. The meeting convened as droughts are crippling much of East Africa, and flooding is affecting countries throughout the continent from as far south as Malawi to as far north as Sudan. African leaders hope that a unified African position in Copenhagen will strengthen their case, the urgency of which is underscored by this summer’s powerful and erratic weather that is robbing millions of Africans of their livelihood and homes, and placing them at increased risk for hunger and disease.
2008 report, the World Bank determined that developing communities are often the hardest hit by climate change, as they live in the most geographically vulnerable locations, and the combination of low incomes and poor infrastructural development restricts these communities to the agricultural sector, where weather dictates their well-being. With Africa home to 15 of the 20 most climate vulnerable countries, Monday’s talks are a sign that African leaders understand the pressing need for climate-change preparedness and are willing to cooperate in this area of absolute mutual interest. A draft resolution issued Monday states that leaders will be asking for $67 billion a year in global warming funds, as well as requesting leaders of the world’s most polluting countries to cut emissions by 40% by 2012.
Though the enormity of $67 billion will escape few, leaders in Addis Ababa made it clear that they are not merely asking for cash handouts, and that they understand the centrality of their roles in climate change preparedness. The draft proposes national plans of action to develop low-carbon technologies, improve agriculture and water practices and secure the intellectual property rights for these technologies, suggesting that the majority of this compensation be received in the form of technology transfer and capacity building. In effect, the aid seeks to help Africans carve a much needed path for development of their own, learning from the developed world’s carbon-intensive lessons. “This is not about begging for cash but the urge for a common but differentiated responsibility,”says Judy Beaumont, chief of South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, present at the meeting. “Most developed countries took a dirty route to development, and Africa cannot take the same route.”