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A Bold Strategy for Africa

11/04/09

Jay Wellik—Dallas, TX, USA

Despite a usual lack of coherence and power, the African Group banded together yesterday (Nov 3) at the Barcelona Climate Change Talks to voice frustration with the rich nations.  Frustrated by a lack of real reduction commitments, the African Group called for the suspension of all contact groups that did not discuss numbers.  Kamel Djemouai led the African Group in press conference and specifically asked for a commitment to 40% reduction levels.  It may be hard to imagine the power this group of 55 of the world’s poorest nations holds, but the statement was backed by the G77 & China—emphasis on China.

Unfortunately, the African Group’s hard-line stance was matched by U.S. legislative powers when (on the same day) the G.O.P. boycotted climate change discussions in the Senate.  Without domestic cooperation in the U.S., the African Group can’t possibly get the numbers they are asking for at the international level.  This begs several questions for the future in Copenhagen.  What progress can be made without real commitments? And what would be the implications of an African walk-out?

First of all, the African Group clearly believes that the numbers—a clear commitment to reduction levels—are the most important component to the negotiations.  Djemouai voiced concern that discussing mitigation strategies is meaningless if there is no target level to determine how far those mitigation plans need to go.

Djemouai also showed little fear when journalists asked him if he thought his group’s position could derail Copenhagen.  He placed the responsibility on the developed nations and said it was up to them to produce targets since they were the ones responsible for historical emissions.  He described his group’s action as a close-to-the-cuff strategy and refused to reveal what their future actions may entail.

All things considered, the rigidity doesn’t look encouraging for success, but maybe—maybe—these hardball tactics can be a wake-up call for real progress to be made.

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