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Africa has not come to Copenhagen with an empty bowl


Continuing behavior from the preliminary talks in Barcelona, Africa stalled climate change negotiations again this morning in Copenhagen.  The continent was backed by the G77 & China as well as over one-hundred demonstrators in the halls of the Bella Center.

Nnimmo Bassey--one of TIME Magazine's 2009 Heroes of the Environment--addresses a mass of people after the Africa bloc stalls UNFCCC negotiations.

Several representatives of the African states made themselves available to answer questions after the walk-out.  One man, Nnimmo Bassey, was being particularly vocal.  It was not until later that I discovered Bassey is the executive director of Environmental Rights Action, the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth.  It wasn’t until even later that I discovered he had been named one of TIME Magazine’s 2009 Heroes of the Environment.

His primary message was that “Africa has not come to Copenhagen with an empty bowl; it has come with demands.”  The demands are to act on Kyoto, not to kill it.  The way he sees it, climate negotiations have become a “dog-eat-dog world” that obstructs solidarity and change.  Moving past Kyoto is a step backwards—a step people from his country and continent cannot take.

The youth support Africa and the Small Island States at COP15.

Youth from developed and developing countries showed their support of Bassey’s stance by lining a major hallway of the Bella Center.  The effect was similar to interstate drivers near a wreck.  Most passing by turned their heads, stopped, clogged traffic, and, thus, drew more attention to the event.  Even two angels appeared:  “For Heaven’s sake, don’t kill Kyoto.”  The main difference to the highway was that many more people inside the Bella Center were stopping for pictures, video clips, and interviews.

Angels descend to save Kyoto. This may be the document's only hope.

Unfortunately for those sympathetic to Bassey, conversations with representatives in the developed world suggest Kyoto is dead.  Anything that might arise out of Copenhagen will be new.  The question is whether or not the new deal will hold enough of Kyoto’s tenants—primarily technology transfer and no targets for the developing countries—to appease the states in Africa.  In a statement released to the press on Dec 14, Honorable Awadu Mbaya Cyprian—Executive President of the Pan-African Parliamentarians on Climate Change—expressed doubt that a new deal would be beneficial for Africa.  In fact, he stated that no deal in Copenhagen would be better than a weak one.

The strategies between the developed and least developed world are, therefore, irreconcilable.  This sets us up for an incredibly interesting last four days in Copenhagen.  Presumably, the arriving Heads of State could cause talks to lean a different direction than the negotiators have pushed them, but this seems unlikely since Hon. Awadu has called African politicians to stay committed to their negotiators’ work.  If the rest of the world follows suit, it appears we will be leaving Denmark without a climate treaty.

All photos were taken by the author.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Wilcox permalink
    12/15/09 10:37 am

    looking forward to your view on these next four days! Sounds fascinatingly complicated….
    Great job on this article!


  1. What is the Problem? Questions from Copenhagen « Cornfields to Copenhagen

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