Update on African Group walk-out at Barcelona talks

by Mike Gaworecki

November 4, 2009

Yesterday I reported on a Greenpeace banner hang at the UN climate talks in Barcelona, as well as the fact that several African nations had walked out of the negotiations in protest of the Greenpeace Barcelona banner hangweak emissions reductions targets commitments made by developed nations.

I mentioned in that post that the talks were to resume today, but also noted that I didn’t know what resolution had been reached to allow talks to resume. Today, via The Associated Press, we have our answer:

BARCELONA, Spain — African countries ended a boycott of meetings at U.N. climate negotiations on Tuesday, after winning promises for more in-depth talks on how much rich nations need to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Due to the Africans’ demands, most of the rest of this week’s talks in Barcelona will be devoted to discussing carbon-cutting pledges rather than other issues including carbon offsets and action by developing countries, said John Ash, chairman of the negotiations on emissions.

The Africans, supported by about 70 other developing countries, said industrial nations were making weak commitments to stave off dramatic temperature rises while Africa was being devastated by droughts and floods blamed on global warming.

Scientists say industrial countries should reduce emissions by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, but targets announced so far amount to far less.

"It’s really good that the Africans have finally been able to stand up together," said Fiona Musana of Johannesburg-based Greenpeace Africa. "That sends a strong signal."

Of course, low emissions targets aren’t the only ways the leaders of the developed world are attempting to shirk their responsibility to solve the climate crisis. Jess, blogging on Greenpeace International’s Climate Rescue Weblog, reports that negotiators for developed countries are now arguing for a "politically binding" agreement as opposed to a "legally binding" agreement:

The climate negotiations have arrived at yet another war over words that might prove detrimental to a deal in Copenhagen this December. Check this one out – developing countries are demanding that negotiators stick to the commitment of a legally binding treaty while developed countries seem to be pleased with showboating their new idea of a politically binding agreement. Sound like just semantics to you? May sound like it but consider this: When was the last time you trusted a promise that a politician made to you before they took steps to make good on it?

“I do not know anything called a politically binding agreement. They are worth very little. Tell me of any politician that delivered on their (election) manifesto,” Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, a delegate with Sudan.

OK, so maybe it sounds like a whole lot of unwarranted distrust to you, so let’s use President Obama as an example. I campaigned and voted for President Obama based on the promises he made. As someone that cares about the environment, I was inspired by his statements about leading the world in the fight against climate change. After he was elected, he talked about returning science to its rightful place and leading the world in a solution to the climate crisis. But just 32 days out, where is the leadership and return to science that my President Obama promised? How much longer do I trust in promises without any accountability?

Where is the accountability, indeed. We now learn that, far from providing the leadership that was promised by Obama, the US is actually doing its best to undermine negotiations in Barcelona. If you’re as fed up with this lack of leadership as I am, you can call Obama’s Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, right now — click here for the number and a suggested script.

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