19 October 2009

Africa: Continent to Present U.S.$65 Billion Bill At UN Global Warming Meeting

Nairobi — Two months to the United Nations' climate summit, African leaders have drawn up a $65 billion dollar budget to deal with the effects of environment change.

African countries say they need the money as compensation for the adverse effects of carbon emissions by developed nations and to implement projects that contribute towards increased earnings by citizens, and for adaptation to climate change.

"We think $65 billion is needed to deal with the effects of climate change on a continental scale. Our expectations are very high," Salifou Sawadogo, Burkina Faso's Environment Minister, said at the opening of a special forum on climate change.

The seventh World Forum on Sustainable Development held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, came just two months to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

Last week, the Kenya government and lobby groups joined hands to demand Sh1.6 billion (about $20 million) a year to counter the disastrous effects of carbon emissions on the country.

More than 60 groups under the banner: Kenya Climate Change Working Group told the African Parliamentarians Summit on Climate Change in Nairobi that the climate change talks in Copenhagen in December should open a window for Kenya to demand compensation.

Africa is pressing for a case against developed nations, which are the greatest polluters, says environmentalist Wangari Maathai.

While supporting financial compensation by developed countries, she says Africa must explore development-focused solutions, with special focus on the role of women in environmental protection.

"African negotiators must take a unified position on these issues (carbon credits) and show the importance of agriculture in climate change adaptation and mitigation," Prof Maathai says.

The Africa Bio-Carbon Initiative, she says, is a shining example of how the continent can come up with a strong vision and a clear work plan, similar to the Nairobi Framework on Climate Change at the Conference of Parties in 2006.

Terming financial compensation as "carbon justice," the Nobel laureate says the Copenhagen forum will be a commitment like no other.

"But still, it is individual nations that have the ultimate responsibility of shielding their people from the adverse impact of climate change. Agreements and financial mechanisms will bear no fruit if they are not translated into workable projects," she warns.

Africa is the world's poorest and least industrialised continent.

Its people account for only four per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions while the central Congo basin is considered one of the world's "green lungs," together with the Amazon rain forest.

But the continent has long been sidelined in the carbon market, says Prof Maathai.

"We are told there was no reliable method of measuring carbon stored in trees or soil, particularly if it is stored on small landholdings such as the farms typical of Kenya's central highlands," she says.

Titled "Climate change: What opportunities for sustainable development?" the Ouagadougou forum was organised by the Bukinabe government in partnership with the UN -- including the United Nations Development Programme and the African Union.

Experts say Africa is one of the regions most affected by climate change.

The World Bank estimates that the developing world will suffer about 80 per cent of the damage wrought by climate change.

The forum also reviewed the problems associated with climate change and made efforts to implement a "New Green Deal for Africa".

The envisaged pact will allow Africa to shield itself from the consequences of climate change while supporting the development process and working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

A key point of contention is how much money wealthy nations should contribute to help developing ones deal with climate change.

For the first time at the UN summit in Copenhagen this December, Africa will present a common position.

The continent is sending a panel of leaders from various countries, headed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

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