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Stop the sellout: Africa to world

As India, China try to lure United States aboard talks bandwagon; protests back Africa, small islands. Samar Halarnkar & Chetan Chauhan report.

world Updated: Dec 15, 2009 00:54 IST

“Save Kyoto, Save Africa,” shouted hundreds of NGO representatives on Monday morning inside the Bella Centre, hub of the climate negotiations, hours after the African nations stalled negotiations on climate change.

The 52-nation strong African group accused rich countries, including the host Danish government, of trying to kill the Kyoto Protocol and wanted discussions to begin on a UN draft on the protocol for the second commitment period starting 2013.

The Kyoto Protocol sets binding targets for 37 industrialised countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels between 2008-2012.
There was an outpouring of support for Africa and small island nations at Copenhagen, with many youth delegations and NGOs

organising impromptu protests. The key issue: A move to discuss some modifications to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Courtesy: Samar Halarnkar/HTphoto

The first commitment period under the protocol ends in 2012, after which new emission reduction targets for developed nations are to be decided.

None of the rich countries have agreed to any target under the protocol so far.

“We are disappointed,” said Algerian diplomat Kamel Djemonai, who led the charge on behalf of the African nations at a press conference.

“The chair (Danish environment minister Connie Hedegaard) did not consult us all. Our views were not reflected. There is an attempt to kill the Kyoto Protocol”.

The Danish government had initiated discussions on the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) draft, which talks about emission reduction targets by 2050. Africa opposed it saying that the 2020 targets under the Kyoto Protocol should be finalised first.

The four key issues Hedegaard listed in the LCA draft included differences over emission reduction targets for developed countries and mitigation action for developing countries, which led to the African outrage. “Long term can wait,” declared Djemonai.

There is a big divide between rich and the poor countries over Kyoto. The US has rejected Kyoto. And Europe has refused to sign a deal, if the US refuses to come on board.

The majority of rich countries want a single instrument, which has binding but differentiated emission reduction targets for all countries. But Kyoto has binding emission targets only for the developed world and voluntary emission mitigation action.

“Rich countries have failed to meet their commitments under the first period of Kyoto. We can’t trust them as the LCA draft sets long-term targets which suit the interests of the developed world,” said Sunita Narain, Director of Delhi-based NGO Centre for Science and Environment.

Copenhagen Diary | What they want

Indian Environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday termed the LCA draft as a valid document for the negotiations to proceed further but African nations showed their dissent by stalling the proceedings.

“This is a walkout over process and form, not a walkout over substance, and that’s regrettable,” Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said, as support for the African action overwhelmed the venue.

Rich countries had little support outside with Non Governmental Organisations such as WWF and Friends of Earth terming today’s discussion as a move to end Kyoto.

“African countries moved to stop rich countries from grabbing power,” said Nnimmo Bassey of the NGO Friends of Earth.

Some of the 30,000 people who participated in the Climate Walk on Saturday held placards saying only Kyoto could protect the interests of the developing world.

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, predicted that the negotiations would get back on track by Tuesday morning, as the majority of the countries want to see the continuation of Kyoto Protocol.

Sure enough, after the morning fracas, talks resumed on Monday evening after Danish environment minister Hedegaard agreed to begin informal negotiations on the second commitment period for Kyoto.

The discussions on Kyoto are likely to continue late into the night so that a text of an agreement or a political statement by the heads of states, to be announced on December 18, is ready by Tuesday night.

Copenhagen Diary | What they want