By Jason McLure
Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Africa won’t “rubber stamp” any climate-change agreement by industrialized powers at global talks in Copenhagen this December that don’t meet the continent’s needs, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said.
“We will use our numbers to delegitimize any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position,” Meles said today at a meeting of the African Partnership Forum on Climate Change in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. “If need be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent.”
A special meeting of African Union leaders this week in Libya chose the 54-year-old Ethiopian prime minister to negotiate in Copenhagen on behalf of the pan-African body’s 53 members, giving the continent a larger voice in any agreement on how to reduce carbon emissions blamed for global warming and compensate the victims of climate change.
“We will participate in the upcoming negotiations not as supplicants pleading for our case but as negotiators defending our views and interests and reaching out to others to achieve our common position,” Meles said. “We as the prime victims of climate change and among the primary beneficiaries of a meaningful agreement on the matter cannot but be responsible actors and negotiators.”
The decision by African leaders Monday to nominate Meles to represent the continent at the Copenhagen talks is a milestone for the seven-year-old African Union, the successor to the Organization of African Unity. The continent has never sent a single negotiating team to negotiate a major global treaty, Meles said.
“More than one-quarter of the countries of the United Nations will be speaking with one voice,” Meles said today. “Africa’s ecosystems are amongst the most fragile in the world and hence highly vulnerable to catastrophic changes due to small changes in temperature.”
Carbon emissions by Africa’s 1 billion people are equivalent to that from Texas’s 30 million, said Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission.
Africa “will live with the damage caused by the unavoidable levels of global warming and seek compensation and assistance to limit the damage,” Meles said. “What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above the minimum avoidable level.”
The outlines of the AU climate position include calling on developed countries to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to a level 40 percent below their 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80 percent those levels by 2050, according to an AU report e-mailed to reporters last month.
The AU position also calls for developed countries to pay the developing world $200 billion by 2020 to help them reduce carbon emissions through projects like reforestation. The AU is asking developed countries to pay the developing world $67 billion a year to finance projects such as sea walls to adapt to the impacts of climate change like rising ocean levels.
Additionally, the African position calls for a loosening of restrictions on intellectual property for solar and other green technologies that allow the continent to more rapidly build lower-carbon infrastructure networks.
Last Updated: September 3, 2009 10:54 EDT