African business, politics and lifestyle
Should Africa scuttle Copenhagen deal?
Africa has known for a long time that it’s not going to get everything it wants from the Copenhagen climate talks. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who is representing the continent in Denmark, has been managing expectations by saying so for more than six months now.
But that realism is tempered by increasingly tough words from a man who has already said European emissions may have caused his country’s infamous 1984 famine.
Meles arrives in Copenhagen today having threatened to enlist the help of China and India to “scuttle” any deal he’s not satisfied with.
“If Copenhagen is going to be about an agreement that simply rides roughshod over Africa, then we will try to scuttle it, and I think we have reasonable assurance we can scuttle it if our concerns are not addressed,” Meles told reporters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Friday.
“We may need allies in order for us to be heard,” he continued. “Allies that have the capacity to mess the environment, and therefore allies who could not be ignored. If we can get the commitment of these countries not to sign an agreement unless Africa signs an agreement, then I assume we’ll be taken more seriously. In a recent phone conversation I had with the prime minister of China, I was assured of that support for Africa.”
Meles said he had “indications” India would support the world’s poorest continent, too.
Africa threatening the deal with China and India is interesting.
China and India have displaced many western countries as the major investors in some African countries, including Ethiopia, pumping billions of dollars into securing access to Africa’s commodities which they need for their industries. The growing influence in Africa of the two rising powers has rattled some in the West.
But the Ethiopian leader stopped off in both London and Paris on his way to the talks, where he posed all smiles with Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy.
And diplomats in Addis Ababa tell me Meles spent most of last week in constant conference and video calls with other world leaders.
Everybody, it seems, wants to be seen as Africa’s friend in Copenhagen.
Delegates in Copenhagen, however, still can’t agree the size of emissions cuts by the developed world. Nor can they agree on the amount of cash that should be found to counter the impact of climate change in the developing world. Or where that cash should come from.
President Barack Obama was one of the leaders who made a call to Ethiopia.
The White House website says Obama, “expressed his appreciation for the leadership role … Prime Minister (Meles) was playing in work with African countries on climate change, and urged him to help reach agreement at the Leaders summit later this week in Copenhagen.”
Nobody wants their fingerprints on a deal that’s perceived to have ignored the world’s poorest people, so everyone is pushing Meles to agree to something.
But it looks like the Ethiopian leader will not automatically play ball.
So is Meles right to threaten the deal? Or should Africa accept the best deal it can negotiate this time as a steppingstone to something better in the future?