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Should Africa scuttle Copenhagen deal?

December 16, 2009

melesAfrica 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?


If by “European emissions” having extenuated famine conditions in Ethiopia he means the support given by short-sighted Live Aid luminaries to the Derg then Zenami would be right on the money. Radical change in Euro-African economic relations remains sorely overdue. Though one expects no better of Sarkozy, it’s rather regrettable that Gordon Brown is too tied up in post-Blair domestic crisis management to prioritize this.

By posing “all smiles” with European leaders who still don’t give a toss whether his people live or die as long as they lay hands on Africa’s strategic and natural resources, Zenami’s just marking time as all diplomats are expected to.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

It would be wise for the developing nations to help cut emissions.

They have massive populations. They will suffer the most serious effects of climate change. They will be the ones who suffer massive starvation, wars and disease.

And if the developing nations are going to walk out of climate talks because they don’t want to cut emissions, this will have consequences when they start pleading for aid and assistance from developed nations in a few decades time.

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Posted by reutes | Report as abusive

I always belive climat summit is waste of money and time. In Ethiopia like most of African countries people live worst thank animals.Food, Clothing and housing is unthinkable. By giviing money to Ethiopin leaders does not bring any change in coming feature.Just make the leaders rich. You want solution in Ethiopia GIVE LAND TO THE FARMER FREE AND YOU MORAN EUROPIAN LEADERS , IF YOU GIVE THE MONEY LEND IT TO THE FARMER. IMPOWRMENT IS THE SOLUTION …

Posted by doro | Report as abusive

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