Thursday, June 7, 2007

Africa and the G8 Climate Change Decision


As I have said before, climate change is a theological and moral issue not merely because of the command that we be good stewards of God's creation, but also because adverse impact of Climate Change rests largely on the poorest of the poor. In other words, Jesus' command that we take care of the least of these (and his warning that we will be judged by whether we do so) should be critical to our thinking and action on this issue.

I therefore thought that this reaction to the G8 action on Climate Change by Patrick Watt, UK policy coordinator for Action Aid, a leading international non-Governmental development organization, was quite important. He argues that Africa--which did not have a seat at the table at the G8 Summit--had more at stake than any other part of the world in the outcome:

With the two intergovernmental panel on climate change reports published so far this year, it's now well established that Africa - the region that has done least to contribute to the problem - is being hit first and worst by changes in the world's climate. This threatens not only to unravel those fragile gains that Africa has made in raising living standards in recent decades, but also to make future development that much more difficult.

Africa had no seat at the climate change discussions in Heiligendamm this afternoon, but the outcomes possibly matter more for the region than for any one else. What's now been announced is a compromise deal, promising talks about talks on a new UN framework, but there's been no firm target on carbon emissions of the sort the Europeans wanted - Angela Merkel was pushing for a 50% reduction by 2050. It's being spun as a victory by the G8, and US language has certainly moved since last year. But the wriggle room left in the wording on "substantial cuts" should give pause for thought, and wherever they go next, the pace of negotiations is prohibitively slow for Africa.

Africa needs binding agreement on cuts in emissions from the G8, as part of an international agreement to prevent any increase of more than 2C above pre-industrial levels - reckoned by most projections to be the tipping point beyond which the climate change becomes catastrophic. But a certain amount of future change is now inevitable, and Africa urgently needs funds and technology to enable it to manage its already far-reaching effects. The World Bank estimates that adaptation in developing countries will cost $41bn a year. So far, the industrialised countries have committed a mere $48m (not billion) to UN adaptation efforts in low-income countries. Somehow this massive gap must be bridged.

The risk is that donor money for adaptation will be taken out of current aid budgets, which are already faltering. This would be a travesty of the aid promises made two years ago in Gleneagles. When the G8 pledged an extra $25bn a year for Africa by 2010, the impact of climate change was not costed into the plan. Africans must not now pay for climate adaptation by forgoing HIV treatment, or basic education, or healthcare. The world's richest countries are the major source of the climate change problem. They must pay for it, in full and now.


Read it all.

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