Rich countries call on African bloc to keep climate talks on track

Poor countries forced to make a stand over lack
of commitment from rich nations
on emissions cuts, claims African delegate
Tck tck tck clocks Barcelona
Clocks are displayed outside UN climate talks
in Barcelona, Spain Photograph: MANU FERNANDEZ/AP

Rich countries today piled pressure on Africa not
to derail climate talks after the poorest countries
in the world shocked the UN by walking out
of the official negotiations, demanding
that their concerns be met.

The chair of the Africa group of nations,
Kamel Djemouai, was recalled from Barcelona
by the Algerian government and
other African delegations reportedly received
"strong" phone calls from their capitals
urging them not to imperil
the last negotiations before Copenhagen.

Algeria admitted that its negotiator had been
recalled but it was denied that
this had anything to do with Africa's stand.

The African bloc complained that
rich nations' carbon cuts were far
too small to avoid catastrophic climate change,
and refused to participate until more was done.

The move forced the UN to abandon
several sessions and reschedule others
to give rich countries more time
to debate emissions cuts.

Countries have agreed to devote
60% of the remaining time to those discussions.

France has been supportive of Africa's position
ahead of the climate change talks in Copenhagen.
But French negotiators are known to have been
angered and dismayed by the African move.

"They are shooting themselves in the foot,"
said one French diplomat.

The Guardian has learned that Africa's intervention
was not a spur of the moment decision by negotiators.
The decision to make a stand to try
to force rich countries to increase
their commitments was taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
last month when African heads of state
met to coordinate their positions before the talks.

"It was a political act, not a negotiating stand.
The negotiators here in Barcelona were told
to make a dramatic action," said
one source close to the group.

"We took a risk and it worked. We are very pleased
with the reaction," said Bruno Sekoli, head of
the Lesotho national climate office and chair
of the least developed countries group
of the world's poorest nations.

"Africa had no choice because of the reality
of climate change. The negotiations have been
going a long time and have not
shown much progress.

It's not about money. Climate change is
an issue of life or death for us. The developed
countries have to shift policies.

A bad deal is not good for Africa
or vulnerable countries," said Sekoli.

"The impacts of climate change have come
too soon, so soon.

I am scared to think of
the consequences," he said.

He added that the reaction from other
developing countries had been heartening.

The G77 group of 130 countries, the Alliance
of Small island states and others
in Latin America all supported the African stance.

Their move was credited with reminding
delegations that the ultimate point
of the talks is to reduce emissions.

Until now the negotiations have been
dominated by concerns of the US
and China and have seemed irrelevant
to many of the poorest countries
which are already feeling
the effects of climate change.

"Their move leaves Africa in
a much stronger position. So far Africa
has not been recognised
in the talks at all," said Saleemul Huq,
head of climate change at the London-based
International Institute for Environment
and Development (IIED).

"It's a moral stance, it points out
the difference between a good
and a bad deal. A good deal is defined
by what is good for the planet.

Africa will feel the consequences
most of a bad deal," said Huq. "If you are
an African country you have
much more at stake than a rich country.

They are rightly confused by the talks and angry."

Hugh Cole, climate adviser for Oxfam
in Southern Africa: "African countries
have drawn a line in the sand this week.

They are not willing to accept
a bad deal in Copenhagen which will
spell disaster for millions of their poorest people.

Rich countries must now stop
trying to dodge and delay
their responsibilities — deliver
the emissions cuts the science demands
and the climate finance
poor communities desperately need."

The Africa group of nations is
a new political grouping in
the UN climate talks, reflecting
the continent's increased unity, and desire
to work together.

It is led by President Meles of Ethiopia,
but is negotiating separately in the talks
even though many of its members
are part of larger political groupings
like the G77 plus China,
and the Least Developed Countries (LDC).

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Sent from Kigali, Rwanda

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