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Feature Article of Thursday, 10 December 2009

Columnist: Mensah, Nana Akyea

A Grammar of Pan-Africanism, and its manners of articulation

: Part One. Part One: FOCUS ON COPENHAGEN: A CLIMATE CHANGE DEALING AND WHEELING?

i . INTRODUCTION

WATCH THE HISTORIC EVENTS HERE! December 07, 2009 [image: Post this story to a social networking site] [image: Include this video in your blog or website]



Climate Countdown: Largest Climate Summit in World History Opens in Copenhagen

For once in the history of the African continent, there is the possibility of an overwhelming consensus in a vital international issue which finds both our civil society and governmental representatives singing as though they know their copies of the environmental hymn book "by heart"! Yet, strangely enough, there is no room for complacency, we still keep our fingers crossed. Too much is at stake here and those responsible most for this problem have decided to adopt some of the most irresponsible positions that would make this important conference, a success.

This is to help focus public attention and stimulate informed debates about what is clearly a serious matter that is literally a life and death issue, but hardly discussed enough at the grassroots. This article has been written, thus in the view to help focus attention and encourage grass-root discussion on what Amy Goodman aptly describes as "depicted by scientists as "the most important the world has ever seen." 'To stress the significance of the summit,' Amy Goodman goes on, 'fifty-six newspapers in forty-five countries are taking the unprecedented step of publishing the same editorial today. The editorial reads, quote, “Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security…Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days,” as goes the editorial.'

This is "literally a matter of life and death". The level of attention being given to this in the media is almost scary, even more alarming is the lack of a grass root discussion of an issue of such a magnitude. The import of this conference could not have been stated better than Rajendra Pachuri, the chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As Amy Goodman reminds us, "the group was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Pachauri warned of the dangers of unmitigated global warming"

Above everything else, we need to remain focused. The issue is before our elected representatives, and we welcome and support their positions. It is very important that we show this in every creative way possible! Particularly, inside the negotiations halls, we need to mobilize maximum support for the The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) which on Tuesday rejected calls by some world leaders, including the biggest polluters, "to stall a legally binding outcome at next month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in Copenhagen." The grouping of most vulnerable states instead maintained that "the developed nations should continue to build on actions already undertaken."

“We must protect the most vulnerable, not the most powerful,” said Grenada’s Environment Minister Michael Church at the end of a two-day PRE-COP Consultation in the Danish capital.

“We must come out of Copenhagen with confidence that we (Ministers) have been able to bring the concerns of our people unto the platform of COP 15, to be integrated into the main agreement,” said Sherry Ayittey, Ghana’s Minister for Environment, Science and Technology.

“We have noted the reiteration of commitments to a legally binding outcome. We want and expect nothing less,” said Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary, Mohamed Mijarul Quayes.

He said that there must be clear, predictable commitments for cuts, financing and technology transfer “not as an expression of nicety, or the spirit of a Good Samaritan, but as an acknowledgement of responsibility and a commitment to secure the common future of all of us.”

“AOSIS still insist and maintain that there are all the ingredients for us to arrive at an international legally binding outcome in Copenhagen in December and that continues to be our position,” said Church who also chairs the 42-island grouping of small states.

These developments are against a backdrop of what Naomi Klein recently described in the Rolling Stone Magazine as "Climate Rage". In a response to Amy Goodman this is what she sees at stake at Copenhagen from the African perspectives. How far do we identify, support, and seek to further that? Aparently, the message from Africa is going through:

"AMY GOODMAN: Talk specifically about the countries that are raising these concerns and saying we shouldn’t have to pay. For example in Africa.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, the African Union, the coalition of African states, have been very clear that their primary demand out of Copenhagen are these deep emissions cuts and serious funding for adaptation to climate change. In eastern Africa right now, you have massive, you have serious droughts affecting millions of people. That is just one example of the kind of costs that are being incurred because of climate change already. So, we’re not talking about projecting into the future, some hypothetical future, we are talking about right now.

The main push, as I said, is actually coming from Bolivia. And Bolivia has an extraordinary climate negotiator, who I quote in the Rolling Stone piece, named Angelica Navarro, who I first met in Geneva. She was actually Bolivia’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization. She’s very clear, very tough, multilingual. It takes a lot of strength to stand up to the sort of pressure that a small country like Bolivia faces, whether at the World Trade Organization or now in the climate negotiations. And Angelica Navarro is really up to the task and she has been giving these really inspiring speeches, at summits in the lead up to Copenhagen. And has really been an galvanizing force for other developing countries.

But also, you know she is taking a demand that is coming from groups like the third World Network, Focus on the Global South, Jubilee South, coalitions of NGOs and climate justice groups, that have been making these demands on the outside of summits. But, what is interesting now is that these demands have entered inside the summit, they are at the negotiating table. And of course there is extraordinary resistance from the United States, and the European Union, Canada, Australia, to the idea that they shouldn’t just be giving money to the developing world to adapt to climate change, to deal with climate change, out of the goodness of our hearts, out of a sense of charity, but actually out of a legal obligation. This is a frightening concept as you can imagine." You may watch the entire interview here

Here is what Naomi Klein says in a recent interview as a guest on Democracy Now:

"In Copenhagen, it’s a different dynamic, because the fact is that the people in the streets overwhelmingly support the mission of the meeting in Copenhagen. And, so, they’re not saying “no” to the idea of a climate summit. In fact, they’re saying “yes,” and they’re revealing, highlighting that, in fact, it is the world leaders, particularly world leaders from the heavy-emitting countries, like the United States and Canada, who are the naysayers, who are the ones who are saying, “No, we don’t actually want to tackle the climate crisis, we don’t want to make the emissions cuts that are needed, that are required by science.”

So, in a sense, it’s an inversion where it’s the activists who are saying, “Yes, we believe in this mission.” And it’s the politicians, really, who we need to reveal as being the ones who are actually saying, ‘no,’ even as they claim to be saying ‘yes,’ and even as they claim—even as they sell failure as ‘success’.”

So, it’s really tricky for activists in terms of figuring out how you interact with a summit like this. So, there’s one day, for instance, the 18th—December 18th, where activists are going to be kind of storming the conference center, nonviolently, but using civil disobedience. But their goal, they say, is not to shut down the meeting, but to open up the meeting and to have a forum inside the meeting to talk about real climate solutions, like leaving fossil fuels in the ground—dirty fossil fuels, particularly things like the Alberta tar sands—talking about solutions like climate debt that we’ve been discussing, and exposing the fallacies of the claims that the market can solve the climate crisis.

Because, of course, that’s what we’re going to be hearing a lot of in Copenhagen, market-based solutions: cap and trade, emission trading, carbon sinks, basically creating a huge market in pollution. And you have many of the same players that crashed the global economy, like Goldman Sachs, salivating over the idea of being able to have a speculative bubble over carbon.

So, that’s the dynamic. It’s not saying “no,” not saying “shut down,” but saying, “Open up. Let’s talk about real solutions.” And another example of this is that, actually, there will be an attempt to shut something down in Copenhagen, but that is focused on shutting down the port for a day—Copenhagen’s port—to highlight the corporate side of this equation, the shipping industry and how emissions-heavy it is. And, so, not to shut down a meeting that actually the activists believe in, but to go after industry itself. So, there’s going to be a lot of actions like that. A lot of thought and debate is going into how to craft actions that are really consistent with the goals of this movement."

(Naomi Klein, award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the bestseller, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” It’s also the 10th anniversary of the publication of her first book “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.” (Related Links:* **NaomiKlein.com * **Naomi Klein: "Climate Rage" ***Naomi Klein: "Copenhagen: Seattle Grows Up")

"RAJENDRA PACHAURI: In the twentieth century, average global temperature increased by 0.74 degrees Celsius, while sea level rise resulting from thermal expansion of the ocean and melting of ice across the globe amounted to seventeen centimeters. With this increase, the Maldive Islands, several other small island states, and low-lying coastal nations like Bangladesh, with land surface barely a meter or two above sea level, would find that every storm surge and major upwelling of the seas represents a serious danger to life and property. The global community thus has a moral and material responsibility to do all it can to limit the growing impacts of climate change on these and other vulnerable societies across the globe.

Indeed, we need to give practical expression to the provisions of Article 2 of the UNFCCC, which defines the ultimate objective of the convention as the achievement of—and I quote—“stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” end of quote. "

This on-going publication of an on-line responses to the Copenhagen Conference is intended to be interactive and invite concerned individuals to link up with all the groups on the ground and help them develop their collective voices in any way you possibly can for the goodness of all, after an informed reflection. We need to link up individually with active representatives of the people on the ground. For example today's guests on Democracy Now! They all have very interesting ideas about how and why you and I can and shoud get involved:

Saleemul Huq, Bangladeshi-born scientist who now heads the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development. He was a lead author on parts of the last two reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Lidy Nacpil, International Coordinator of Jubilee South and vice president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition of the Philippines;Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network; Isabella Masinde, African Wildlife Foundation; Chikondi Juma, Malawian journalist, Titus Dlamini, Swaziland National Trust, Samwel Naikada, Indigenous activist from Kenya; Iyabo Onibokun, International Alliance for Indigenous People; Yinka Adeyemi, Economic Commission for Africa; Timothee Kagonbe, Activist from Cameroon, and the many more earth-and-people friendly faces as and when they show up!

I find it extremely amazing that these same countries expressing extreme unwillingness to part with a what has been pegged by the experts to a paltry $200bn. The offer of $10bn on the table, cmpared to the trillions of dollars that were recently paid to big private capitalist ventures responsible for the economic crisis in the first place, or the other trillions of dollars that are being spent on wars triggered by a phenomenon described by ex-President George Bush himself as "the American addiction to oil" in an era of global warming, the two hundred billion dollars being demanded by the experts, is peanuts, $10bn an insult and a slap in the face!

* *

*“$200bn could trigger off a chain reaction that delivers more ambitious emissions reductions and helps the world’s poorest people adapt to a changing climate.”*

“Rich countries are mistaken if they think that less than a half of the emissions cuts demanded by the science and $10bn in re-packaged aid promises can be spun as a success in two weeks time. It underestimates the real needs of billions of poor people and overestimates the patience of poor countries who have clearly signalled their preference for no deal over green wash.”

Antonio Hill Senior Climate Change Advisor, Oxfam International

Cheers!

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Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro.

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