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Africa | World
Politics | Environment - Nature

Africa plays it tough at climate talks

afrol News, 3 November - The group of African countries won a major diplomatic victory at the UN climate talks in Barcelona today after announcing their boycott of the talks due to too low CO2 cuts by industrial countries. Bigger cuts are now back on the negotiation table.

More than 50 African nations today boycotted the UN climate talks that are to prepare the December Copenhagen climate summit. Several meetings thus had to be cancelled and the entire Barcelona process was on its way to be derailed after the surprise tough action by the African block.

African representatives at the Barcelona talks had sought to act as a block, coordinating their positions. This came after climate researchers had warned Africa risks becoming the continent most negatively affected by ongoing climate change, probably already registered by heavier draughts in parts of the continent, while being the continent contributing least to the emission of climate gases.

African negotiators expressed strong disappointment at the very modest cuts in CO2 emissions offered by industrial countries, claiming the cuts would be to little and too late, thus causing further climate induced damages to African development.

"I don't think we can get to a result in the way we are going now," Algerian negotiator Kamel Djemouai, who chairs the Africa group, was quoted as saying by 'AP' news agency. "We cannot prejudge what will happen next until we see the reactions of others," he added as the boycott was announced.

The concerted and well coordinated outcry by the African group, with its first-time willingness to take negative action as a block, showed immediate results. While parts of the Barcelona talks went on without African participation, European and other diplomats negotiated with the block to seek their return. Also, the European delegation soon showed signs of in-fight as several delegates shared African concerns.

This evening, the European-African closed-door negotiations bear fruits. Africa achieved a change in the Barcelona agenda, where the quantities of CO2 emission cuts by industrialised countries were to be discussed during most of the remaining time this week. Europe and North America would have to negotiate their cuts, not dictate them.

The African diplomatic victory is widely hailed by environmentalist groups, which already had expressed their disappointment by small and vague pledges to cut their emissions by industrialised countries. Oxfam today urged EU and US leaders "to signal that they are willing to play their part" in further reducing CO2 emissions.

According to the NGO, Africa's tough play was necessary even if it could have jeopardised the entire climate deal. "The world's poorest nations are faced with an impossible choice - no climate deal or a bad climate deal. Both options threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of the world's poorest people who are already struggling to cope with a changing climate," commented Oxfam's climate advisor Hugh Cole, expressing his support to the African boycott earlier today.

Other are more sceptical to the tough African game. As positions are drifting further apart, chances to reach an agreement in Copenhagen next month are becoming smaller. Today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, among others, said he was becoming increasingly pessimistic about reaching a global agreement in Copenhagen.

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