Poor Countries Make Final Appeal: For an Ambitious Agreement in Cancun

Cancun, Mexico - On Friday, as the final hours of the COP 16 conference approached, representatives of countries most affected by climate change came together to make an appeal to developed countries "to do what is right" by fulfilling an ambitious second period of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol and providing new and additional aid for climate adaptation and mitigation.

Bruno Sekoli, Lesotho, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group (LDCs) said that he had come to "deliver the message of the hundreds of millions of the voiceless people in Africa." "The situation," he added, "for us is extremely desperate. Our countries are already fighting for survival. Tuvalu could be swept under the water at any time. It is very worrying to imagine what will happen ten years from now at the current rate of emissions."

Sekoli stated that "When we are engaged in this process, because of different factors, we are engaged in this very complex process armed with two rules: one is the rule of science, the other is the rule of law."

LDCs supported an accord that demands what the science does. African nations have consistently called for a 1.5 maximum temperature increase, as have low lying island states, arguing that a 2.0 maximum elsewhere equals a 3.0 increase in Africa.

The Cancún Agreement was feted as a success, since it put forth 2.0 as the maximum temperature for the first time and mentioned 1.5 as something to be considered in future negotiating meetings.

For LDCs, however, this issue cannot wait until some future point. Sekoli listed about problems that are already underway due to climate change, mentioning civil rights issue in Mozambique and Gambia and the migrations of entire nations, due to climate change. "These are all developments in countries that have contributed least to the emissions rates." He added that one should not wait, since "adaptation is becoming ... more and more expensive."

Sekoli stressed the importance of maintaining and extending the Kyoto Protocol: "We have a mechanism, the Kyoto Protocol, which was developed and invested in over a long time and which remains the only document on the table. We can improve it through amendments, but any effort to work against it is not available to the LDCs."

Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Chair of the African Group, added that 75 to 100 million people in Africa will face water shortages and that crop yields could fall by a third by 2025.

"I appeal to developed countries to do what's right. They have shown us political, economic, even military leadership at times. It's time for them to show climactic leadership by doing what's right," Mpanu said.

Mpanu stressed the importance of a binding agreement saying, "A new paradigm based on an accord that was only taken note of does not keep Africa safe. Unfortunately, it is appearing more and more every day that this has become what I would call a pledge club."

Pablo Solon, lead climate negotiator of Bolivia and member of the Latin American ALBA group concluded: "Here we have the countries that will suffer most if there are no strong commitments to reduce emissions and global temperatures. Finance must be based on new and additional funds that can really go to the people that are suffering and the governments that have to respond on the ground to the serious impacts of climate change."

"What's decided in this conference today will impact especially those countries that are represented here. Developed countries should consider seriously what the impact of their decision is going to be," Solon said.

In what seemed to indicate a potential showdown might be coming later at the plenary, with a standoff between LDCs, the African Group, and others, pitted against those seeking to trammel the Kyoto Protocol and ram through the Copenhagen Accord, Solón stated: "We are here to send this message. Probably one of the last messages before the end of the climate change conference."

Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist who covers the environment and international climate change negotiations. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, In These Times and The Nation.