In an ominous sign of the likelihood of a comprehensive climate agreement being reached when world leaders meet next month for the COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen, leaders of about fifty African nations boycotted climate talks in Barcelona, Spain on Tuesday, leading to a one-day suspension of the November 2-6 negotiating session. The African leaders staged the boycott to protest what they see as inadequate commitments from industrialized nations on mid-term greenhouse gas emissions cuts by 2020.
Delegates from the African nations emphasized that their countries are among the most vulnerable to the devastating consequences of climate change, and are already suffering from the drought, desertification, floods, disease, and rising sea levels caused by global warming.
People in Africa are suffering now, people are dying now, when the developed countries are not willing to express…ambitious reductions,” Kemal Djemouai, chair of the African group, told Reuters.
The delegates from the protesting African nations say developed countries should commit to at least a 40 percent emissions reduction over 1990 levels by 2020. A level of commitment to which no major emitting country has agreed, and far beyond the 17% proposed by the Waxman-Markey bill passed in the U.S. House of Representative or the 20% in the Kerry-Boxer bill currently before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee – especially given that both numbers are relative to 2005 emission levels, not 1990.
Alf Wills, head of the South Africa delegation, said Tuesday’s boycott was not intended to abandon the talks altogether: “They’ve not walked out,” he said. “They’re saying let’s focus on the real issues, which is targets for developed countries.”
For now delegates from the African nations seem satisfied that those issues will be discussed in the remainder of the negotiations in Barcelona. Late Tuesday they called off the boycott on the “promise” that greater effort from rich nations will be given to more aggressive 2020 emissions reduction targets.