Better to have no deal at Copenhagen than one that spells catastrophe – Naomi Klein (

December 17th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

We don’t yet know what Zenawi got in exchange for so radically changing his tune or how, exactly, you go from a position calling for $400bn a year in financing (the Africa group’s position) to a mere $10bn. (more…)

We don’t yet know what Zenawi got in exchange for so radically changing his tune or how, exactly, you go from a position calling for $400bn a year in financing (the Africa group’s position) to a mere $10bn.

The only offer on the table in Copenhagen would condemn the developing world to poverty and suffering in perpetuity.

On the ninth day of the Copenhagen climate summit, Africa was sacrificed. The position of the G77 negotiating bloc, including African states, had been clear: a 2C increase in average global temperatures translates into a 3–3.5C increase in Africa. That means, according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, “an additional 55 million people could be at risk from hunger”, and “water stress could affect between 350 and 600 million more people”.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it like this: “We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale … A global goal of about 2C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development.”

And yet that is precisely what Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, proposed to do when he stopped off in Paris on his way to Copenhagen: standing with President Nicolas Sarkozy, and claiming to speak on behalf of all of Africa (he is the head of the African climate-negotiating group), he unveiled a plan that includes the dreaded 2C increase and offers developing countries just $10bn a year to help pay for everything climate related, from sea walls to malaria treatment to fighting deforestation.

It’s hard to believe this is the same man who only three months ago was saying this: “We will use our numbers to delegitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position … If need be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent … What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above the minimum avoidable level.”And this: “We will participate in the upcoming negotiations not as supplicants pleading for our case but as negotiators defending our views and interests.”

We don’t yet know what Zenawi got in exchange for so radically changing his tune or how, exactly, you go from a position calling for $400bn a year in financing (the Africa group’s position) to a mere $10bn. Similarly, we do not know what happened when secretary of state Hillary Clinton met Philippine president Gloria Arroyo just weeks before the summit and all of a sudden the toughest Filipino negotiators were kicked off their delegation and the country, which had been demanding deep cuts from the rich world, suddenly fell in line.

We do know, from witnessing a series of these jarring about-faces, that the G8 powers are willing to do just about anything to get a deal in Copenhagen. The urgency does not flow from a burning desire to avert cataclysmic climate change, since the negotiators know full well that the paltry emissions cuts they are proposing are a guarantee that temperatures will rise a “Dantesque” 3.9C, as Bill McKibben puts it.

Matthew Stilwell of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development – one of the most influential advisers in these talks – says the negotiations are not really about averting climate change but are a pitched battle over a profoundly valuable resource: the right to the sky. There is a limited amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere. If the rich countries fail to radically cut their emissions, then they are actively gobbling up the already insufficient share available to the south. What is at stake, Stilwell argues, is nothing less than “the importance of sharing the sky”.

Europe, he says, fully understands how much money will be made from carbon trading, since it has been using the mechanism for years. Developing countries, on the other hand, have never dealt with carbon restrictions, so many governments don’t really grasp what they are losing. Contrasting the value of the carbon market – $1.2 trillion a year, according to leading British economist Nicholas Stern – with the paltry $10bn on the table for developing countries for the next three years, Stilwell says that rich countries are trying to exchange “beads and blankets for Manhattan”. He adds: “This is a colonial moment. That’s why no stone has been left unturned in getting heads of state here to sign off on this kind of deal … Then there’s no going back. You’ve carved up the last remaining unowned resource and allocated it to the wealthy.”

For months now NGOs have got behind a message that the goal of Copenhagen is to “seal the deal”. Everywhere we look in the Bella Centre, clocks are ticking. But any old deal isn’t good enough, especially because the only deal on offer won’t solve the climate crisis and might make things much worse, taking current inequalities between north and south and locking them in indefinitely.

Augustine Njamnshi of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance puts the 2C proposal in harsh terms: “You cannot say you are proposing a ‘solution’ to climate change if your solution will see millions of Africans die and if the poor not the polluters keep paying for climate change.”

Stilwell says that the wrong kind of deal would “lock in the wrong approach all the way to 2020″ – well past the deadline for peak emissions. But he insists that it’s not too late to avert this worst-case scenario. “I’d rather wait six months or a year and get it right because the science is growing, the political will is growing, the understanding of civil society and affected communities is growing, and they’ll be ready to hold their leaders to account to the right kind of a deal.”

At the start of these negotiations the mere notion of delay was environmental heresy. But now many are seeing the value of slowing down and getting it right. Most significant, after describing what 2C would mean for Africa, Archbishop Tutu pronounced that it is “better to have no deal than to have a bad deal”. That may well be the best we can hope for in Copenhagen. It would be a political disaster for some heads of state – but it could be one last chance to avert the real disaster for everyone else.

An interview with Ambassador Lumumba – Meles sacrifices Africa for …..

  1. Anonymous
    | #1

    Ethiopia had produced so many good and bad leaders but this little devil surpassed them all; and I truely believe he surpasses all the sinior and junior sophisticated slaves of African leaders. Lets assume he cares about the global worning but if you look his own record in his entire life isn’t he one of the main polluters in the horn of Africa. He fractured Ethiopia and Ethiopians beyond repair, he awash Somalia with innocent blood shed since 2006, he slaughtered 153,000 Ethiopians in the mountains and valleys of Ethio-Eritrea just boost his ego against his primary masters, he continues to awash the land escape of Ethiopia with innocent blood shed, he continue to imprison Ethiopians just for not obeying his aiga jungle democracies, and on…We know as to why he is in copenhage! IT IS TO FATTEN HIS AGAZI HERDS SO HIS BOSS BEREKET SIMON AND HIMSELF ALONG ALL WEYANE MAFIA FAMILIES CAN HAVE ANOTHER DAY IN THE MANELIK PALACE. Zenawi will be captured and will be facing justice with in Ethiopia soon and there will be peace and prosperity in the whole horn of Africa.

  2. CHRIS
    | #2

    Now all Africa and developing nations know what Fascist Zenawi is all about. Even his bosses (G8) know he is untrustworthy. They will just use him and dump him.

    | #3

    The man is selling his own country bit by bit as we speak. Why should we be surprised for his latest screw up? The man will sell his own mother for the right price. He is the perfect”useful idiot” that the ferenji’s would love to have by their side. His credit score jumped up a notch in the eyes of America and Europe since he accepted their proposal on climate change. Those of you in the la la land–dreaming Ethiopia’s ills will be resolved by the ballot box–better give up. Those of you hoping to get sympathy from America and Europe in gaining your freedom from Meles Zenawi–better give up! Scratch the idea of “ballot” and replace it with “bullet”.


  4. Guest
    | #4

    From $400 billion to $10 billion, that is incredible. As the writer says African do not yet know what is at stake. The leader of a country where tens of millions of people are regularly hit by drought and famine should know much better, I think that is one reason for being elected as the leader of the African group. We will see whether the Europeans made a back door deal with Meles and snatched Africans interest or whether Meles has something has in mind in making the deal. We Ethiopians have seen in the Algiers agreement that the man is not a good negotiator. He might also be shortsighted when it comes to his political power in Ethiopia.

  5. አፍሪካ ድምጽ
    | #5

    53bn ዶላር ዎደፊት በወ ሃ ጥም በረሃብ ለሚሞቱት የተሰጠ ጉማ የደም ካሳ ነው
    ይህ ገንዘብ ፈጽሞ ለአፍሪክ ህዝብ አይደርስም በአፍሪካ መሪዎች አማካይነት ወደነሱ ባንክ ተመልሶ
    ይገባል በ 1884-85 ለመጀመርያ ጊዜ አፍሪካን በኮሎኒ ተቀራመጡ በ 2009 አፍሪካን
    ህዝብ ከ አፍሪካ ምድር የሚያጠፋ ዉል ተስማምተው ፈረሙ::

  6. George
    | #6

    Melese cares about getting money as soon as possible so that he can soon take his share before he step down by force. He knows the days are coming closer for him and he wanted to flow the money through the chain of the corrupt EFFORT/TPLF companies. Believe me he/his wife and the other corrupt officials would be become even more greedy than ever when it comes money. We all have responsibility to STOP hime by any means!

  7. እራስ
    | #7

    አቡጊዳዎች የፖለቲካ ካርቱኒስት ሆናቹህ?ወይስ ፍሬ ነገርን ለማስተላለፍ የፖለቲካ ካርቱን አምድ ብታዘጋጁ ይበጃል?የግል አስተያያት ነው እንደ ኢህአፓ የስውን የመናገር መብት አታፍኑ!!የመለስን መንግስት ለመቃወም የፖለቲካ ዋልጌ መሆንን አያሻም::!!

  8. justice for all
    | #8

    Are the NGO disappointed that Africa is represented by a man who has violated Human Rights, or the fact that Meless is negotiating for a lesser amount? Regardless the amount, do they really believe the money is going to go where it is intended? I am afraid, the more money Africa gets, the more corrupt it is going to get. Get rid off all the African dictators first, then negotiate with a leader that really cares about the Climate Change. Then again, if we wait that long, the whole world might be gone by that time.

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