05 August 2009

Climate change: rich must help poor

Developing countries won't consider the next round of climate change talks successful unless rich nations set aside money to help them address global warming, SA officials said.

Developing countries won't consider the next round of climate change talks successful unless rich nations set aside money to help them address global warming, South African officials said Tuesday.

The officials, who are expected to lead the African bloc at the negotiations, met to discuss strategy ahead of the December climate change talks in Copenhagen.

They said at least 1% of global GDP should be set aside by rich nations. That money would help developing countries conduct research, improve flood control, protect their coastlines, create seed banks and take other steps to cope with the severe storms and droughts linked to climate change.

The money also could help poor countries obtain technology to reduce their carbon emissions. Alf Wills, a top South African environmental official, sums up the position going into Copenhagen: "No money, no deal.

"We need the support - the financial and technological support," Wills said.

SA only African nation on pollution list
Africa is among the hardest hit by climate change, but is not a large producer of greenhouse gases except for South Africa.

But despite living in a country more industrialised than most on the continent, the majority of South Africans are poor, some living without electricity even as the country's coal-fired power plants contribute to global warming.

South Africa, the only nation on the continent that is among the 20 countries that emit nearly 90% of the world's greenhouse gases, argues that other nations grew rich with polluting technologies and the poor now need new technologies to develop.

In return, developing nations promise action on climate change, said Joanne Yawitch, a colleague of Wills at South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs.

South Africa, for example, could enact a law requiring all new hot water heaters to be solar powered. But that can't happen unless rich nations transfer licenses so that the heaters can be manufactured in South Africa.

"We do not believe we should have to put together any comprehensive plans until the finances start to flow," Yawitch said.

SA representatives sceptical
That might sound like a negotiating tactic, said Hugh Cole, an Oxfam representative at Tuesday's meeting. But he said it reflected a real fear among developing countries that rich nations won't make good on their pledges.

Cole said rich countries should understand it is in their interest to help the poor.

"In a globalised world, you can't have one continent, for example, Africa, getting hammered by climate change without it affecting the rest of the world," he said.

The Copenhagen talks will bring 190 nations together to try to draft an ambitious agreement to fight climate change. Expectations of a breakthrough were low at the Pretoria meeting of officials from several South African government departments, and representatives from mining companies and other businesses, and international environmental and development agencies.

"We've been burned before when we thought we had made an excellent deal," said Sandea de Wet, a South African foreign affairs official who is a veteran of previous climate change rounds.

"A major, major achievement for us would be to keep the unity of the African group," she said. "Unified, we are a force to be reckoned with. – (Sapa, August 2009)

Read more:
SA's greenhouse emissions 'very high'


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