Monday, October 12, 2009

Africa wants polluters to pay for damage

Africa will demand billions of dollars in compensation from rich polluting nations at a United Nations climate summit for the harm caused by global warming on the continent, African policymakers said on Sunday.

With just two months to go before the summit in Copenhagen, officials met at a special forum in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou where they underscored the need for compensation for the natural disasters caused by climate change.

"We have decided to speak with one voice" and "will demand reparation and damages" at the December summit, African Union commission chairman Jean Ping told the seventh World Forum on Sustainable Development.

Experts say sub-Saharan Africa is one of the regions most affected by global warming.

The World Bank estimates that the developing world will suffer about 80 percent of the damage of climate change despite accounting for only around one third of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

"Policymakers have to agree to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and adhere to the principle that the polluter pays," Ping said.

On Friday Burkina Faso's environment minister Salifou Sawadogo, one of the organisers of the forum, said the continent needed $65-billion to deal with the effects of climate change.

Ping said African policy-makers hope industrialised countries will pledge "new international funds to support poor countries".

He gave the example of the US state of Texas which "with 30 million inhabitants creates as much greenhouse gases as the billion Africans taken together".

Africa is also hoping to become a player on the carbon emissions market which allows polluting countries to offset their emissions with green projects such as re-forestation and conservation in other countries.

Ping said there was a lot of potential for Africa there as currently of the 1 600 such offset projects around the world only 30 are based in Africa, with 15 in South Africa, the continent's economic powerhouse.

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore stressed that Africa had many hurdles to overcome "linked to the absence of efficient mechanisms for financing and transfer" and called for special Africa-wide financial talks from 2010 onwards on the subject.

The Ouagadougou forum, which wrapped up Sunday, was attended by presidents from six, mostly west African, countries.