Paul Lachine

Rendezvous with Africa on Climate

African countries' decision to act as a bloc at the Copenhagen climate-change summit is an important step forward. But Africa and its partners will now have to unite to win the adoption of measures that ensure the sustainable exploitation of Africa’s vast environmental potential in the interest of us all.

PARIS – After a long series of preparatory meetings, the Copenhagen summit on climate change is finally upon us. With the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emissions expiring in 2012, the delegates who will gather in Copenhagen have been given the task of concluding a new international agreement. The world’s countries are engaging in one of the most complex and consequential exercises in collective action that has ever had to be managed in the history of international relations.

Although the responsibility of industrialized countries and emerging economies in the battle against carbon emissions is now well known, Africa’s place in the climate agenda has been largely neglected. Sub-Saharan emissions, estimated at only 3% to 4% of global man-made emissions, are deemed of little interest. Yet Africa is central to the global environmental crisis in two important ways.

First, Africa would be the first victim of major climate disturbance – with side-effects on the whole planet. Experts predict that the continent will experience some of the gravest changes, whereas the capacity of African societies to respond to them is among the weakest in the world.

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