Reflections on Doha COP18


Kyoto extended till 2020, resolution package forced through by conference chair, new draft treaty to be ready by 2015 but no funds yet for Africa and small island states to mitigate the sins of the polluters – that could be said in summary about the just ended Doha 2012 Climate Change Conference, aka COP18.

Attempts to label Doha a success, after the summit ended a day late due to the stubborn intransigence and opposition of a number of delegations, including the Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Americans and a few others had to be reduced to labeling the conference not an outright failure as only the bare minimum of agreements could be accomplished.

Inspite of the writing now being clearly on the wall, and climate change projections suggesting an average rise of temperatures by 2 degrees C in 40 years from now, and up to 5+ degrees C by the end of the century, have the main polluters once again succeeded to push tough decision into the future. This caused dismay among the African delegations as well as among the block of small island nations, which was led by Seychelles’ Ronny Jumeau in recognition of the archipelago’s long standing efforts to highlight the consequences of rising sea levels for their very survival.

In particular here in East Africa have rising temperatures already shown a significant impact, starting from the melting ice caps of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya and the Rwenzori Mountains, aka Mountains of the Moon over an accelerated cycle of droughts and floods to the spread of malaria into the previously immune highlands, spurred by warmer climate which allows the anopheles mosquitoes to now flourish at higher altitudes too.

The glaciers on Mt. Kenya have shrunk by more than half over the past 30 years, the famous Kilimanjaro ice cap, immortalized by Ernest Hemingway’s book ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro’ now is a mere shadow of those olden days and the glacier caps of the Rwenzoris have receded by several kilometers since the mountains were first conquered over 100 years ago. This evidence belies the assertion peddled in some of the developed nations, thought responsible for the rise in green house gasses in the first place, that climate change is a mere fiction. Here it is reality already and threatening food production and water sources for tens of millions of people, condemning them to gloom and doom if no major changes take place in the way how the world is dealing with climate change right now.

Elsewhere in Africa are the Seychelles for instance faced with gradually rising sea levels, a threat to the very core of their survival of course which explains why President Michel has made it a centre piece in his foreign policy to form a coalition of equally threatened small island nations to promote more significant measures to combat climate change. Hence has the coalition of those most affected demanded that the developed world, seen as the primary polluter and cause of climate change, but also the newly emerging mega polluters like China, India and Russia should make financial contributions to Africa and small island nations, a notion still rejected by the ‘have’s’but eventually inevitable, now that the principle of compensation appears enshrined in the Doha Resolutions.

The US delegation in particular had appeared vehemently opposed to this principle even though the Federal Government has just requested Congress to authorize over 60 billion US Dollars in aid for the states devastated by Hurricane Sandy a few weeks ago. There has a single storm caused unprecedented havoc and destruction which in Africa has been a process steadily gaining momentum. The global pollution fallout hit a continent short of resources already for health care and education, with no funding available at all to combat climate change inflicted on them by the countries responsible and which are now putting up walls to further defend increasingly unsustainable consumptive life styles. Natural disasters like extended draughts, causing millions to starve, have caught the eye of the global media and led to those shocking pictures of dying skeleton babies on to the TV screens overseas, but by and large has the process of accelerated advance of climate change fallout been ignored by the world, perhaps, in part at least, for the deeply rooted anti-sentiments about Africa and the people of Africa.

Could this be racism after all, manifested by non action and ‘letting nature take its course’ similar to the long resistance to provide free ARV’s to Africa’s HIV infected? Could there be a motive beyond just defending their own lifestyles and accumulated riches? A question bound to raise controversy but one which needs to be asked after living in Africa for over 3 ½ decades and having come face to face with all facets of racist attitudes and thoughts. Watch this space.