While some painted the walkout of African delegates at the most recent set of climate talks in Barcelona as a demonstration of a "lack of cooperation" by African nations, what many don't know is that the boycott by 55 African nations was broadly supported by the entire developing world -- G77 + China (130 nations), AOSIS (Small Island States), the LDC (Least Developed Countries), and a number of Latin America countries.
Their beef? The Annex II nations (a subset of the 23 wealthiest Annex I nations) are still unwilling to put forth solid emissions targets, depriving COP15 negotiators of the backbone required to produce a lasting climate treaty in Copenhagen. Alfred Wills, South Africa's lead negotiator explains:
We're going around and around in circles on technical side issues rather than the core issue. The countries which have put pledges on the table which are within the range required by science are Norway and Japan. That's it.
The African delegation, with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (pictured below with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao) has threatened another walkout in Copenhagen if serious targets are not put on the table, along with a clear mechanism for delivering funds to the least developed nations who, in their view, have born the brunt of decades of unregulated CO2 pollution emitted by Annex II nations.
James Murray over at BusinessGreen does a great job of explaining why solid Annex II targets are so important to the G77 and China:
The issue of targets has been one of the main sticking points in the stalled negotiations to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Large emerging economies such as China and India are refusing to adopt their own binding emission targets until rich nations agree to targets that are in line with that recommended by climate scientists.
In response, industrialised nations have been reluctant to sign up to more demanding goals, fearing an economic advantage for those emerging economies that face less demanding emission targets.
In the past, committed funds have often ended up in the hands of wealthy corporations operating in the developing world, or held for lengthy periods of time in escrow, while the needs of recipient nations go unheeded.
The US and the UK recently signaled that they would consider a new independently controlled fund (with some major caveats). If they are able to deliver on the proposal AND offer some significant carbon reduction targets (not the 4% reduction currently proposed in ACES) a deal may just be on the horizon.
Here is the list of the Annex II countries:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
Photo by Xinhua/Yao Dawei