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The Copenhagen climate change summit is now underway. It is imperative that the necessary decisions and actions are taken. Key among these is to allocate adequate additional resources to enable the developing countries, which with inevitable unfairness are worst affected, to cope with the effects of climate change.
Please click here to sign ONE’s petition to the Danish Prime Minister to take the lead in doing so:
Last week I was back in Ethiopia, and the question I’m always asked is, of course, is it all worth it, what’s changed in Ethiopia and in Africa as a whole? A great deal, I answer – for both better and worse.
On the positive front, economic growth has boomed; indeed, next year Ethiopia is expected to be among the top five fastest growing economies in the world. Education enrollment has been doubled, malaria death rates halved and HIV/AIDS is on the decline. Mobile phones are spreading and rural roads are linking remote communities to markets and health and education services. Above all, though too many people are still reliant on food aid, famine will be avoided this year as it has for the last 18 years, as distribution and early warning systems have improved. Certainly, the government could be more transparent, but on the whole this is a country making progress, in a continent that has been doing likewise.
Then there is the negative change—that of the climate. Increasingly erratic rainfall has forced farmers to radically alter their systems. Some communities we visited in Tigray have had to rename the months of the year because the names were based on the seasons. They’ve now given up as the pattern of the seasons has changed so quickly. People told us how reduced rainfall has cut their income from farming. This in turn strains the social fabric. Thefts are becoming more common, and the children are having to go to work instead of school.
The tension between the positive and negative changes in Ethiopia is palpable. Which direction wins depends on the choices Ethiopians make, and to some extent upon us. And it’s not all about us having to make sacrifices; there are opportunities too. There’s an inevitability to the way our own economies are adapting – and an economic rationale for us to buy into this change. The inefficiencies of the hydrocarbon economy will be replaced by clean renewables; carbon finance trading will be a major industry in the near future, and ‘green’ jobs are the fastest expanding new source of employment. Growing trees to capture carbon could become a new cash crop for African farmers if the right framework is agreed in Copenhagen.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, Africa’s lead negotiator at Copenhagen, told me wearily that he is sceptical about the international community’s “funny money” and double accounting. We talked about the promises of new money for agricultural investment made by the G8 at their summit in Italy last summer, money to tackle the global food crisis. We talked about the possible pledges of funds to help poor countries adapt to climate change that could come out of Copenhagen. He fears both may well involve money already pledged elsewhere. He has every reason to be jaundiced.
You can help prevent this by signing the petition:
As part of the Copenhagen climate agreement, please ensure:
1. That existing aid promises are kept.
2. That additional costs borne by people living in poverty caused by climate change are paid for by additional money.
3. That countries are transparent about how much development aid is being reallocated to fighting climate change.
Twenty five years ago, the story was one of Africa starving. Now, in spite of ongoing food shortages in some regions, there is a new story. It is a story backed by hard statistics, of an Africa rising. The last continent to be developed, with a burgeoning middle class and 900 million producers and consumers, Africa is where some of the best returns on investment will be made in the next few decades. We must partner as we have promised for the sake of our global economy as well as our global environment, because in another 25 years we may just need them more than they need us.
Bob Geldof, ONE Campaigner