Yesterday in Copenhagen, where leaders have come together to discuss the fate of the climate, lead G77 negotiator, Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, broke down in tears. To a small group of press and civil society supporters, he divulged that many African negotiators, pressured by developeing countries, and some succumbing to their own self-interest, were ready to sign a weak deal.
What would a weak deal look like? A deal that locks Africa and the rest of the world into a 2 degree, 450ppm scenario — what President Nasheed of the Maldives, and now many African civil society leaders call a "suicide pact." Below is a first-hand account from 350.org Africa Media Coordinator Adam Welz. You can also check out Adam’s twitter feed with live-tweets from the side event:
He did not start his speech immediately. Instead he sat silently, tears rolling down his face. He put his head in his hands and said “We have been asked to sign a suicide pact.” The room was frozen into silence, shocked by the sight of a powerful negotiator, an African elder if you like, exhibiting such strong emotion. He apologised to the audience, but said that in his part of Sudan it was “better to stand and cry than to walk away.”
Once he had composed himself, Di-Aping launched into an eloquent attack on the apparent subversion of the climate negotiation process by certain developing countries, the leaked so-called “Danish” agreement that has become the talk of the conference. Since I did not feel it appropriate to stand up and video the proceedings, I live-tweeted what I could (www.twitter.com/adamwelz). (My twitter stream tells parts of the story better than these paragraphs I’m churning out now.)
Di-Aping first attacked the 2 degrees C warming maximum that most rich countries currently consider acceptable. Referring continuously to science, in particular parts of the latest IPCC report (which he referenced by page and section) he said that 2 degrees C globally meant 3.5 degrees C for much of Africa. He called global warming of 2 degrees C “certain death for Africa”, a type of “climate fascism” imposed on Africa by high carbon emitters. He said Africa was being asked to sign on to an agreement that would allow this warming in exchange for $10 billion, and that Africa was also being asked to “celebrate” this deal.
He then went on to address the weakness of many African negotiating delegations, noting that many were unprepared and that some members were either lazy or had been “bought off” by the industrialised nations. He particularly singled out South Africa, saying that some members of that delegation had actively sought to disrupt the unity of the bloc. He said that civil society needed to hold its negotiators to account, but warned of a long and difficult struggle for a fair climate deal. He said that people all over the world had to be made aware of what a bad climate deal means for Africa (“I am absolutely convinced that what Western governments are doing is NOT acceptable to Western civil society”).
He explained that, by wanting to subvert the established post-Kyoto process, the industrialised nations were effectively wanting to ignore historical emissions, and by locking in deals that would allow each citizen of those countries to carry on emitting a far greater amount of carbon per year than each citizen in poor countries, would prevent many African countries from lifting their people out of poverty. This was nothing less than a colonisation of the sky, he said. “$10 billion is not enough to buy us coffins”.
Calling the current deal that was being proposed “worse than no deal”, he called on Africans to reject it — “I would rather die with my dignity than sign a deal that will channel my people into a furnace.” Africans had to make clear demands of their leaders not to sign on. He suggested a couple of slogans: “One Africa, one degree” and “Two degrees is suicide”
Di-Aping’s speech crystallised the room into action. A demonstration was immediately planned, and a few minutes after its end the people in the room converged on a central point in the Bella Center and began chanting and shouting — attracting a storm of media interest. (Di-Aping later addressed a formal press conference where he repeated may of the points made in the African meeting.)
Here is a short video of the demonstration that then took place inside the Bella Center, where the negotiations are taking place: