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Africa/Global: Postponing Climate Decisions

AfricaFocus Bulletin
December 15, 2014 (141215)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"It was not hard for me to make the connection between the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, and the catalyst for my work to stop the climate crisis. ... In the wake of the climate disaster that was Hurricane Katrina almost ten years ago, I saw the same images of police, pointing war-zone weapons at unarmed black people with their hands in the air. ... When crisis hits, the underlying racism in our society comes to the surface in very clear ways." - Deirdre Smith,, August 20, 2014

Not surprisingly, the "agreement" reached at the climate conference in Lima was a least-common-denominator agreement to disagree. All countries agreed to submit targets for emissions reduction by the end of the first quarter of 2015, and the commitment for "common but differentiated responsibilities was maintained. But specific decisions and commitments were again postponed, for continued debate next year.

The 4-page text of the official agreement in Lima is available at The much longer text (37 pages) of a draft framework, with many options and hard-to-interpret alternative wordings, is at

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the text of "Southern Demands for A Science-based, Just and Fair Sharing of Global Efforts to Confront the Climate Crisis" (, a clear statement of goals which was prepared before the Lima climate summit and endorsed by a large number of organizations from the Global South.

Also included are brief excerpts and links to full text of several other recent articles of related interest, including the one by Deirdre Smith quoted above and one this week making similar points by Naomi Klein.

For talking points and links to previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate and the environment, visit

Note: This is the last AfricaFocus Bulletin for 2014. Best wishes to readers for the holiday season and the new year.
The Bulletin will resume in mid-January. AfricaFocus social media will continue to be updated occasionally.

Ebola Perspectives

[AfricaFocus is regularly monitoring and posting links on Ebola on social media. For additional links, see]

Summing up the year is Time magazine naming of "The Ebola Fighters" as person of the year. Notably, and correctly, despite the military imagery of a "fight," those pictured were the front-line health workers, both local and international.

While military personnel both local and international have made some positive contributions in logistics and construction, their broader role is much more problematic. Alex de Waal, in an article last month (, reminds us understanding the issue as a security question is "a strategic error. Security and public health experts know this and have tried to steer global health and security policies in a direction that is informed by the best evidence and analysis. But somehow, the beguiling metaphor of sending soldiers to fight pathogens still wins out, fueled by our deepest fears of disease, and by our uncritical acclaim for soldiery. It is time to discard misleading military metaphors and spend real money on real global public health."

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Southern Demands for A Science-based, Just and Fair Sharing of Global Efforts to Confront the Climate Crisis

[PDF available at Also available with additional background from the PanAfrican Climate Justice Alliance at:]

In the face of multiple struggles to build a new and better world, the climate crisis is one of most urgent challenges confronting all of our peoples. To stabilize the Earth's climate system, prevent planetary catastrophe and secure a safe, sustainable, just and equitable future, we must fight for comprehensive social, economic, and political transformation in our countries and globally.

Current levels of global warming -- 0.8 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels -- is already causing massive destruction, displacement and loss of lives, and worse impacts in the near future is already certain. We are fighting to prevent much worse, and it is a fight we cannot afford to lose.

People are waging this fight in every dimension of their lives -- food, energy, health and security, jobs and livelihoods -- defending their rights, the communities and the commons, and asserting people driven solutions and alternatives. These alternatives recognize there must be a redistribution of power and wealth, a shift to sustainable systems of extraction and production, and a limit to the consumption of resources if we are to live well, with justice and dignity and in harmony with nature.

The latest report from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is telling us that with timely and sufficient global climate actions there is still a chance to keep warming to below 2.0 degrees Celsius -- the official target ceiling of the international climate talks -- and even below 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the maximum ceiling acceptable for many of us given the loss and damage posed by further climate impacts. The IPCC report also confirms that the window of time that allows for the possibility of keeping global temperature to below 1.5 or 2 degrees is short and quickly closing.

Now more than ever, we need to intensify and speed up our efforts to build our power and fight for a fundamental transformation of the system. While we are fighting to transform the system, we urgently need to win immediate and concrete victories that will enable our people to deal with current as well as future inevitable impacts of climate change, and victories that translate to significant reductions in emissions that will keep us on track to preventing catastrophic climate change.

In this light, and as part of broader struggles, we are fighting for the following demands for fair, just and equitable sharing of ambitious and adequate global efforts to confront the climate crisis:

1. We demand that all governments commit to

  • a global goal of limiting a global goal of limiting warming to the safest levels still possible warming to the safest levels still possible based on based on science science
  • a pathway and targets for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reductions that will make it possible to achieve this goal without potentially devastating geo-engineering
  • a fair and equitable sharing of the global emissions budget and the effort to keep within the budget, based on science, historical responsibility and capacity - and without loopholes and without loopholes and offsets.

The science shows that there is a definite limit to GHG emissions the earth can take to keep below these ceilings. This limit, referred to as a 'global emissions budget,' has already been largely consumed, mostly by elites, corporations, and the 'developed' countries of the North. This historical overconsumption is the core driver of the climate crisis, and represents the climate debt owed to people and communities who have not been responsible for the crisis but bear its worst impacts.

To avoid overshooting the limited remaining budget and to have a good chance of keeping below 1.5 degrees Celsius without resorting to untested and potentially devastating geo-engineering technologies, the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions must take place at the scale and pace that would:

  • Limit global GHG emissions from 2014 onward to a total of, at most 700 gigatons. This is the remainder of the "global emissions budget" which, starting in the 1800s, was no more than 3000 gigatons.
  • Pursue a 'pathway' of reductions that would make this limit possible. Drastic reductions are urgently needed in the immediate future to have a chance of keeping within the remainder of the budget. Thus, global GHG emissions by 2030 must be at least 26% lower than 1990 levels, and by 2050 should be at least 71% lower than 1990 levels. This means that by 2020 -- in less than 6 years -- GHG emissions should be at least 15.5% lower than current levels. The current most ambitious pledges are still far short of these targets.

The limited remaining 'global emissions budget', and the effort to keep within this budget, should be shared equitably taking into account historical responsibility and capacity and repayment of climate debt.

2. We demand that governments of the governments of the North, of 'developed countries' , stop further delays and deception, and deception, and commit to deliver fully and unequivocally their fair share of the effort to solve climate change, ensure a full repayment of the climate debt owed to the peoples of the South, and shift to sustainable and and shift to sustainable and equitable economies through through just transitions just transitions.

Current Northern or 'developed country' pledges for mitigation actions and climate finance -- such as the recent pronouncements by the U.S. -- are still very short of their fair share, of fulfilling their obligations. The bigger the shortfall in the fulfilment of mitigation obligations in the North, the greater the suffering in the South.

We demand that governments of the North, of 'developed' countries commit to and comply with domestic mitigation targets that represent the full extent of their capacity to carry out domestic mitigation through just transitions and without loopholes, offsets and geo-engineering. However, their accumulated excessive GHG emissions are so huge that even extremely ambitious domestic actions will not be enough to fulfil their fair share of the effort.

Therefore, we demand that they also commit to and deliver adequate, additional climate finance and technology that will make it possible for the remainder of their mitigation obligations to be undertaken in the South. This should be separate from and in addition to climate finance and technology for adaptation, and reparations for loss and damage owed to the peoples of the South. The pledge of annual $100 billion should be the floor not the ceiling, should be additional to other commitments, and transfers should start immediately. Climate finance should be public, non debt creating and should go directly to peoples of the South. The $9.3 billion so far pledged in the GCF is shockingly dismal to say the least, not only for the paltry amount, but because there are persistent intentions to deliver these funds to big corporations and private financial intermediaries.

3. We demand governments of the South, of 'developing' countries stop following the same path of profit-led, destructive high carbon growth that benefit that benefit only the elites taken by the North, by 'developed' countries Instead they should shift to equitable, just and sustainable development pathways, start taking on South countries' fair share of the global effort, and be unrelenting in claiming climate finance and technology from Northern governments for Southern countries to countries to undertake mitigation actions over and beyond their own fair share of the global effort.

Thus far, Southern or 'developing' countries bear far less and for many like the Least Developed Countries hardly any historical responsibility for the climate crisis. However, the business-asusual projections of governments of developing countries show that all will reach a point of exceeding their fair share of the global emissions budget. This will come sooner for some countries than others, with Least Developed Countries (LDCs) taking a much longer time.

All Southern or 'developing' countries should shift as quickly as possible to more equitable, just and sustainable pathways. Even as they should double the intensity of their demands for deep and drastic cuts from the North, they should also take on the GHG emissions reductions necessary to avoid exceeding their fair share of the global carbon budget -- this constitutes their fair share of the global effort. They must commit to clear long term emissions reductions goals. This means, among other actions, desisting from starting new projects that will lock in developing countries to dirty fossil fuel energy for decades.

Developing countries are also compelled to assume part of the mitigation obligations of developed countries, the part which the developed countries can no longer achieve, even with extremely ambitious domestic actions. Because our peoples are the first to suffer and suffer the worst of the impacts of lack of action, Southern governments must not waver in demanding climate finance and technology from developed country governments in order to undertake mitigation actions with just transition, over and beyond the fair share of developing countries. And they must similarly demand the climate finance owed by developed countries to enable peoples of the South to deal with adaptation, loss and damage to climate change's impacts.

We also demand governments of the South ensure that the "right to sustainable development" and "development space" being invoked in the international climate negotiations is really for the people and communities of the South and not for private big business and elites.

4. We demand that mitigation commitments by all governments be immediately translated into concrete policies for transformation of energy systems away from fossil fuel.

Global reduction of GHG emissions require a rapid transformation of energy systems. Governments should begin with an immediate ban on new fossil fuel projects, a stop to the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, immediate reduction of energy consumption by elites and corporation, a swift and just transition to renewable and clean energy for people and communities, and delivery of climate finance and technology for this to happen in the South.

5. We demand all governments to put a stop to false solutions to the climate crisis.

In the face of the climate crisis -- saving the system rather than changing the system has been the predictable response from the world's elites, their corporations, and the governments and institutions they dominate. They continue to delay actions and insist on solutions that do not address the causes and instead are mainly aimed at generating profits and capitalizing on peoples' suffering. Many of these false solutions commodify nature and deepen corporate capture of the commons.

We say no more further delays, no more deception, no more false solutions.

We are movements and organizations from the South, engaged in many struggles for the survival of our people, for a better world. We are determined to step up our efforts in the multitude of spaces in which to fight for and demand climate justice at the local, national, regional and global levels to get at the root cause of the climate crisis.

Additional Recent Articles

* "Why the Climate Movement Must Stand with Ferguson," by Deirdre Smith, August 20, 2014 / direct URL:

It was not hard for me to make the connection between the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, and the catalyst for my work to stop the climate crisis.

It's all over the news: images of police in military gear pointing war zone weapons at unarmed black people with their hands in the air. These scenes made my heart race in an all-to-familiar way. I was devastated for Mike Brown, his family and the people of Ferguson. Almost immediately, I closed my eyes and remembered the same fear for my own family that pangs many times over a given year.

In the wake of the climate disaster that was Hurricane Katrina almost ten years ago, I saw the same images of police, pointing warzone weapons at unarmed black people with their hands in the air. In the name of 'restoring order,' my family and their community were demonized as 'looters' and 'dangerous.' When crisis hits, the underlying racism in our society comes to the surface in very clear ways. Climate change is bringing nothing if not clarity to the persistent and overlapping crises of our time.

* "Why #BlackLivesMatter Should Transform the Climate Debate," by Naomi Klein, December 12, 2014 / direct URL:

The annual United Nations climate summit is wrapping up in in Lima, Peru, and on its penultimate day, something historic happened. No, not the empty promises from powerful governments to finally get serious about climate action--starting in 2020 or 2030 or any time other than right now. The historic event was the decision of the climate-justice movement to symbolically join the increasingly global #BlackLivesMatter uprising, staging a "die-in" outside the convention center much like the ones that have brought shopping malls and busy intersections to a standstill, from the US to the UK.


Taken together, the picture is clear. Thinly veiled notions of racial superiority have informed every aspect of the non-response to climate change so far. Racism is what has made it possible to systematically look away from the climate threat for more than two decades. It is also what has allowed the worst health impacts of digging up, processing and burning fossil fuels--from cancer clusters to asthma--to be systematically dumped on indigenous communities and on the neighborhoods where people of colour live, work and play. The South Bronx, to cite just one example, has notoriously high asthma rates--and according to one study, a staggering 21.8 percent of children living in New York City public housing have asthma, three times higher than the rate for private housing. The choking of those children is not as immediately lethal as the kind of choking that stole Eric Garner's life, but it is very real nonetheless.

If we refuse to speak frankly about the intersection of race and climate change, we can be sure that racism will continue to inform how the governments of industrialized countries respond to this existential crisis. It will manifest in the continued refusal to provide serious climate financing to poor countries so they can protect themselves from heavy weather. It will manifest in the fortressing of wealthy continents as they attempt to lock out the growing numbers of people whose homes will become unlivable.


If the current race-based hierarchy of humanity is left unchallenged, then we can be certain that our governments will continue their procrastination, redefining 'dangerous' to allow for the sacrifice of ever more people, ever more ancient culture, languages, countries. Conversely, if black lives matter--and they do--then global warming is already a five-alarm fire, and the lives it has taken already are too many.

* UN Environment Programme, "Even With Emissions Cuts, Climate Change Adaptation Costs Likely to Hit 2-3 Times Current Estimates of $70-100 Billion per Year" Adaptation Gap Report, December 5, 2014

Even if global greenhouse gas emissions are cut to the level required to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees C this century, the cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries is likely to reach two to three times the previous estimates of $70-100 billion per year by 2050, according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

Released during a crucial round of climate talks in Lima, Peru, the first UNEP Adaptation Gap Report serves as a preliminary assessment of global adaptation gaps in finance, technology and knowledge, and lays out a framework for future work on better defining and bridging these gaps.

The report finds that, despite adaptation funding by public sources reaching $23-26 billion in 2012-2013, there will be a significant funding gap after 2020 unless new and additional finance for adaptation is made available.

Without further action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, as outlined in UNEP's Emissions Gap Report 2014, the cost of adaptation will soar even further as wider and more-expensive action is needed to protect communities from the intensifying impacts of climate change such as drought, floods and rising sea levels.


* OilChange International, "Developed Country Support for Fossil Fuel Exploration Far Exceeds Green Climate Fund Pledges," December 2014

The analysis shows public support from rich countries (so-called Annex II countries) for fossil fuel exploration totals some $26.6 billion per year, while pledges to the Green Climate Fund from those same countries come in at just over $9.5 billion.

The billions in public support for fossil fuel exploration comes amidst warnings from scientists that some eighty percent of existing fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned in order to keep global warming below the internationally agreed limit of 2 degrees C.

"Spending public money on exploration for new fossil fuel reserves flies in the face of not just climate science, but common sense. We cannot afford to burn the vast majority of the fossil fuels already in proven reserves, so spending money to find more is a waste of public resources and a threat to our planet," said David Turnbull, Campaigns Director at Oil Change International. "While we applaud the initial steps by rich countries to achieve the $10 billion goal for initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund, we know that support will be severely undercut if they continue digging the climate hole deeper by supporting fossil fuel exploration."

The analysis is an extension of a report outlining public support for fossil fuel exploration in all G20 countries, released by Oil Change International and Overseas Development Institute in November of this year. That report can be found at

"Crawling out of the climate hole with one hand while digging it deeper with the other simply won't work. Public support for fossil fuels, and in particular for exploration for new fossil fuel reserves, needs to end. Now," Turnbull said.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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