COPENHAGEN, 9 Dec 2009: Over 60 African youths demonstrated at the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) yesterday in response to a leaked draft climate agreement that the Danish government was expected to put forward.
“We’re very disappointed [with the draft] …They’re bringing it to the table to force African heads of government to sign it. We’ve already seen the draft, we do not agree with it. We came here with open arms to negotiate, we did not come here to rubber stamp what has already been decided,” said Winnie Asiti Khaemba from Kenya.
The 23-year-old said that farmers and other vulnerable communities in her country were already suffering from the severe impacts of climate change, such as reduced food production and increased infection of malaria.
“What is being proposed here means death to these communities,” Khaemba told The Nut Graph, adding that governments should commit to limit global warming within one degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in 2007 that the global temperature has risen by 0.74 degree Celsius since more than a century ago.
The Danish draft agreement, however, is proposing to limit temperature rise within two degree Celsius.
“Two degree is suicide for Africa and small island nations,” said Liyunesh Yohanes Glagize from Ethiopia.
She added that the changing climate is already threatening the survival and livelihoods of Ethiopians particularly farmers, and exacerbating the country’s food crisis.
The draft, also dubbed the Danish Text, was formulated by several parties including Denmark, the UK and the US. It is being criticised for not including the voices of smaller countries.
The draft is also being contested because it reverses the main principles of the Kyoto Protocol, which puts the bulk of the responsibility on larger economies to reduce emissions while excluding smaller countries.
“Developed countries must commit to a 40% cut [of carbon emissions] by 2020 below 1990 levels at Copenhagen. Our peoples’ survival is at stake here,” said Margaret Demba from Kenya, who is among the 100 African youths present at COP15.
She added that the African youths decided to hold the protest spontaneously after an African youth group meeting at the Bella Center yesterday. Security at Bella Center did not stop the rally.
The Danish draft has also drawn flak from other environmental groups including Oxfam and WWF, which have criticised it for being weak and for reflecting a selective and non-transparent approach to the negotiations.
Gan Pei Ling’s trip to Copenhagen was made possible by sponsorships from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Selangor government, and the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsors.
For other related stories, see In the Spotlight: Climate Change
The Nut Graph needs your support