African leaders agreed on how much cash to demand from the rich world to compensate for the impact of climate change on the continent but kept the figure secret ahead of next month’s Copenhagen talks.
The United Nations summit in Denmark will try to agree on how to counter climate change and come up with a post-Kyoto treaty protocol to curb emissions.
“We have set a minimum beyond which we will not go,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who will represent Africa at the talks, told reporters. “But I am not in a position to tell you what that minimum figure will be.”
Exhaustive preparatory talks since 2007 have failed to solve splits between rich and poor countries or find extra funds to help developing nations to pay for expensive technology to ensure they do not over pollute as their economies grow.
“There are many calculations including up to the $100 billion (a year) mark that has been set by some experts. We will be very flexible,” Meles said.
Poor nations want rich countries to cut emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.
But some in the West complain that such cuts are not realistic, especially so soon after the global economic downturn.
So far, promises by the rich fall short, at cuts of about 11 to 15%.
Fearing that the talks may fail, Denmark last week said it would ask world leaders to come for the final two days of the Dec. 7-18 conference to push for a deal at the meeting, originally meant for environment ministers.
Meles who has threatened a walkout of the 52 African nations he will represent said his priorities at the talks would be to ensure carbon emissions are reduced and to secure a fair yearly compensation amount for Africa.
The Ethiopian leader was speaking in Addis Ababa at a meeting of an African Union (AU) committee of 10 nations charged with agreeing a common position.
Aid workers say a five-year drought, worsened by climate change, is afflicting 23 million people in east Africa, with Ethiopia worst affected.
Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also attended the last session the AU group will have before next month’s talks.
Meles said Africa wanted a treaty to be agreed in Copenhagen but could accept a “binding political agreement” as a steppingstone to a treaty being agreed later.
The Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum says poor nations bear more than nine-tenths of the human and economic burden of climate change.
The 50 poorest countries, however, contribute less than 1% of the carbon dioxide emissions that scientists say are threatening the planet, it says.
Pic: Ethiopian Minister- Meles Zenawi