Archived press release
Africa pays price for g8 climate blind spot

The unique coalition of aid and environment groups3, launched in October 2004 to battle the unprecedented threat climate changes poses to human development, has expanded and publishes its second report, Africa: Up in Smoke?, today, Monday 20 June 2005.

Africa: Up in Smoke? makes it clear that Tony Blair's efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa will ultimately fail unless urgent action is taken to halt dangerous climate change. The report says that G8 nations have failed to 'join-the-dots' between climate change and Africa. Unless addressed, this could condemn generations in the world's poorest nations. The G8 summit can choose to act now, or see human development gains go up in smoke, the coalition warns.

The report, with a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, details the impact that climate change is already having on Africa and the threat it poses to human development. Africa: Up in Smoke? calls for new and deeper emission cuts in rich countries, and for the G8 to make significant new funds available to help poor countries adapt to the impacts that are already being felt.

As a continent, Africa lives on the front line of global warming. Seventy per cent of the workforce rely on mostly rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods and climate change is already disrupting these vital rains - bringing more droughts and floods.

The coalition believes that an either/or approach to climate change and poverty reduction is not an option, the two are inseparable. The recommendations laid out in Africa: Up in Smoke, are essential if the G8 is to make poverty history, the coalition warns. The report says climate change means that Africa needs a new approach to development based on resilient and locally-owned strategies. It also means that a new approach to economic development is needed in the G8 based on an agreed framework for emissions cuts that goes far beyond the targets laid out by the Kyoto Protocol.

Africa: Up in Smoke? says that the UK government has failed to understand the full extent of the problem and failed to meet commitments to crucial funds that have already been established to help the poorest countries deal with climate change. Recent reports that carry the government's stamp of approval are blighted with the same fatal blind spot as the G8 agenda: they fail to recognise the scale of the threat climate change poses to human development.

Renewing their pledge to play their part in trying to halt dangerous climate change and to help bring about a global solution that is fair and rooted in human equality, the coalition calls on the G8 and the international community to urgently:

Cut rich country greenhouse gas emissions: Rich countries need to go far beyond their Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Instead they need to cut emissions to a level commensurate with halting global warming and so that temperature rise is kept well below 2oC above pre-industrial levels. All G8 countries should commit to achieving national caps on emissions that are compatible with a fair a global solution that is rooted in human equality and capable of stopping dangerous climate change.

Help Africa leapfrog `dirty development': The exploitation of fossil fuels in Africa does little for the development or security of its people. But the potential for sustainable and renewable energy on the continent is enormous, and the market, especially in poor communities, is huge.

Increase support for small-scale agriculture: Dramatically increased support for small-scale agriculture, and an approach to farming based on maximum appropriate diversification. Highly diverse systems, as opposed to commercial monocultures, have been shown time and again to be more resilient - and more productive.

Focus on local needs first: Africa needs to be freed from a one-size fits all development approach. Effective responses to climate change will differ everywhere depending on local circumstances, so a new flexibility is needed. The greatest challenge is securing livelihoods at the local level.

Support community coping strategies: Global warming presents a huge challenge to the coherence and coordination of aid. Coalition members' experience says that promoting disaster reduction at the local level by supporting community coping strategies is far more effective and has immediate benefits that stretch beyond just tackling climate driven disasters.

Release aid quickly and set targets for local and regional procurement: More efficient systems are needed to ensure that aid is released quickly and is well targeted when disasters strike. To ensure that there are long-term development benefits of money spent on disasters, targets for local and regional procurement should be set for governments and agencies. This would help prevent the leakage of relief money from affected communities.

Implement existing agreements on environment and development: Specifically, the international community should implement the agreement made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to help Africa prepare for, and mitigate disasters at both a community and national level.

Map likely health impacts: Where health is concerned the challenge to the international community is to help map the complex impacts of global warming, and to both ensure that the resources are available to tackle them and that the development policy framework does not make things worse. For example, as climate change puts stress on scarce water resources, a dogmatic approach to water privatisation could easily increase the vulnerability of millions of people in Africa.

Initiatives must be made climate proof and climate friendly: All policies and programmes should face the test of whether they will leave people in Africa more or less vulnerable to the effects of global warming. At the very least, in line with the recommendation of the Commission for Africa, climate change should be `mainstreamed' by 2008.

New and additional funding: All funding to help Africa adapt to global warming should be new and additional to existing funds, and seen not as aid but as an obligation of the rich countries who created the problem.

The Working Group on Climate Change and Development: ActionAid International, Bird Life, CAFOD, Christian Aid, CIIR, Columban Faith and Justice, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Institute for Development Studies, IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development), MedAct, nef (new economics foundation), Operation Noah, Oxfam, People & Planet, Practical Action (formerly ITDG), RSPB, Tearfund, teri Europe, WaterAid, WWF

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust