A Bend in the Road: The Copenhagen Two-Step?

Young girls in Falia, a village sited on an island made of seashells that is perched in the Sine-Saloum Delta.

Newsflash:  Why are we all going to Copenhagen if President Obama agrees with other western countries that they are not ready to make a real deal?  As the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum wrapped up four days ago, participating world leaders backed a two-step process offered by Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen that would focus on leaving Copenhagen with a 5 – 8 page “binding” political deal, then following up with a binding legal deal at a future negotiation.  The CoP15 host contended that “We are not aiming to let anyone off the hook.  We are trying to create a framework that will allow everybody to commit.”

The lack of U.S. national climate change legislation has hobbled Team Obama’s leadership in the CoP15 negotiations, with the circular dynamic of Congress pointing fingers at China (and India and Brazil) for also not doing its part.  My post from 11/15 chronicled how developing countries – especially those in Africa – have actively highlighted this foot-dragging.  Andrew Revkin’s blog frames the current impasse between rich and poor countries as the major stumbling block to an international climate change agreement.

Fishing and tourism exist side by side on the Petite Cote, where men, women, and children pick away at the net's contents after it is pulled in.

“Poor countries say industrial powers, which have spent a century or more benefiting from fossil fuels while adding billions of tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, owe them both financial assistance in dealing with rising seas or shifting rains and a stable climate, which they say can be achieved only if rich countries commit to deep prompt cuts in their emissions.”

He highlights the Climate Vulnerable Forum (V11) held in the Maldives earlier this month, which voiced the concerns of people living just above sea level (currently) or with precarious rainfall.  The V11 unequivocally illustrated the climate divide in $$ terms, establishing a climate debt owed by the developed world to the developing one.  The declaration calls on developed countries to “provide public money amounting to at least 1.5% of their gross domestic product,” in addition to .7% of gross national income already committed for overseas development assistance.

The main form of transportation on the salt flats of the Sine-Saloum.

So, from this side of the climate divide, here’s my own two-step process.  Rather than posting an installment of the WFSS Ouagadougou declaration translated into English, as promised in my last post, let me first report more on climate change impacts in Senegal, in particular, and West Africa, in general, which these developing country leaders will have in mind as they advocate and negotiate in Copenhagen.

From a recent L’Observateur article:

  1. Senegal is on the list of top 20 countries most affected by climate change.
  2. Africa is the continent most affected by climate change’s effect on rising sea levels, with 6 countries on the top 20 list (including West African neighbors Ivory Coast, Benin, and Nigeria, along with Senegal).
  3. In West Africa and Central Africa, 32% of the population lives in stagnant water; in Senegal alone, 30,000 homes and 600,000 people living in them are in stagnant water (as described in my earlier post).
  4. Almost 220 million Africans are faced with precarious clean water sources.
  5. In Africa, agricultural production is estimated to fall almost 50%, with grave consequences for hunger, malnutrition, disease, and political instability.
  6. Sea level rise threatens 1 resident in 10 in Africa’s coastal zones.

The iconic baobob.

This CoP15 blog describes climate change impacts on the Sahel (defined as that part of West Africa south of the Sahara) documented by the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS or Comité permanent Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Sécheresse dans le Sahel), whose nine members include Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal.  The very definition of Sahel is rainfall: between 300 and 750mm per year, heavily concentrated in one period of the year, yet with an increasing variability between years.  CILSS says that “global warming might well accelerate the phenomenon of droughts and floods, thus resulting in weakening water resources, decrease in agricultural yields, increased prevalence of crop diseases, etc. Combined with a significant increase in the cost of energy and foodstuffs, this situation might therefore well accentuate food insecurity and poverty.” Consequently, CILSS has developed regional and national programs in three key areas: security, water control and fight against desertification.



  1. Tenguiano saa pascal
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    C’est bien votre travail meme si je ne comprend pas bien anglais. Je pense que votre contribution pour le changement de comportement des tout le monde est à salué. Seulement, pour nous autres, il sera un peu compliqué de vous comprendre tres bien d’autan plus qu’on ne maitrise pas la langue de l’oncle Sam.

  2. Posted December 21, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    I love this postf! You have a great blog here!

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] less developed economies with adaptation.  Developing countries have made this a deal breaker, as my earlier post about the climate divide chronicles.  While the US and Europe have generally agreed to the polluter […]

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: