Zuma: ‘In Africa, climate change is a matter of life and death’

President Jacob Zuma

President Zuma described Climate Change as a matter of life and death for Africa (Source: WEF/Eric Miller)

By John Parnell
RTCC in Durban

Climate change is “a matter of life and death” in Africa, according to South African President Jacob Zuma.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the UN climate change negotiations in Durban, Zuma joined other African leaders in calling for more action from the developed world, but unlike some of his contemporaries, stopped short of criticising the industrialised nations.

“People are affected differently by climate change. In Africa it is a matter of life and death. Small island nations are being threatened with the prospect of being wiped off the face of the earth as sea levels rise. Africa is vulnerable because of poverty,” said Zuma.

“Agricultural production will fall by 50% by 2050. Scarce grazing land is causing conflict among communities in Sudan that had been at peace for centuries. As this is an African COP, we feel that the issue of climate change should not be separated from sustainable development,” he said.

Other regional leaders were prepared to user stronger language.

The President of Chad, Idriss Deby highlighted the imbalance between those countries that have contributed most to emissions and those feeling the effects.

“The behaviour of the industrialised nations imperils the poor. The rich will not be spared but it is the poorest that will suffer the most,” he said.

“What could be more normal than using your own natural sources to meet your needs? Particularly energy needs,” he said in a nod to the country’s oil and gas reserves. “But what could be more dangerous than boosting anthropogenic emissions. The G20, the big polluters, have the necessary resources and experience of renewables to catalyse change [in Africa].”

Deby also called for more attention on the state of the Lake Chad basin which he likened to the Amazon basin in terms of its importance for carbon storage.

“The polluters of the environment expect African forests to capture CO2 from their industries, it would be logical for them to invest in our forests,” said Deby.

He closed by calling for more unity among African states to boost their negotiating effectiveness.

Angolan Deputy President Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos called for perseverance with the Kyoto Protocol calling it “the only mature enough tool” at negotiators’ disposal to help Africa.

“Although African countries are not responsible for raising green house gas levels, African countries are the ones that feel the effects the most,” he said.

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