Kofi Annan slates climate inaction from Canada, Australia and Russia

Countries are betraying millions of Africans with weak climate pledges, says ex UN chief in new report

By Ed King

Four leading developed countries have been singled out as “free riders” on climate change by a panel chaired by former UN chief Kofi Annan. 

Canada, Australia, Russia and Japan have “withdrawn from the community of nations seeking to tackle dangerous climate change” according to the Africa Progress Report 2015.

“Viewed from Africa, this calls into question their commitment to national and international efforts to reduce poverty and the wider sustainable development agenda enshrined in the post-2015 goals.”

Calling for an end to what it terms “climate negotiating poker” the study points out that Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya have on paper more ambitious policies than those four states.

In a statement accompanying the report Annan said some world leaders were gambling with the lives of millions of Africans in the lead up to a global climate deal, due to be signed off in December.

“This is not a moment for prevarication, short-term self-interest, and constrained ambition, but for bold global leadership and decisive action,” he said.

The independent analysis group Climate Action Tracker rates climate pledges made by Canada, Australia, Russia and Japan as “inadequate”.

At UN climate talks in Bonn this week Japan was awarded the “fossil of the day” for blocking talks, while Australia and Canada’s climate plans were questioned by China, Brazil and South Africa.

The ambition of the 40-odd pledges lodged with the UN ahead of this year’s Paris climate pact will not be enough to avert dangerous levels of warming, says the CAT team.

Annan’s report says finance flows from developed to developing countries need to be radically up-scaled to unlock what it says is the potential for the continent to be a “low-carbon superpower.”

An estimated 621 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are without electricity, the report says, with current levels of demand lower than Spain when you exclude South Africa.

New and cleaner energy sources can be secured both from higher levels of public and private funds, and also by simplifying a complex network of multilateral development bank mechanisms in operation.

“It is difficult to imagine a less efficient delivery system,” says the study, adding that interviews with government officials indicated high transaction costs deterred financing requests.

The study also takes aim at suggestions from coal companies that their product is the cheapest way to lift millions on the continent out of poverty, suggesting this is based on “implausible” economics.

“African nations do not have to lock into developing high-carbon old technologies; we can expand our power generation and achieve universal access to energy by leapfrogging into new technologies that are transforming energy systems across the world,” it says.

“Africa stands to gain from developing low-carbon energy, and the world stands to gain from Africa avoiding the high-carbon pathway followed by today’s rich world and emerging markets.”

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