As floods ravage East Africa
Kenya urges action at UN climate conference
Published Nov 19, 2006 1:16 PM
The timing could not have been more telling. Even as the United
Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change was meeting
in Africa for the first time, torrential rains began to pound
Kenya, the host country.
Kenya’s Minister for Environment and Natural Resources
Kivutha Kibwana had opened the convention on Nov. 6 with a dire
warning: “Climate change is rapidly emerging as one of the
most serious threats that humanity may ever face. ... We face a
genuine danger that recent gains in poverty reduction will be
thrown into reverse in the coming decades, particularly for the
poorest people of the world and especially those in the continent
Kibwana urged negotiators to “take concrete actions on
The 6,000-plus convention delegates, representing 189 countries,
then began a two-week process of debate and decision on what to
do about climate change. But by Nov. 12, floods in Kenya had
begun sweeping away roads and bridges and inundating towns and
cropland, killing at least 20 people and displacing tens of
Just a few weeks earlier, the rains had pounded Ethiopia and
Somalia to the north, also with deadly consequences. The rainy
season, usually a welcome break for a region suffering from
long-term drought, had turned into just another season of
“Africa is the least responsible for climate change but
will be hit the hardest,” Nick Nuttall, spokesperson for
the United Nations Environment Program, told Inter Press Service
A new report released to the convention found that 70 million
people and 30 percent of Africa’s coastal infrastructure
face the risk of coastal flooding, linked to rising sea levels,
by 2080. More than one-third of the habitats that support African
wildlife could be lost. Crop yields will fall due to warmer
temperatures and more intense droughts.
Less than two decades from now, some 480 million people in Africa
could be living in water-scarce or water-stressed areas.
Even though today’s rains are drowning Africa’s
eastern regions, higher temperatures are drying up the sources of
water for much of the continent. For example, the summer melt
from the snowcap on Mount Kilimanjaro in neighboring Tanzania has
fed streams and rivers for as far back as anyone can remember.
But now the snow is nearly gone and drought is killing the cattle
that the Masai people at the mountain’s foot rely on.
Nine years ago, the Kyoto accords were to set up a $100 million
Adaptation Fund to help poorer countries prepare for climate
change. But the project has gone nowhere. There’s still no
agreement on who will decide how the money is spent.
According to Kimani Chege, writing for nature.com news,
“The European Union, Canada and Japan are pitted against
developing nations concerned that countries that have not signed
the Kyoto Protocol, such as the United States, will have a say in
how the fund is managed, and that the money will come with too
many strings attached.”
The United States, which produces 25 percent of the world’s
greenhouse gases that are trapping heat and causing global
warming, has refused to sign even the weak Kyoto agreement.
Chege continues: “The Adaptation Fund is linked to the
Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, which allows
polluters to offset some of their greenhouse-gas emissions by
investing in emissions-reducing projects in developing
“In 2003 it was agreed that 2 percent of the proceeds from
such projects would go into the fund. The fund is not yet
operational, and contains only U.S. $3 million.”
Over nine years, only $3 million has been put into a fund that is
supposed to serve developing countries all over the world! In
just a few hours, storm-related damage can cost much, much more
than that in just one small area, draining funds away from
Chege adds, “The EU and many other industrialized nations
want the fund to be administered by the Global Environment
Facility, which is managed by the United Nations and the World
Bank. But many developing nations oppose this, as the GEF is
influenced by countries that are not party to the Kyoto Protocol
[The U.S. and Australia—WW]. ...
“Developing nations also fear that funding will come with
conditions similar to those commonly imposed by other
multilateral funding agencies, such as the International Monetary
Fund and the World Bank. Typically, such conditions demand that
recipients meet certain standards on good governance and human
This shows the utter hypocrisy of the “human rights”
stance of the major imperialist powers. When the United States
was a developing country trying to become independent, it was
also a country that profited from slavery and attempted to
exterminate the Native peoples. Had it been subject to the
“human rights” litmus test, it could never have
received the financing or military support from France that
allowed it to break free of British colonial rule.
Today, Washington uses “human rights” as an excuse to
hold back even the most minimal funding for a continent that is
poor because its resources and even its people have been seized
to enrich first the slave owners and then the capitalists of the
United States and Western Europe. By any standards, the people of
Africa deserve reparations, free of strings attached, to counter
a problem caused by the exploiters of the world.
Stern report on economic impact
All of humanity has much to fear from global warming, according
to a Review on the Economics of Climate Change released on Oct.
30 by Sir Nicholas Stern. This report, commissioned by the
British government, says that unless greenhouse gas emissions are
substantially reduced, there will be a loss of between 5 percent
and 20 percent of global gross domestic product by 2100. But this
could be avoided by spending 1 percent—about $450
billion—per year of world GDP today to keep greenhouse gas
concentrations below 550 parts per million.
Spending $450 billion to prevent catastrophic climate change may
sound like a lot, but it is less than what the Pentagon spends
every year on an aggressive military tasked with maintaining the
dominance of U.S. banks and corporations around the world.
By comparison, the $3 million that the rich, exploiting countries
have put into the UN Adaptation Fund so far is trifling.
If a hurricane were to strike Long Island and devastate some of
the mansions there, the insurance companies would have to come up
with many billions of dollars to cover the damage. One estate
alone, that of Ira Rennert in Sagaponack, has been valued at $185
million—enough to bring green development to millions of
people in poorer countries.
The Stern report doesn’t say it—he is, after all,
“Sir” Nicholas Stern—but the problem is really
imperialism and what it has done to the world.
Never before has there been such a concentration of wealth at one
pole and poverty at the other. Never before has economic activity
been driven so wildly by the search for greater profits, which in
a capitalist society takes precedence over all other
What the Stern report does show is that a major effort by the
developed countries could turn back the looming mega-disasters
scientists now foresee.
To get there will take a global struggle by all committed people,
especially the masses of workers and oppressed, against the
present capitalist rulers of the earth.
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