Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lumumba Di-Aping: the Third World's Hero of Copenhagen

Lumumba Di-Aping has made the brave call that no Australian politician has been game to make and called Prime Minister Kevin Rudd a climate sceptic. The key negotiator at Copenhagen on behalf of the G777-China group told the ABC Rudd’s message to his own people was a fabrication which “does not relate to the facts because his actions are climate change scepticism in action.” Di-Aping was pointing out the disparity between Rudd’s sayings and actions on climate change. “It's puzzling in the sense that here is a Prime Minister who actually won the elections because of his commitment to climate change,” Di-Aping said. “And within a very short period of time he changes his mind, changes his position, he start acting as if he has been converted into climate change scepticism.” (photo credit: Reuters - Jens Norgaard Larsen)

Di-Aping is essentially correct. For all Rudd’s moralising about climate change as the world’s greatest problem, he has offered very little by way of Australian action to solve it. And Lumumba Di-Aping is the right person to remind him of his responsibilities. The Sudanese diplomat is the chief negotiator for the 130 nation bloc confusingly known as the G77-China group at the Copenhagen climate change talks. He was chosen because Sudan is the current chair of the G77. Despite (or perhaps because of) Sudan’s poor international reputation since Darfur, Di-Aping is proving to be a formidable opponent of vested western interests.

It was Di-Aping who led the criticism of the Danish Text which Rudd is also intimately associated with. The draft of the text which emerged at the start of the conference last week proposed a solution to stop global temperature rises at two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The UN tried to play down the document as an “informal paper” put forward by the Danish Prime Minister. Di-Aping was having none of it and slammed the proposal. "It's an incredibly imbalanced text intended to subvert, absolutely and completely, two years of negotiations," he said. “It does not recognise the proposals and the voice of developing countries".

Once again Di-Aping had a very good point. The Danish Text was leaked to The Guardian who described it as a departure from the Kyoto Protocol principle that developed nations should bear the brunt of climate change. The Guardian said the draft handed control of climate change finance to the World Bank. More importantly it would abandon the Kyoto protocol which remains the only legally binding treaty that the world has on emissions reductions. Lastly it would make funding to poor countries trying to adapt to climate change contingent on a range of actions.

But what infuriated the developing countries most about the Text was the fact it was prepared without their knowledge. It smacked of colonialism. On the first Monday of the climate change talks, Di-Aping addressed an ad hoc meeting of 100 African civil representatives and a few African parliamentarian. He began dramatically by crying, putting his head in his hands and saying “We have been asked to sign a suicide pact.” Di-Aping may well have been milking the drama but once again his analysis was spot on. He said a global temperature increase of 2 degrees meant 3.5 degrees for much of Africa. This was “certain death for Africa”, and a type of “climate fascism” imposed on the continent by high carbon emitters. He said Africa was being asked to sign on to an agreement that would allow this warming in exchange for $10 billion, and that Africa was also being asked to “celebrate” this deal. “I am absolutely convinced that what Western governments are doing is NOT acceptable to Western civil society,” he said.

On Thursday, Di-Aping made a direct call for action from US President Obama. He said it would be embarrassing for the US not to be part of a solution “to save humanity”. Di-Aping reminded his audience that the US is the world's largest emitter historically and per capita. He asked the US to join the Kyoto Protocol and take on its commitments as a developed nation. “This is a challenge that President Barack Obama needs to rise to as a Nobel Prize winner and as an advocate of a multilateral global society,” Di-Aping said. “We know he is proud to be a part of that community through his family relations in Africa.”

Frustrated by the lack of action from American and other Western negotiators, Di-Aping led the biggest gamble yet when he led the walk out of the G77-China group conference. Di-Aping explained his rationale for the walk-out with BBC Radio Four. He said it had become clear the Danish presidency was undemocratically advancing the interests of developed countries at the expense of the obligations it had to developing countries. "The mistake they are doing now has reached levels that cannot be acceptable from a president who is supposed to be acting and shepherding the process on behalf of all parties,” he said.

The Western media were becoming furious at the way the conference was being “hijacked” by an uppity nobody from the Third World. The Australian dismissed him as "hyperbole prone". Toronto’s The Globe and Mail went further and called him “an ill chosen voice from Khartoum”. The headline was meant to damn him by association with long term Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir. But this comparison is false. Di-Aping does not represent Sudan at the conference. He represents 130 nations who are not creating climate change, but who will suffer the most from it. Lumumba Di-Aping is a hero and one who should shame the West into hearing the truth of climate change as seen from the perspective of the poor.

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